A Penny For Your Thoughts On Gotham By Gaslight; Not What You’d Hope, But Better Than You Feared!

Okay let’s get this clear right off the bat, so to speak, so there’s no confusion. This is BARELY an adaptation of the Elseworlds graphic novel. At best I would pull a Muppets Treasure Island and call it “VERY very loosely based on”. It seems to take a few plot elements from both Gotham by Gaslight and it’s sequel, Master Of The World, while dropping multiple key plot points and characters from both and adding characters that were never in either one. So if you’re a fan of the graphic novel you need to know this is NOT it. Know going in that it’s barely connected to it’s source material, and try to enjoy it as it’s own entity.

So, before I get into the plot or how well it works or fails, let’s go over the look of the film. I’m deeply disappointed that it fails to even come close to capturing the dark unnerving beauty of  Mike Mignola’s unique art style. It tries to create a steampunky gothic Victorian look, and the art direction is pleasant enough and animated decently, but it’s almost like the movie is visibly trying to distance itself from the graphic novel. And they can’t say that Mignola’s art style is too hard to animate because two direct to DVD animated Hellboy movies did so beautifully.

So, massive differences in plot and characters and huge art clash aside, let’s talk about the actual movie itself. Bruce Greenwood takes on the role of Batman again (previously heard in Under The Red Hood and Young Justice). He’s my second favourite Batman voice after Kevin Conroy. And he breathes enough life in the role to help carry the movie past a few glaring negatives, helped greatly by Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter, Limitless) as Selina Kyle. She sounds unrecognizable here, proving her vocal versatility as if you only know her as Dexter’s foul mouthed cop sister you WILL NOT guess she’s even in this. The rest of the voice cast is servicable, but aside of Grey DeLisle as Sister Leslie, Scott Patterson as James Gordon, and a delightful turn from Anthony “Giles” Head as Alfred Pennyworth, no one else really stands out as very memorable. And that’s considering that John “Bender” DiMaggio is here as Harvey Bullock. Disappointingly Joe plays Bullock as a cookie cutter misogynist British cop. Nothing about his performance is unique or memorable, and that’s sad.

Another issue with the movie is how desperately it tries to cram in as many familiar Bat characters as in can that were NEVER in the book. Poison Ivy is the first murder victim, Hugo Strange is a useless new agey shrink at Arkham Asylum positing crackpot theories about the killer, and three Robins, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake, are thieving street urchins. Hell, Cyrus Gold, the future Solomon Grundy, makes an appearance in prison. There’s little reason for any of them to be here. The biggest addition is of course Selina Kyle, but she at least fits in with the revised updated story, as an early pseudo-feminist crusader trying to be a voice for all the people society ignores.

The most glaring subtraction however is the original killer. For those among you who never read the book, the killer was Bruce Wayne’s sort of Uncle, Jacob Packer, a close friend of his parents who had them killed after Martha Wayne rejected his advances, and who became Jack the Ripper to murder women who reminded him of Martha. Uncle Jake is completely absent from the film except for a brief voiceless appearance as Bruce’s attorney in court. Which left a big change required by the plot; Who IS the killer now, if not Uncle Jake?

Well the answer to that is going to be INSANELY polarizing. You’re either going to think it’s a brilliant twist, or it will severely piss you off and seem like a cheap SHOCKING SWERVE!!! I fall in the latter camp.

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Okay, that ought to be enough.

It’s Gordon. The filmmakers made JAMES MOTHERF***ING GORDON the killer. The most decent and honest man in Gotham for nearly 80 years of comics is Jack the Goddamned Ripper. And that in the end ruins the movie. Whatever the movie does well is overshadowed and undermined by needless cameos, a mostly phoning it in supporting cast, and a twist that is clearly added just to be SHOCKING!!! All conspire to undermine any attempts by the main voice cast to carry the movie to the greatness it could have been if they had just done a straight adaptation of the original book. Hell, it’s insulting to even CALL this movie Gotham By Gaslight. They could have just called it Steampunk Batman and it would have been fine.

My recommendation? Stream it or rent it, but do NOT waste money buying it unless you’re a completionist collecting DC Direct films. The good points in the movie just cannot overcome it’s glaring flaws. Hell, I’m sure someone will post the fight scenes on Youtube and honestly those are the only bits most fans will enjoy.

We now return you to having better things to do.

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