A re-imagination of Batman (voice of Bruce Greenwood) in the Victorian era, who scours the dark streets of Gotham City to find the elusive and infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.
The concept for Sam Liu’s Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is truly out of this world crazy. Batman has been around since 1939 and has gone on countless exciting and zany adventures that comic book and film fans have loved for many, many years. But rarely do we get a story this insane and creative. It may be crazy, but it certainly isn’t as crazy as the Batman/Elmer Fudd comic special released back in 2017. Yes, that actually happened. I promise.
Based on the 1989 comic Gotham by Gaslight, this 2018 film aims to adapt the comic and do it justice, and for the most part, it succeeds at doing so. This is a relentlessly bleak animated feature and one that is definitely aimed towards a more mature audience. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight comes complete with blood, swearing, and dark themes that would surely turn young viewers away.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of the family-friendly Batman animated adventures, but my favorite Batman stories – whether it be in film, television, comics, or video games – have always been dark ones. My favorite Batman property of all-time isn’t The Dark Knight believe it or not. It’s actually Batman: Arkham City. That game is truly one of the most wondrous and breathtaking stories I have ever seen told, and although the Batman: Assault on Arkham animated movie from 2014 serves as a sequel to Arkham Origins, it just couldn’t capture the same magic that the Arkham games manage to bring out so beautifully. Don’t get me wrong, the film was still great.
Gotham by Gaslight is definitely a dark story and one that I genuinely appreciated. It goes in many interesting places and has a third-act reveal that I truly did not see coming, despite my trying to uncover the mystery from the start. The screenplay by Jim Krieg is remarkable and strong for the most part, even if it does have a few bumps along the way, particularly in the second act.
The film comes to a bit of a halt mid-way through and the story becomes significantly less interesting, but gratefully, Krieg is able to find his footing and delivers greatly on the third act. But if there is something to nitpick, it would have to be the voice-acting. A lot of it is truly good, but there are some performances that just didn’t work as well as I had hoped they wood. Bruce Greenwood does a terrific job as the voice of Bruce Wayne / Batman, but I couldn’t help but think about how amazing it would have been if they were able to get Kevin Conroy to voice the iconic character for this film.
Those looking for an action-packed Batman movie also need to take some precautions, because this is first and foremost a detective thriller, a horror movie second, and an action movie third. That’s not something I’m necessarily complaining about either. When a Batman story is told this well, action simply doesn’t matter. Story does.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an atmospheric detective thriller with genuinely clever twists and a wonderfully crazy storyline written with immense skill.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: R for some violence
Directed by: Sam Liu
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Running Time: 78 minutes