At the end of January “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight” was released direct to video. It’s an animated feature based on the stand alone comic of the same name. I never read the comic, so when I learned the movie was out on DVD I picked it up, and well, I have feelings to share.
Let’s start with the film’s description from the back of the case:
It’s the Bat against the Butcher!
Gotham City, at the turn of the century, is experiencing a golden era of discovery and industry as showcased by affluent businessman Bruce Wayne’s World Fair. Down in the darkest alleys, however, there is a killer on the loose. Preying on the city’s women, this killer is precise as he is cruel. As Commissioner James Gordon tries to calm the fears of Gotham’s citizens over the butcher named Jack the Ripper, masked vigilante Batman does some detective work of his own, with the help of the sultry and surefooted Selina Kyle. Witness a world in flames as the killer’s controlled savagery meets the calculated stealth of the Dark Knight!
That relays the gist of the film quite nicely. Seriously, who can resist a dark, Victorian era version of Batman? Not this gal. However there is the weird feeling that they couldn’t convey the era without beating you over the head with it. For comic book folks, it’s generally believed that Gotham is a stand in for New York City (and Superman’s Metropolis is Chicago). Yet not only did they drop Chicago’s World Fair, complete with ferris wheel into NYC, but Batman is pursuing Jack the Ripper who we all know was a British problem. I get that this is a whole alternative universe thing, but it did feel kind of wonky.
Now let’s discuss the star of the show, Selina Kyle. This a fantastic version of the character. A shrewd business woman, a badass brawler, and a sexy show girl. Way cooler than Bruce Wayne or Batman. In the film she invents the Bat Signal and alternate universe or not, I’ve decided it is canon and that’s that.
The story, which I assume at least this part matches the comic, takes a surprise twist at the end, which I found pretty daring and well done. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it.
The film is rated R for violence, but compared to many Jack the Ripper stories, the violence if fairly tame and never feels gratuitous.
Yes I had some petty gripes, but the good definitely outweighs the bad. If you dig Batman and the whole Victorian Era Steampunk thing, “Gotham by Gaslight” is worth checking out.