GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT |As Lack Luster As The Killing Joke??|
If you've been around the channel long enough, you know that all things Batman I jump on with the intensity of endangered mountain lion who hasn't eaten in six months. With that being said, I am always fair with my reviews of Batman content whether it be comics, shows, or like today, animated films. I must say as a fan of the comic, Gotham by Gaslight, in tone just did not create the atmosphere. A lot like how the sure grittiness of The Killing Joke was missing from that animated film, Gotham by Gaslight is missing the suspense. With that being said, overall it is enjoyable to watch. Old timely bat characters meet the Ripper in Gotham by Gaslight. What happens when the two collide and is it any good at all? To answer this question we must go deeper into the plot ahead. TALLY HO!
If you haven't read the comic, Gotham by Gaslight, it is an else world story based around the true actions of Jack the Ripper, a famous serial killer that targeted "working" women of the night hour variety. He essentially got away totally free with no one able to dissect who he was at that time. I myself was always very intrigued by the story and spent much of my teenage years attempting to understand motives and possibly figure out his identity myself, so needless to say, when I got wind of Gotham By Gaslight I was ecstatic.
A combination of my love of Batman and my curiosity towards Jack the Ripper and detective work in general helped me tear through the pages of this particular comic with ease. Gotham by Gaslight the animated film attempts to tell the story of Batman dealing with Jack the Ripper in the times of handle bar mustaches as he tries to track down and subdue the killer.
Of course Batman doesn't do this alone but is met with a slew of familiar faces for any Batman fan to take joy in seeing such as the likes of Catwoman, Jim Godrdon, Harvey Dent, Alfred, and much more. In the end, well because he's Batman of course, he is able to not only subdue Jack the Ripper but ultimately figure out his identity, something the real world by all accounts that I've come across have yet to do.
Gotham by Gaslight gets the majority of its strength from the source material. With this being an else world comic of course it isn't considered cannon by the creators but it is an interesting read to say the least. Whenever real world entities can cross over into the comic book realm appropriately I am all for it so I think the inclusion of Jack the Ripper in it at all is a strength by itself.
I would also say the inclusion of Batman's usual characters was a good way to keep the viewers engaged. To be honest, everyone comes for DC's trinity. If it's a Batman story we want to see his villains and friends just as much as we want to see him. They're an interval part of what makes his stories engaging.
I also think the twist at the end is probably the best thing about this animated film. Where the comic could hold you based on tone alone as it felt more like a thriller than this film, the twist is what made the whole movie for me. Not to count out some of the hilarity between Selina and Bruce, but that comes whenever they are in panels together. To see the twist animated, was so fulfilling, even with the tone lacking in suspense. It was worth investing the time in it to see it come forth.
Though there aren't many strengths I think the ones they have can still counter balance the problems we are about to discuss. The biggest issue of the animated film to me is the tone. The tone of this versus the comic are astronomically different. There is no real suspense in this animation to be honest. A few attempts at a jump scare here and there with shrill screeches are not what I expected to receive from a story with Jack the Ripper in it. Yes, those are important, but I feel like what's more important is how you set up the lore around him and how each character deals with the fact there is a literal murder on the loose.
Too many times during my viewing it felt like only Selina and Bruce were legitimately worried about the presence of a man who was literally slaughtering people in the streets. Now, understand, these women were considered way lower on the food chain than any other person who could've died but how regular townsfolk felt about it was rendered obsolete completely in this retelling.
Not to mention, the art style of this just was not up to par. In the comic everything is filled with shadows. Black was clearly the favorite color of Brian Augustyn. I'm sure he was a headache to publish because when I say there is more black on the page than anything else, believe me. So when you go from a comic full of darkness and shadows to the basically water color version of events, it removes the mystery, which is extremely important in any suspense filled story. The way the artist drew his comic was intentional but the animators essentially tossed it to the side.
These shadows were necessary for that creep factor that a serial killer like Jack the Ripper would embody. To see it give way to this water color version just did not do it justice. The animators could've made more with less just by animating long dark figures or shadowy places in the way Brian did in his comic. These are only two gripes but they are the important issues that took away quality from this film. The kind of quality we enjoyed in its comic book counterpart.
Honestly, I would give this animated film a 6.5/10. It is decent but it is nothing special like we were used to getting from DC Comics. It completely removes the tone that made the comic so loved in the first place and where it makes up for those issues just isn't strong enough to push it to a seven in my mind. I enjoyed the viewing, the ending initially was great, but all other attempts at this film being great fell flat to say the least. I would chalk this up to another flop such as The Killing Joke, not because of unnecessary sexual partnership with a female co-star but again because of tone. If you have read either Killing Joke or Gotham by Gaslight you would definitely understand where I am coming from, if not I recommend you read both the Killing Joke and Gotham by Gaslight. They are both worth every penny they ask for.