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It's not exactly breaking news that fans were generally disappointed with DC's animated film adaptation of The Killing Joke so this new attempt at taking on one of the most popular Batman graphic novels seemed like a perfect opportunity to get something right.

Batman takes on Jack The Ripper himself in this steampunk story loosely based on Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola's one-shot Gotham By Gaslight set in the late 1800's. When an exotic dancer (Poison Ivy) is brutally killed by The Ripper and the latter's victims keep piling up, the people of Gotham City start to suspect Batman. With the help of James Gordon and the police, Batman (voiced by Bruce Greenwood) attempts to stop further killings but Bruce Wayne is eventually jailed on suspicion of being The Ripper, which delays the Dark Knight's investigation somewhat. The film makes decent enough use of the familiar characters it does have including a trio of Robins as orphans, Hugo Strange, Selina Kyle (who becomes one of The Ripper's main targets) and an appropriately two-faced Harvey Dent. It's not very subtle, however, about its gimmickier aspects and a lot of clever ideas from the graphic novel are completely left out. In fact, some major elements from the comic are changed in the film, even the identity of Jack The Ripper himself.

The movie does well to keep you guessing throughout, sending you down the wrong path purposely a few times, but the final reveal feels a little forced and the ending is rather underwhelming, despite a solid final fight scene. With The Killing Joke, a big part of what made that graphic novel so good was the bold, detailed art style so, when the film adaptation narrowed that down to a slight update on the look of Batman: The Animated Series, this turned it into a much less essential story to tell and the same happens here. The animation is good, it's just nothing special and it looks much too slick for a gritty Victorian era Batman story. This is little more than a Mask Of The Phantasm-style whodunit except with a surprisingly thin plot that fails to make you care about much of what's going on with some of your favourite characters. As a film, it's definitely watchable and parts of it are pretty fun (the airship fight, the motorcycle) but you can't help but feel that there was something more substantial and interesting that DC could have done with the source material.

While it's better than Batman: The Killing Joke and its existence encourages people to seek out the superior graphic novel, which is good, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is a bit of a missed opportunity. It's violent, entertaining, it's well made and funny at times but there's really not much to it.

Average adaptation.

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