Animated Releases: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018) - Reviewed

Gotham by Gaslight (2018) is the thirtieth animated film from DC and it's obvious they are beginning to lose their luster. It's based on a 1989 one-shot comic of the same name written by Brian Agustyn with art by Mike Mignola. The premise, a whodunnit set in an Victorian-era Gotham city, is interesting but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

First off, this was the perfect opportunity for the production team to be creative and use a different art style. The original comic was awash in shadows and atmosphere with a noir-gothic aesthetic that complimented the mystery of the narrative. In the animated version they use the same character designs they always have which makes it look generic and out of place, especially in contrast to the adult themes. 

The animation quality itself is mediocre and cheap looking with boring composition and muddy backgrounds. There are also moments of poorly implemented CGI work that stand out like a sore thumb. Frederik Wiedmann's musical score is fantastic though and does much more to contribute to the atmosphere than the visuals. He has scored many of the DC animated films and he always does an excellent job.

The story doesn't fare much better as it feels rushed and disjointed. They had plenty of running time to flesh it out, but they spend too much of it on action set-pieces and not enough on character development. While I can appreciate the subtext of the narrative exploring the dual ideas of the exploitation of women and self-righteousness gone wrong, it doesn't go deep enough into either concept. Gotham by Gaslight falls into the trap of equating adult themes with sex and gore instead of contemplating complex ideas. There are a few surprising twists, but not enough to make it stand-out. The voice acting ranges from passable to downright bad and there was no effort to make the dialogue sound like it belongs in Victorian times.

After this many films, DC needs to freshen up their style and try some new ideas (perhaps use different animation studios as well). Their upcoming Batman: Ninja looks like it might be a step in a new direction but Gotham by Gaslight is just a huge disappointment.

--Michelle Kisner