Batman: Gotham by Gaslight takes Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola’s story of the same name, unofficially the first DC Elseworlds story printed, and transforms it into an R-rated animated feature film that pits Batman against Jack the Ripper. With Bruce Greenwood as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Jennifer Carpenter as Selina Kyle, the film dynamically spins a story of horror, terror, and bravery that doesn’t alter much of Batman’s character but allows us to see the supporting cast of characters in a new way.
While the city of Gotham is held in terror by a knife-wielding villain who slices up prostitutes, Bruce Wayne is returning to his hometown, discovering boys on the street named Dickie, Jason, and Timmy, and drawing into the circle of individuals like Selina Kyle, James Gordon, and Harvey Dent. The boys add some humor to the story – and show us the stark reality that they’ve been saved from by Batman, and Kyle’s presence sans Catwoman mask allows us to see her as Batman’s foil and lover.
eFrom an animated film perspective… this is my favorite of DC’s productions. It’s fast-paced, mysterious, and dark. Yes, there’s language and violence that transforms it from kid-level entertainment to its justifiable R-rating. But it allows us to see Batman as he more realistically might appear, and lets us see the violence of Jack the Ripper in the way that he really would’ve inflicted it.
While the story is true to Batman (and this Elseworlds version), the elements of justice portrayed by Batman and his friend, Sister Leslie (Grey Griffin), both physically and financially for those who have no voice was fantastic. Leslie speaks forgiveness into the life of a very bad man, while Alfred (Anthony Head) quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 in response to Wayne’s desire to seek vengeance. Instead, he’s pointed toward defending the lives and hopes of the children and women who couldn’t defend themselves. Somehow, in Gotham by Gaslight, the beauty of justice that Batman represents shines even brighter in the darkness.
Special features include “Caped Fear: The First Elseworld,” audio commentary with Bruce Timm (executive producer), Jim Krieg (writer), and Sam Liu (director), a sneak peek at “Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay,” and two extra cartoon segments.