What do you get when you combine Batman with the aesthetics of Victorian steampunk? Well, you get Gotham by Gaslight, a standalone Batman story which relocates the key characters from the caped crusader’s many adventures into a Victorian version of Gotham City besieged by Jack the Ripper. Of course, there is more to things than it first appears, and Batman initially gets the blame for committing the murders and must clear his name against the backdrop of the Gotham World’s Fair, which predictably plays a major role in the finale of the film.
While the DC cinematic universe may have unleashed a very mixed bag when it comes to producing things on the big screen, on the small screen in animated form they have produced some phenomenal work. While the animated Wonder Woman film is still the benchmark, Gotham by Gaslight is very close to that standard. Although it requires the story to be viewed in isolation, it does show how adaptable the Batman narrative is, and how the idea of a vigilante fighting to clean up the streets has a certain universal ring to it.
The voice acting in Gotham by Gaslight is mostly spot on. Bruce Greenwood does really well as Bruce Wayne/Batman, although he does lack some of the gravitas and grit of Kevin Conroy, who to me will always be the definitive voice of the animated Batman. That said, Greenwood’s approach suits the Victorian backdrop and makes sense in terms of keeping this separate from the DC canon. Anthony Head is great as Alfred, while Jennifer Carpenter excels as the voice of Selina Kyle (even if they only ever tease her connection to the Catwoman character fleetingly).
The animation in the film is very well done. It never feels too computerised or slick, but the hand-drawn style fits perfectly with the steampunk look of the film. The plot of the film, however, veers somewhat in the final third, and while the twist in the tale does what it needs by shocking the audience, it feels somewhat out of left field. The whodunit nature of the plot calls for a big reveal, but the character motivations of the murderer, seem skewed and completely out of touch with that character's history within the DC universe. That said, this is a small gripe in the grand scheme of things, and the story is overall very enjoyable.
Gotham by Gaslight is a very enjoyable murder mystery, with vague ties to Batman. As a story, and as a one-off it works very well. Batman as a character is surprisingly easily transplanted into the world of Victorian murders, although at points t feels more like an existing script with Batman as a character crowbarred in. That said, Gotham by Gaslight is an enjoyable animated film and a fine entry in the burgeoning DC animated universe.
EXTRAS: Sneak peeks of three upcoming animated DC films, including a new Suicide Squad film. These extended trailers all clock in about 8 minutes, and are formed of some clips from the upcoming films and interviews with the crew.