Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
Catching a legendary killer takes a legendary hero
I wasn't super impressed with the last animated Batman movie that I checked out. Sure, it wasn't bad and it did have some bat-crap insane segments to it that I could appreciate, but there were moments when the quality just felt like it was sub par and I overall didn't think they really used the setting or concept to it's fullest. Well, of course they decided to make a Batman movie set just about in as old-timey not-London as it could possibly get. Color me interested, and remind your family to look at those MPAA ratings - it's time for the Bat to fight the Jack.
Batman isn't unknown for strange crossovers. I mean, he might not be as out there as Scooby and the gang, but the dude has fought Dracula (in animation). That's just to be said that the idea of Bats taking on some historical-themed figure like Jack the ripper isn't so outside the box that it breaks before it starts. Of course, it gets right into a bit of violence that reminds you it's rated R - or informs you if you never looked at the ratings as I didn't. I don't feel like that's an odd choice considering both the vigilante violent fighting angle as well as the twist on a re-imagined Jack. That being said, with that later part also comes a lot of strangeness and things that could potentially off-put a more sensitive type.
On the interesting side of the strangeness is the most old-times London that I imagine Gotham has ever been. Mind you, most of my reference landscape is movies and animation - most of which go for that neat high gothic or slum artistic lean that floats right behind "modern" in most mind sets. When you start getting to police looking and packing the same gear as the old "bobbies" it's somewhat hard at times to not think that things are a bit overly influenced by the Ripper side of things. Here again, I'm no history buff so I know less about social problems going on in relevant Victorian timeline England or America and most of that side of things is beyond my care when it comes to accuracy - but I do know Jack the Ripper, being a man whose somewhat crossed into my normal interests of myths and monsters and truly someone who meets whatever criteria a person could have for the later of those two Ms. In that regard, they really don't pull back any real punches from the Ripper side of things.
And that's where the strange goes from just a slightly off-put setting to full on potential sensitive type rage-quits. If you get bent out of shape (and I mean it in the most respectful way) over things and terminology like whores, sluts, gender segregation, and self-righteous holy imposition, than a good deal of those brought over Ripper elements are going to cause you to not have a lot of fun here. It is, despite having Batman in the title, not for kids. I can really respect the fact that they kept things so adult instead of turning such a horrible thing into some for-jokes cartoon. I must admit though, that it also means that this largely feels like more Ripper than Batman because of it.
Still, fans of the big bad Bat will find all sorts of references to characters that they may love - despite how short lived some of them may be - regardless of the fact that this is largely a story without super villains or heroes - largely becoming a bare-knuckled brawl between a terrible man and the vigilante trying to bring him to justice. That means that although you might get a name drop - like Ivy or Hugo or even the Robins - they aren't the same characters to a T as much as a aesthetic and name, even if they might contain some similarities. Regardless, however, the acting for those characters is still quite well done. There may be some moments where the writing isn't as up to par as others, but largely it feels like some actual time and effort went into this one. The voice actors do a good job, and the voices all feel like they fit the animation on screen quite well - even when you get smacked in the face with some old-talk you might not be used to.
There's also a bit of Batman as a detective in here. It is largely more of him deducing things over some actual heavy duty detective work, but at worst it's par for the course in Batman films and at best a slight improvement. More important to me, however, is the quality of the animation this time around. Everything not only looks good, but it all moves the same. A moment or two of frames being a bit spaced out might happen, but it's nowhere near the consistency of dropping that happened in Ninja. When things are bright and colorful, they are just that, and at night things still have various moments to really pop in contrast instead of everything just being a flat dark mud. Costume designs for the characters also all do a great job of selling this bizarre setting of Ameri-Goth-don. I did notice a classic animation event however - the old "interacted with boxes are different colors than those not" that I can recall from even my younger years. Good to know some things don't change.
It's a bit redundant to go into effects considering the animation sort of turns the entire thing into one, but there are a few moments where said animation isn't it's strongest - particularly just one moment of fire towards the end that struck me as odd while watching it, as though instead of doing fire like elsewhere they had just dropped in some actual keyed-out fire or something. It still looked good, but it did take me aback slightly. The movie also goes through great lengths to try and keep it's Ripper identity a secret - throwing twists and turns and misdirects in there in obvious or subtle ways, but I also think that people used to a good mystery will spot it coming from a mile away regardless. I also feel that I should mention again here that this is another one of those odd movies where while watching it using my VLC player (which is the program I use just for ease and convenience along with my DVD drive) I had the same subtitle issue I've had in the last animated Batman film - instead of being white readable letters (or the nice and striking yellow I set the program to) it ends up being this muddy mess of grayish letters that I can't even read. This is funny, in an unfortunate kind of way, because the last few movies I watched did not experience this problem, and again (being thorough) the subtitles were fine when checking on PowerDVD. Largely, that's only relevant in the slightest to a person who uses a computer to watch this as opposed to a dedicated player, but I feel it's worth including regardless.
In the long run, this is more the quality I was expecting when I sat down to watch Batman Ninja, and am glad to know it lived up to that this time. It's an interestingly dark and violent take on Batman, although I'd argue it's more a course of fitting Batman into Jack the Ripper's tale than the other way around. Despite the little nagging details here and there, I found this one to be quite enjoyable, with great fights and some nice visuals to go along with the more dreadful elements. Check it out if you meet the age requirement - because seriously, people who don't look at MPAA ratings, this animated number is rated R for a reason.