Damnation! (Spoilers below)
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is a nice return to form for an animated DC slate of movies that seemingly had their best days behind them. Action, romance and mystery, all the characteristics necessary for a steampunk movie starring Jack the Ripper squaring off against The Caped Crusader. Batman, his rogues and his city being placed into a steampunk setting might seem like a daunting task, seeing how Batman: The Animated Series already did such an amazing job with their neo-noir Gotham City, and with more mainstream Batman depictions having a grounded realistic approach. But Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is a great movie in it’s own right, different than its predecessors but paves the way for more else-world stories that need to be told. (Red Son anyone?)
Victorian Era, Gotham City is obviously being plagued by lunatics and murderers… only this world is one free of fictional villains, and instead features the likes of Jack the Ripper. Luckily, this Gotham City also comes equipped with its own playboy/vigilante Bruce Wayne, and his alter-ego Batman. Fans of the comic of the same name and general Batman fans may feel like they already know the identity and motivations of the killer… but they would be so, so wrong, but we’ll get to that later.
The movie features three of Batman’s robins, Dickie, Jason and Timmy. Always nice to see those three and especially together working as a team. It also features a wealthy and successful Harvey Dent, acting as County Prosecutor and of course old reliable Jim Gordon acting as Chief of Police. Lastly, what Batman tale would be complete without his favourite feline partner? Selina Kyle acts as a former lion tamer which explains her whip, love of cats, and knack for danger. Some of Batman’s greatest outings have involved Catwoman, whether its in Hush or The Long Halloween, she has provided Batman with one of his biggest weaknesses, his emotions. Their joint effort once again takes centre stage here as they take down Jack the Ripper.
Hugo Strange’s presence as Arkham Asylum’s Warden and general creepy bald man is evident. You know he’s there but does not do much else. That is because he is not the villain of this film, that honour is reserved for… Jim Gordon? Yup. Not the Joker, not Harvey Dent, not Penguin (who is absent for some bizarre reason), but instead it is hard-nosed by the book Jim Gordon. Was I expecting this? Heck no, because not all twists are great (just watch Iron Man 3). However… this one is. The entire film I expected it to be the Joker, why wouldn’t I? It had Joker written all over it. The blatant disregard for human life, especially women, mixed with the insanity and battles with the Bat have all the makings for a classic Joker-Batman fight. However it’s this twist that, dare I say it, rivals the twist from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Having a good guy be the bad guy, in its simplest terms is one thing, but for it to be this drastic and crazy shows the lengths that DC animation can go if its given that R- Rating and has the right creative team behind it. This movie is 100% what The Killing Joke should have been and hopefully it is a sign of things to come from DC’s animation department.
An appropriate costume and gadgets, nothing too fancy for this Batman! (except for maybe that steam powered motorcycle.) This Bruce Wayne remains the playboy and social icon in Gotham, while his roots to the city and social ties also remain. A well done portrayal by Bruce Greenwood in one of his better runs as the caped crusader.
Once again Selina Kyle proves to be a force to be reckoned with as even in the Victorian era she has a knack for justice. She uses herself as bait early in the film in an attempt to lure and kill Jack the Ripper. This inevitably puts her in the path of Batman, and to absolutely no ones surprise, they start a romance.
A nice addition, but not entirely necessary and a little under utilized. Would have been nice to see the experiments he was conducting or some more deviousness from Strange.
Always nice to see all 3 of them together, they need more of that
Easily his best villain portrayal. Also one of his best quotes since the end of The Dark Knight, “Wayne promised this world’s fair would be a paradise of cleanliness and light. But what does a light in the darkness do? It draws flies. Vile, unclean like you.” A nice twist on a mentality Gordon has shown before, but in this depiction he’s not really skeptical of the theatricality bringing danger.
Makes a good Two- Face joke. He’s also two-faced to his wife Gilda… so there’s that. He also decides to betray his friend Bruce Wayne because of Selina… he was a pretty forgettable character in this film.
Never fit in so well.
Not having Joker was a nice change of pace, and having Jim Gordon was a nice and refreshing twist that I would like to see more of in future Batman flicks. I would have still preferred Batman to have had a better relationship with Jim in this film, as it would have made that twist have more of an impact on this Bruce Wayne. However, the reveal is not so much for Bruce and the characters, but rather for the viewers who know the characters.
After watching the movie a few times and as I write this review, it seems that maybe the Joker was not so absent from this film. Stay with me here as I go into crazy film theory territory, but what if Jim Gordon was in fact this universe’s Joker? And that his battered and abused Barbara was in fact his Harley? She was keeping his secret and did try to stop Batman. That’s how I’m ending this train of thought.
To summarize, this film was one of the better examples of DC’s animation. A one-off else-world story that had mystery and intrigue. We need to see more detective Batman, and the action to support it. Both were on display here and the DCEU should start taking notes from their animation department. Also, in terms of storytelling, DC seems to now know that they should focus on more self-contained movies that can exist in their own time slot, instead of waiting two years for a horrible movie to start a universe which only served to set up another horrible movie. In the wise words of Dickie, “It was all phony anyway. Well make something new. Something better,” words maybe the DC animated department said to themselves before deciding to go ahead with their movie projects.
What do you think? Was Gordon this universe’s Joker? Are DC’s animated movies the best part about DC’s screen endeavours?
Comment below and let’s discuss!