Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

Gotham by Gaslight (2018), written by James Krieg, based on a comic by Mike Mignola and Brian Augustyn, starring Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter  

While DC hasn't really managed to get their act together what comes to their huge blockbuster movies, they have been busy doing animated adaptations of their vast line of comics. This time around they have turned an alternative, Victorian-era Batman into a relatively entertaining, albeit at times a bit uneven, animation.

When Bruce Wayne (Greenwood) arrives in Gotham, he finds his old home city in the bloody grip of Jack the Ripper, who has been doing what he does best; killing prostitutes. While the police are seemingly unable, or better yet disinterested, in capturing a killer of less fortunate, Selina Kyle (Carpenter) is doing her best to capture the attention of the public in order to put an end to these grisly murders. Luckily for Gotham, Bruce is already donning his Batman costume, so he too takes a jab at looking for the murderer, who proves to be more cunning and skilled than what he originally thought he'd be.

Throughout the story, we meet Victorian counterparts of the well-known faces from the Batman mythos. Not only is Gordon again the commissioner of the police, Alfred is Bruces' butler and Hugo Strange is the head of the local asylum. There are plenty of others as well, some having a smaller, some a bit bigger role, but the main stage is reserved for Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne, who even manage to yet again find each other thanks to the joint efforts in capturing the madman.

If you've seen any of the previous DC animated productions, you know what to expect in grounds of the art and animation. While it's clear Gotham by Gaslight isn't the highest budget animation ever done, it still is reasonably well made. The scene art is well made and the movie manages to be atmospheric thanks to the art, sound and music direction. Animations are at times a bit stiff and low framed but do not end up being a distraction. 

The voice acting I found a bit of a hit and miss. I didn't quite warm up on Greenwood's Batman, but Carpenter is good as Kyle. The cast is overall more than serviceable and the voices for the rogue's gallery, or their approximations in this take of Batman, seemed to work the best. Towards the end, even Greenwood picks up space, though it has to be mentioned the bigger action scenes are in the end, so he doesn't necessarily speak as much there.

I must admit that I've never actually read the comic this adaptation is based on, so I don't really know how close this version is to the original. None the less, I did find it entertaining and as a whole, it is a good addition to the line of animations DC has been grinding up in recent years. As a source material these Elseworlds or what if kind of tales do seem suit nicely as fodder for stand-alone movies, as they do very often revolve around their own smaller universe. That removes the need for a deeper understanding of the characters and their motivations and you can just enjoy the ride as it is told.

I don't know if these DC animated movies will ever rise above what they are now, as they are, in the end, made for home video and streaming use rather than meant to be theatre quality animations. While it is a shame, that the quality might never be around what a studio like Disney did in its prime in terms of traditional art, they still do fill their own respective niche in transferring stories known from the comics to a new medium. And in that, they do a pretty decent job.