Monday, April 16, 2018

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Gotham by fart-light!  Get it, gaslight, fart-light--I am really sorry for that one.  I'm tapped and that's all I could come up with.

Batman:  Gotham by Gaslight – 4 out of 5

I’ve never actually read the graphic novel that Batman:  Gotham by Gaslight is based on.  I’ve heard of it and learned the basic storyline but have never actually read it.  It’s always been one of those books I’ve intended to read but just never got around to it.  That being said, I can’t say I was too interested in actually watching the animated film.  I used to rave about how awesome DC animated movies were but the last few have been greatly disappointing.  Whether it is because they cram too much stuff into their short running length or the fact that DC just can’t escape their gross misogyny towards their female characters, lately I’ve felt their product has been on a very noticeable decline.  Amazingly, this one bucks that trend.

Batman tries to assure the bad guys that the brown haze he just entered
through wasn't his farts.  (If you're counting, that's two immature fart
jokes I've made in this far.)

In a Victorian Era Gotham City, women are being murdered by Jack the Ripper.  James Gordon (Scott Patterson) and the rest of the police force seem to be taking their investigation of the crimes lightly due to the fact that the victims are “ladies of the night.”  This upsets stage actor Selina Kyle (Jennifer Carpenter).  Since the police are no help, the wealthy Bruce Wayne (Bruce Greenwood) has taken to the night as the masked vigilante; Batman.  The public fears that Batman and the Ripper are the same so now it’s up to the hero to calm the citizens and save the city.

Wait a minute, The Shadow is Jack the Ripper?!?

Gotham by Gaslight has definitely been one of the better animated films DC has put out in some time—especially one that is R-rated.  After Deadpool’s success, Warner Bros. operated under the false premise that the reason it was a success was solely due to its rating and they started to bring out R-rated animated films and even boasted that their extended cut of Batman v Superman was R-rated.  Thinking the rating was some sort of magic glyph resulted in the exact thing one would expect from this line of thinking:  The movies all felt like gimmicks.  The ratings were never justified and it seemed it was just there as a marketing ploy to get the money from people who use ratings to prove they are “big boys.”  At its worse, WB used this as an excuse to treat their female characters even worse and pretend they are just objects to be lusted after.  This time around, the rating doesn’t feel 100% superfluous or like it’s there just to get their female characters to be sex dolls.  There is some choice language used but it mostly got the R-rating for its violence.  In my opinion, the violence isn’t super strong but, in its defense, the feature feels like it isn’t using a rating as a goal for its violence and, instead, just used its violence for the purposes of the story—which is, in my opinion, how a rating should be justified.  It’s all gotta come down to what works for the story, not for a rating.

One thing that hasn’t dipped in the world of DC animated films is the voice acting.  Bruce Greenwood returns to once again voice Batman (he voiced the B-man in Batman:  Under the Red Hood and in Young Justice) and he really has a voice to give the hero the life and gruffness he needs.  Jennifer Carpenter is Selina Kyle (Catwoman) in the film and, even though I couldn’t stand her in Dexter, I thought she did a terrific job in this role.  There may not have been a lot of big names in this film but there wasn’t anyone slacking in their job.  This Victorian era Gotham was brought to life fantastically with the cast.

Had this been some other DC animated films, there would have been an
extended scene of Selina in her dressing room.  DC gets really gross
with their female characters.  It's like they don't realize it's 2018.

Like I said, I never read the graphic novel this feature was based upon but I was familiar with its story.  So, naturally, I was a little surprised with the differences this one brought in.  This isn’t a complaint but rather a nice surprise.  This adaptation brings with it an unexpected twist that was completely different than the book and this was very shocking to see played out.  It offered up a nice surprise and a unique take on the source material.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.  In this case, the man is Batman.

The only thing I didn’t care for with this film was some of the character designs.  Like most DC animated films, this feature doesn’t look much different from what came before them and, in this case, what we saw on Batman:  The Animated Series.  However, there was something about the way the females and children were crafted that disappointed me.  There was a simplicity to them that made their designs feel lazy and kid-like in their creation—which is exceptionally strange considering this is an R-rated cartoon.  I will grant that the male characters aren’t drawn with tons of detail or complexity but simple clothing, simple structure and lifeless eyes given to the children and the female characters were not befitting of this project.  For example, Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy) is a burlesque performer at the beginning of the film and her design looked almost expressionist because she was so basically crafted.  I expected the typical look I've seen before but, at the same time, was kinda hoping I’d see something with some more detail added to it.  It might be time for DC to start to shake things up and try out some new looks.

I get it that their designs aren't the most detailed but this just feels too simplistic.

Batman:  Gotham by Gaslight is definitely one of the better DC animated films I’ve seen recently.  I like its approach with adapting the source material, the voice cast is great and it doesn’t feel like it superfluously has an R-rating but, rather an R-rating that works for the story.  Finally, the story unfolds very well and the tale never feels rushed or overloaded.  I was disappointed with some of the character designs and feel like this approach might be wearing thin and it’s time for some new looks but it’s still a very entertaining movie.  And, thankfully, there’s no gross treating women like sex objects—something DC loves to do in their animated films (which is incredible because this film literally has sex workers in it and I would have thought DC would have gotten really gross and creepy with that).

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