Despite their frequently failed efforts to turn four-color heroes and villains into blockbuster live-action cash-ins, Warner Bros. is known amid the fanboys and fangirls as producers of high grade ‘toon features based on DC’s iconic larger-than-life lads and lasses. Probably because these animated odysseys are singular sensations and not intended to be franchise tent poles upon which the studio’s next ten years of proposed releases are hung upon. As such, the creative teams are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want, so long as the DVD sales manage to amass enough cheddar to warrant funding further features.
Tonight’s Quickie is an adaptation of the classic graphic novel of the same name, while also heavily drawing from elements of its follow-up, “Master of the Future” and tossing a few additional traditional Bat characters into the mix to help up casual fan interest (and fill out a full 80 minute run time). Additionally, if you read either of the books beforehand, prepare for a few shocks as the endings have been changed, very MUCH so for the better in this lifelong comic geek’s opinion. Insert your tender, crank up the nickelodeon and let the magic of pictures in motion commence!
In the exceedingly misogynistic Victorian
London Gotham, as the city prepares to host a World’s Fair, a sicko of historic levels stalks the alleyways after dark. Killing prostitutes, the sadistic bastard dissects his victims and sends pieces of them to The Gotham Gazette attached to his manifesto, declaring his intentions to cleanse the city of its scourge of working girls with loose morals and looser meat curtains. Though the Gotham constabulary is on the case, old money rich-boy Bruce Wayne has taken it upon himself (or at least his cowl-clad flying mammal themed vigilante persona) to unveil the identity of this enigmatic “Jack” and put an end to his ripping exploits before the whole city becomes his personal abattoir. As Men At Work asked, “Who could it be now?”. Could it be Bruce’s friend Harvey Dent, who becomes a straight up bastard after a little bit of the bubbly? Could it be the oddball psychiatrist of Arkham Asylum, Hugo Strange? Could it be a certain psychopath whose name also starts with a ‘J’ and includes a ‘k’? Could it be Wayne himself pulling an infuriatingly plot hole riddled High Tension twist?!
Whatever Jack’s identity, Batman won’t be alone in his crusade to save the local hookers, as a certain whip wielding actress named Selina Kyle does the superhero team-up thing with the masked hero while she also gets into a round of intimate relations with Mr. Wayne. This includes (but is not limited to) a scene where the two pretend to be boning the back of a coach to throw off a police search party. By “coach”, I don’t mean the sports team type, but the horse drawn type. By “horse drawn”, I mean that it’s powered by an equine engine, not that the designs for the coach were illustrated by a horse. Just to be clear.
Gotham By Gaslight is one of the better DC animated movies I’ve seen. Though a grittier/grimier coat of crud would’ve fit the oppressive, dark horror tone of the tale, DC’s typically clean animation and art style do the job just fine. Despite the lack of classic Bat-voice Kevin Conroy, stand-in caped crusader Bruce Greenwood does a great job of his own as the hero. Besides, this is an alternate reality tale, so you’d expect Bats to sound different, right? Right. Also, I won’t give away the identity of the actor, but the vocal chords giving sound to Jack are in top form for the big rambling MRA extremist soliloquy he gives during his final face-off with the good guy. Despite the words ringing wretched in my brain, the echoes in my ears left me on the verge of applause. Or was it applesauce? Damn it, now I want applesauce.
My only major dismay for the feature is an unfortunate plothole unresolved by the end credits and the non-lubricated shoehorning of the 3 Robins (not including Damien Wayne or Stephanie Brown) into the story. In an uninspired bit of blatant fan services, a trio of Dickensian urchins named Timmy, Jason and Dickie (based on Drake, Todd and Grayson respectively) get Oliver Twist’d into being Batty Boop’s feet on the street. The mangy moppets are even color coordinated to match with their alter egos – blue hues and eyes for Dick, red hues and hair for Jason, and green hues for Tiny Timmy. It’s a case of the movie winking so hard at us that its figurative eye ruptures and ocular goop pours from its face.
Overall, the Evil Dead Bride and I had a spiffing good row with this R rated, animated adventure du jour. It helps that, unlike The Killing Joke, which abused its rating for the sake of needless edginess and softcore soap opera, Gaslight takes a more mature, graphic bend. Good voice acting, hard hitting brawls, sadness and sickness and not one but TWO Hindenburg sized disaster battles! It’s an excellent way to spend your evening and well worth a buy.
Four Red Herrings out-of-Five
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