Hello, my friends! Now that it’s reached its 11th year of existence, it’s time for the D.C.U.A.O.M. to “rip” into 2018! As such, I welcome you back to another entry of…
We once again head back to Gotham City, but it’s not the modern version that we’re familiar with. This time around, we’ll be looking at an alternate and antiqued take as the Dark Knight looks to stop a famously evil figure in a tale known as…
Debuting with a world-premiere screening at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum on January 12, 2018 as part of the “DC In D.C.” event before getting a Digital Download release on January 23 and a DVD/Blu-Ray release on February 6, this is based off the 1989 one-shot tale originally written by Brian Augustyn, drawn by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, inked by P. Craig Russell and colored by David Hornung. For this translation of what’s considered to be DC’s very first Elseworlds story, it’s the third R-Rated film in the series and the second Batman film to get that distinction as well. How will Augustyn’s alternate take on Batman translate on film? Let’s wind back the clock and head in to find out.
During the opening credits, we open in late 19th Century Gotham City (1889, according to the source material). We truly kick things off at the Gotham Gaiety Girls club where an exotic dance named Pamela Isley (voiced by Capt. Maggie Beckett herself, Kari Wuhrer) gives her performance as Ivy: The Plant Lady.
Following her performance, she heads out towards home unaware that someone is tracking her from afar. During the late-night stroll, she begins to feel a sense of dread as she starts to pick up her pace. Just then, she runs into a mysterious figure. She then starts acting sultry to him as she offers an invitation to her residence. However, things take a grim turn for the worse when the shadowy figure opens up his medical supply bag and takes out a knife with the intent of killing her.
Meanwhile, an elderly couple is getting threatened with robbery by a trio of young boys named (from left to right) Jason, Dickie & Timmy (voiced by Grey DeLisle-Griffin, Lincoln Melcher and Tara Strong respectively). It turns out that they’re under the ruthless employment of a massive bruiser named “Big Bill” Dust (voiced by John DiMaggio) who threatens them with physical harm if they don’t do their job.
Just then, their attempted robbery gets interrupted by the arrival of Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman (voiced by Bruce Greenwood). Bill tells his boys to attack their intruder, but he easily defeats them without breaking a sweat.
From there, Bill arms himself with a pair of brass knuckles and tries to attack. Fortunately, Batman easily dodges his strikes and scores some hits of his own while the couple manages to escape. The fight concludes with Bruce breaking Bill’s arm and tossing him to the ground.
Afterwards, he tells the young lads to go home. Unfortunately, they explain that they’re orphans and that Bill will ultimately chase them down if they try to leave him. As such, Batman slams his foot down on the brute’s kneecap and cripples him, freeing the boys from the thug’s control. Looking to make sure that the lads turn their lives around, Batman tells them to go to St. Cadwalla’s church and ask for Sister Leslie. Just then, they hear a blood-curling scream from afar. As the boys take their leave, Batman fires his grappling hook and takes to the rooftops to head towards the incident in progress.
However, it’s too late as Jack The Ripper stabs Pamela to death before placing his knife in his bag and walks away. As such, Batman is only able to arrive and overlook the grisly scene.
We then cut to the next day as Mayor Tolliver (voiced by Bob Joles) gives an exclusive preview of the recently-built Gotham World’s Fair to the members of the City Council. Among those in attendance is County Prosecutor Harvey Dent (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) and even members of the Gotham Police, including Commissioner James Gordon (voiced by Luke Danes & Agent Peter Strahm himself, Scott Patterson) and Chief Harvey “Bulldog” Bullock (also voiced by John DiMaggio).
Among the various things that Mayor Tolliver shows off is a searchlight (which he refers to as “a fully-electronical lantern”), followed by the centerpiece of the fairgrounds: a 250-foot ferris wheel called the “Fox Wheel”. He explains that it’ll take its passengers up and down at a speed of 15 mph. When one of the patrons wonders if the human body can withstand the small velocity, a medical expert/premier alienist named Dr. Hugo Strange (voiced by William Salyers) emerges and explains that the human body is able to handle speeds of up to 35 mph, therefore assuring the crowd that’s it’s safe to ride.
Just then, a voice of displeasure emerges from the crowd as Selina Kyle (voiced by Jennifer Carpenter) voices her disapproval on the city’s protection towards women. While Dent and Bullock retort with a bit of casual sexism, James tries to assure her that he and the police are doing all that they can to give their safety. However, another one of the patrons gives her own stamp of complaints as Sister Leslie Thompkins (also voiced by Grey DeLisle-Griffin) says that Jack The Ripper is behind the slayings and hates how the police seems unwilling to help out these victims, since they’re mainly destitute women.
Just then, their arguments gets interrupted by the arrival of Bruce Wayne. After he meets up with Sister Leslie, they walk with Gordon as Bruce mentions how he’s heard about the slayings while in Europe. After climbing onto the horse carriage, they head out as Leslie informs Wayne about Pamela (a former orphan of hers) and her recent murder. Bruce feels bad about it since he tells James that Leslie took him in as a child following his parents’ deaths and he’s been donating funds to the orphanage ever since. Afterwards, Wayne says that instead of the family manor, he moved into a townhouse before informing them that he’s busy tonight.
That night, Batman oversees the streets from the rooftops as he notices Selena walking through the vacant roads and alleys. Just then, he spots Jack The Ripper pursuing her as he silently gives chase.
Selena sees Jack following her as she runs into a slaughterhouse and makes her way upstairs. However, she came prepared as she takes out her whip and proceeds to defend herself. They tussle for a while before Jack gains the upper hand by grabbing the whip and pulling her in to deliver a punch. Afterwards, he uses her own weapon to strangle her.
Fortunately, Batman arrives to save her as he and Jack proceed to trade blows. However, the Ripper starts to overpower him before Selena comes to his rescue with a slained pig. Jack then throws her to the ground before he grabs a cleaver to finish her off. Fortunately, Batman sees him walk across a trap door as he grabs a leaver and causes the Ripper to fall down through. However, Selena is mad since she lost her chance at getting the killer. Batman says that their foe is far more skillful than he expected before he silently takes his leave.
After a quick scene where Jack The Ripper manages to slay another woman…
…we quickly discover that James was just having a nightmare. He heads downstairs to find his wife Barbara (also voiced by Kari Wuhrer) in the kitchen as he comforts her and says that he dreamt of her getting killed. After she preps a cup of coffee in order to calm his nerves, he tells her that it hasn’t been easy for him to keep Gotham from falling apart.
While Barbara goes to make him some breakfast, James heads out onto the back porch where he’s met upon by Batman. He tells Gordon that he came across Jack The Ripper and mentions that the fiend is also skilled as a southpaw fighter. He then asks James for his files containing everything that the Gotham Police knows about their killer. Gordon gives him a letter that Jack sent to the Gotham Gazette before informing him that he’ll drop off the files up on the roof for him to pick up before Batman makes his hushed departure.
One night later, Bruce is in his townhouse where he reads Jack’s letter to his butler Alfred Pennyworth (voiced by Rupert Giles himself, Anthony Head). After reading a good portion of the fiend’s fowl dissections, Wayne mentions how the letter was written on cheap paper while the handwriting appears to be educated while disguising itself to not be so. Shortly afterwards, Alfred gives him his formal clothes. He tells Bruce that his Batman outfit is hidden within his horse carriage and that he has a night on the town with his good friend Harvey Dent.
Later, Bruce and Harvey are at the Monarch Theater as they take in a show with Selina herself (sung by Grey DeLisle-Griffin) leading a group of dancing girls while she sings “Can You Tame Wild Wimmen”. Wayne and Dent view the performance from a private box as an already-married Harvey looks to ask Ms. Kyle out on the town.
After the show, they head backstage towards Selina’s dressing room. After she dresses herself, Harvey invites her to “a more comfortable establishment”. However, Selina shoots him down by telling him that she’s “nobody’s pet” before she takes her leave alongside our two gentlemen.
Some time later, our threesome take their leave from the Tiny Saloon as Selina voices her disapproval over the seemingly lack of police action towards Jack The Ripper’s capture due to the fact that his victims are women. Bruce tells her that while Jack’s targets are ladies, they’re mainly ones who are destitute and the kind that high-society refuses to pay much attention towards. Harvey displays a bit of his snobbish behavior due to his mild drunkenness as Selina retorts on his “Jekyll & Hyde” display. Eventually, they arrive at a Men’s Only establishment called the Dionysus Club with Dent immediately heading inside.
A short time later within the gentlemen’s club and while Harvey has passed out, Selina has been successfully sneaked into the facility as she tells Bruce what she’s heard about him. Specifically, she was informed about his love for solving mysteries since childhood. In return, he deduces her time in a small circus with her family before a tragic event led her to flee towards Gotham and become a night club performer. Like Bruce, she was also taken in by Sister Leslie as a child which is how she developed her need to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. As Selina talks about the kind acts that Leslie does for Gotham’s destitutes, Bruce has a horrifying realization as he calls for a hansom cab and takes his leave.
We then cut to the orphanage as Leslie locks it up for the night before making her way through the courtyard. She comes across a woman named Marlene Mahoney (also voiced by Tara Strong) who’s been outside and smelling of alcohol. Leslie proceeds to lead her back inside before continuing her stroll. On an opposite side of the compound, Bruce arrives and sends the cabbie on his way before he climbs over the gate.
Meanwhile, Leslie arrives at a grave to pray when she’s confronted by Jack The Ripper. Knowing the cruel fate that awaits her, she tells him that she won’t make a scene but she still forgives him. As Bruce runs as fast as he can to intervene, he’s unaware that Marlene is watching him from afar. By the time he reaches Sister Leslie, it’s too late as he finds her bloodied corpse.
Later at the townhouse, Alfred discovers that Bruce isn’t in the main study. As such, he activates a hidden switch behind a grandfather clock and heads up the secret staircase. In an upstairs attic equivalent to the present day Bat Cave, he finds Wayne observing a Dionysus Club membership pin that he found at the recent murder scene. Aside from it partially soaked in Leslie’s blood, Bruce discovers a piece of fabric wrapped around it as he hopes to find a possible match and avenge her murder. Alfred tells him that she wouldn’t wish for him to stay in solitary vengeance as Bruce decides to take a break and pay his respects.
We then cut to a cloudy, rain-soaked day as a funeral is held for Sister Leslie by Father Callahan (voiced by Chris Cox) as Bruce, Alfred, Selina, Harvey, James and Bullock are among those in attendance. As the guests begin to depart for the memorial afterwards, Bruce is confronted by Hugo as he silently tells Alfred to wait by the carriage. Afterwards, Strange expresses his thoughts on Jack The Ripper and the insatiable hatred towards women that stirs within the fiend. He then expresses his wish to tell Batman about this. As such, he asks for Bruce to have the heroic crusader meet him at his office in Arkham Asylum at midnight. From there, Hugo takes his leave.
Meanwhile, Alfred is waiting for Bruce to return when he suddenly feels someone trying to pit-pocket him. Fortunately, he catches the perp with the handle of his umbrella as he scolds Jason for trying to steal within a crowd of officials. Just then, Dickie and Timmy emerge as the former also berates Jason for his behavior, especially after Sister Leslie gave them a home at the orphanage. He then asks Alfred to let him go since she did her best to help them while she was alive. As such, he relieves Jason and decides to hire the young boys to help him out with “some odd jobs” as he gives them his business card and sends them on their way.
As Bruce is about to reach his carriage, he’s suddenly met upon by Marlene. She says that she saw him sneaking through the churchyard, thus believing that he was the one who killed Sister Leslie. This draws the attention of Chief Bullock who tries to calm her down, but she continues to yell at a departing Bruce as she swears that he’ll eventually pay.
That night at Arkham Asylum, Hugo waits in his office for Batman’s arrival. Just then, he hears someone come in as he assumes that it’s out hero arriving early. However, it turns out to be Jack The Ripper as he grabs one of the doctor’s masks and wears it as his own disguise. As he slowly walks towards him, Hugo says that he can’t be the next victim since he’s not a destitute woman. However, Jack grabs him and holds him up with an ambiguous cutaway.
By the time Batman arrives in Hugo’s office, he finds it empty. Suddenly, he hears Strange’s scream from afar as he rushes through the hallways. He ultimately comes across Jack The Ripper who proceeds to throw Hugo into the pit. From there, the crazies proceed to kill the doctor as they rip him apart.
As Batman starts to chase after Jack, the orderlies spot him and activate the alarm. The pursuit ultimately leads to the roof as Jack commandeers a passing zeppelin and throws out the lone operative in the process. Batman manages to use his grappling hook to attach himself onto the craft and make his way on board.
The two figures proceed to engage in fisticuffs as they swap blows with each other. During the scuffle, Jack uses his knife to relieve Batman of his grapple gun before their tussle ultimately causes them to fall out of the zeppelin. Fortunately, the aircraft was flying low enough for them to safely land on the rooftops.
Afterwards, Batman chases after him as Jack hops across the rooftops in order to get back on the zepplin. The police officials (having already been summoned by an Arkham employee, who was voiced by Bruce Timm in a cameo) spot him as he climbs back up with Batman tailing close behind. Ultimately, they land on top of the craft and proceed to engage each other in combat.
Suddenly, the uncontrollable blimp begins to bump alongside several buildings as Jack takes advantage and knocks Batman down towards one of the side-motors. The fiend starts getting the upper-hand as he forces Bruce back towards the adjacent propeller, causing his cape and cowl to get shredded by the blades.
However, the police manage to interfene on the ground as Bullock and and a group of officials fire their guns at them. One of the shots ruptures a hydrogen shell as both Jack and Batman jump off in time before the zepplin crashes onto the ground and explodes.
Even though he survives, Bruce is in worse shape as he sees Jack from afar before the fiend escapes. Just then, he’s spotted by Bullock’s group who chase after him and try to shoot him as well. Batman ducks into the alleyways as he continues to evade the police.
Shortly afterwards, James arrives and tells Bullock & company to stop firing. After they swap conformations about the recent murder sightings, Gordon informs the officials that they need to capture Batman alive and they’ll hang him if he’s truly connected to the killings.
Meanwhile, a wounded Bruce manages to grab a trenchcoat from the nearby Rose Tavern in order to hide his costume as he attempts to elude Bulldog and the officers. He’s ultimately pinned between two separate groups of officials, but he suddenly gets some unexpected assistance as Selina arrives in her carriage to help him escape.
After discoving that Bruce Wayne is Batman, she tells him that he must discard as much of his costume as he can since the police is doing a concentrated search throughout the area. She helps him take some parts of his outfit off before her carriage is stopped by the police as they’re about to look inside and inspect. Bruce and Selina manage to prepare in time as the officials open the door and find them in an intimate moment. This convinces the officers as Wayne and Kyle are sent on their way. Afterwards, Bruce is impressed by Selina’s convincing performance as she tells him that it’s due to her skills as an actress. She tells him that it takes loads of practice to become immersed into a role as the scene ends with them sharing a kiss.
Later, Gordon is still hard at work with the police’s efforts to capture Batman. Suddenly, Bullock arrives and gives him some bad news. It turns out that another murder has taken place and the victim was Marlene.
We then cut to Selina’s hotel room just as dawn is approaching. She wakes up to discover Bruce standing at her window before handing him a shirt so that she can put her robe on. Afterwards, she says that she feels foolish for not discovering his secret identity sooner since she felt a callus on his hand during their post-show meeting at the Monarch Theater. After he mentions that he saw a past circus act of hers several years ago (especially as a lion tamer), she explains in her backstory that she cared for those lions, but had a hateful father as well. Her compassion for the defenseless shined through when she swiped her father’s bullets in order to prevent him from gunning the grown cats down. It was those experiences that ultimately inspired her to protect the destitute women of Skinner’s End. As such, they begin to forge a deeper connection to each other due to their need to combat injustice (even though Bruce admits that it would “never be enough”). Just then, Bullock bursts in with a pair of officers as he presents an arrest warrant on Bruce for Marlene’s murder. As Selena learns from Bulldog that it was Harvey Dent who tipped the police off on searching for their fugitive at her place, Bruce is being escorted to the paddy wagon as he sees James and expresses his disbelief towards the notion that he’s the murderer. However, Gordon tells the officers to take him away.
Later, a trial is held as Dent links Bruce to three key pieces of evidence from the murder sites. This ultimately convinces the judge as he sentences Wayne to be placed in Blackgate Penitentiary without bail until a more proper trial can be arranged.
Later, Bruce is being placed in his cell over in Blackgate. As he sees a pair of inmates fighting down below, one of the guards tells him that it’s part of the prison’s “progressive” style due to the warden allowing the prisoners to engage in “physical exercise”.
That night, Selina pays a visit and tells Bruce that he needs to get out of jail as soon as he can. He tells her that he suspects one of his closest friends to most likely be responsible for his imprisonment (during a brief nod of his past mentor Sherlock Holmes), but he doesn’t have the proper means to defend himself in court due to him also having “nocturnal habits” similar enough to Jack The Ripper. When Selina suggests that Gordon should know that Bruce and Batman are one in the same, especially due to his alter ego having a rock-solid alibi for Pamela’s murder, he immediately shoots that idea down. However, she’s not willing to stand by while more of Gotham’s women are in harm’s way. As such, she shows a Batarang that she acquired as her intent to immediately inform James and proceeds to take her leave.
Shortly afterwards, Bruce takes to his desk as he begins to hatch a plan. After a brief period, a guard comes by to let him out for dinner. Wayne tells him to deliver a message to his townhouse within a half-hour in exchange for $200 from his servant. This manages to convince the official as he takes the message while Bruce heads down to eat.
After making his way down to the main feeding area, he takes in a fight as a muscular prisoner named Cyrus Gold (voiced by David Forseth) beats the stuffings out of another inmate before challenging someone else to fight him. Bruce decides to step in, but Cyrus refuses. Fortunately, Wayne agitates him by throwing a lunch tray at Gold’s head and begins their brawl. However, his true plan is set in motion as he ducks in time for Cyrus to accidentally punch another inmate. From there, it escalates into a full-blown riot as the guards try to get the situation under control while Bruce starts to sneak his way out.
After subduing a guard and taking his uniform, he manages to lure the two remaining officials over with the horses as he fakes an Irish accent to inform them of the riot brewing inside. With his path to freedom cleared, he takes a horse and manages to escape Blackgate.
Meanwhile, Selena arrives at the Gotham Police Station. However, Harvey emerges and tells her in a rude tone that James isn’t available, since he’s over at the fairgrounds in preparation for the Gotham World’s Fair. As such, she takes her leave.
Later, three familiar lads are out on assignment as Jason, Timmy and Dickie reach their destination. Bruce discreetly arrives and takes the package containing his costume while the three boys unload the heavy crate. Afterwards, Batman appears and thanks them for their help before sending them on their way.
After a quick scene where Selina arrives at the fairgrounds and ultimately comes across James…
…we then cut to the Gordon residence where Batman sneaks inside in order to talk with his friend. He then notices some drag marks that lead towards the side of the staircase. He feels around and discovers a hidden door as he opens it up. Just then, he’s met upon by Barbara who acts worried for her husband yet gets angry about the mention of another woman. Against her wishes, he heads inside the secret basement.
Upon illuminating the room, Batman discovers a private laboratory containing organ jars, cutting tools, newspaper clippings concerning Jack The Ripper and James’ personal mementos.
Just then, Barbara tries to attack him with a bottle containing a harmful chemical. Fortunately, Batman noticed in time and blocks her strike. He tries asking where he can find her husband, but she only rambles on about how James is only doing his job of “cleaning the scum from Gotham” and that he “burns the sin” out of them as she reveals the scarring handiwork he left on her, as Batman has the completely horrifying revelation placed upon him and demands to know where her husband is.
Back at the Gotham World’s Fair, James is informed of Bruce’s alter ego as he goes to grab his belongings. Just then, Selina sees him take out a familiar medicine bag as she discovers that he’s been Jack The Ripper all along. She tries to escape, but he’s able to grab her and inject her with his wife’s insomnia medicine, which contains laudanum and a heroin/alcohol mixture. Selina frees herself from his grasp and tries fighting back with her whip. However, the formula starts to take effect as she grows weary and collapses.
Just as Gordon is about to harm her, she discreetly takes a pin from her hat and stabs him in the shoulder as she musters enough strength to run & hide.
Back in the city, Batman emerges with what the young boys brought for him. It turns out to be a steampunk motorcycle as he rides off to intervene. Back at the fairgounds, Selena wearily continues to evade James as she reaches the searchlight and hastily puts some red paint on it. She manages to temporarily blind him with it before redirecting it towards the night sky and running off again. In the distance, Batman see the makeshift Bat-Signal and finds out where he needs to go.
Meanwhile, Selina tries to use her Batarang in order to attack James. However, she misses as the drug re-assurts itself and causes her to crawl along the ground. Gordon then proceeds to drag her by her hair over to the Fox Wheel where he prepares to kill her while on the ride.
Fortunately, Batman arrives in time as he smashes through the window and engages his former friend in combat. James’ knife strikes are constantly dodged and he even gets knocked into a lantern, which lands on the seat and begins to set the cart ablaze. The fight makes its way towards an adjacent passenger car as Gordon brings up his cause for his deep-seated hatred towards the opposite sex. During his time fighting in the Civil War, he saw the horrors that man had brought upon each other. However, he saw female Camp Followers as detrimental to his fellow soldiers since he believed that these women “destroyed good men in both body and mind”.
Meanwhile, the embers from the flaming cart reach the flammable liquid on the ground as it begins to engulf the Fox Wheel’s foundation. Selina’s passenger car manages to reach ground level as she proceeds to jump off. Meanwhile, Batman and Gordon continue their fight with James getting flung over the side. He managed to hang on for dear life as Batman tries to pull him back up, but Gordon is able to handcuff himself to Bruce as he gets back up and resumes their brawl.
As the Fox Wheel’s foundation starts to give way, Gordon exclaims that this is a bright future crumbling into “the ashes of degradation”. Fortunately, Batman brings the fight to an end as he discreetly managed to slip out of the handcuff and attach it to the Ferris Wheel, exclaiming that he learned that trick from Harry Houdini. With his plans falling apart, Gordon isn’t willing to be imprisoned as he backs into the fire and ends up burning to death.
Afterwards, Batman leaps off and takes a hard landing onto the ground after his grappling line snaps. He’s then approached by Selina as they manage to evade the Fox Wheel from crushing them.
Shortly afterwards, Alfred arrives with the three young lads as they help our heroes climb in before making their escape. After Bruce is informed that all three boys have been adopted into his family, the film ends with the Gotham World’s Fair crumbling to the ground as Bruce exclaims that Gotham’s future has gone down in flames alongside the fairgrounds. However, Dickie says that they’ll “make something new ” and “better” together as our group rides off.
Time for some character analysis, starting with our Victorian Dark Knight himself: Batman. In terms of noticeable differences from the source material to what we have here, it comes in a variety of ways. When it comes to Bruce and his venture in Europe, the original tale opened with him in Austria discussing a recurring nightmare involving his parents’ murder at the gun-totting hands of a Joe Chill-esque robber to famed neurologist/psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. This was at the tale-end of a five-year overseas journey that ultimately saw him not pay too much attention to the rising murders by the mysterious Jack The Ripper as opposed to here where he stayed informed via overseas newspapers. On a quick minor note, he resides in his family manor in the source material while the film sees him living in a townhouse, most likely for him to stay on top of the wrong-doings that go down in town. Also in the original tale, Bruce began his crime-fighting venture as Batman not too long after returning from Europe. This was mixed up with Jack The Ripper’s slaying and caused the masses to wonder if these two string of incidents were one and the same. Here, it seems that Batman has been fully-established by the time we begin this animated tale and it seems that Jack’s series of slayed women seems to have been going on for a while as well. As far as how Bruce got arrested and ultimately got out prison, that also played out in different ways. In the source material, the police discover a bloodied knife and glove in Wayne Manor, thus linking him to the crime. While in his Arkham Asylum cell as he’s about to be sent to the hangman’s noose on Halloween, Inspector James Gordon sneaks in everything that the police had about the vicious killings from Jack The Ripper from Police Inspector Tolliver’s desk. Despite a thorough investigation that lasted just over a week, Bruce is unable to find a connection until he finally stumbles upon a key picture (which I’ll mention when I get to our true Jack The Ripper for this tale). In the film, the final straw for Bruce’s arrest came after Marlene spotted him wandering around the churchyard around the time of Sister Leslie’s murder. After she threatens to expose him as the killer (which gets the police’s attention), she gets slayed as well and thus incriminate him. When Selina visits his Blackgate cell and informs him that she’s going to tell Gordon about his true identity (both of them unaware that he’s Jack The Ripper at the time), Bruce ultimately uses a prison riot and breaks out during the confusion. In terms of how our protagonist is presented here, he’s a kind-hearted detective who mainly proves his resourcefulness through the film. His plight against Jack The Ripper rings for him due to some of the murderer’s victims being connected in some way towards the holy orphanage that he grew up in following his parents’ deaths. He learned his values there and molded them during his life, especially with his personal overseas training when he acquires a helpful trick or two that comes into play en route to the climax and beyond. There doesn’t seem to be much of a character arc that he goes through other than him acquiring allies for further ventures. While it may have helped in giving a major change that he goes through during the course of his investigation, it seems to suit this tale since he’s trying to balance his personal appearances as Bruce Wayne and his Dark Knight ventures with Alfred helping him between those two personas. Bruce Greenwood turns in another solid performance in his second go-around, giving an understated yet charming delivery as Bruce Wayne while having a fierce gruffness to his Batman. It’s amazing how much his stock as an actor has gone up since his performance in “Batman: Under The Red Hood”, but it was a nice turn to hear him back in a role that he displayed only eight years prior.
Moving on, we reach our feline fatale in Selina Kyle. This is a character who wasn’t in the original material, but is given an important role here. She’s a strong and independent woman who fights for the destitute women of Skinner’s Row, thanks to time growing up in Sister Leslie’a orphanage. Her limitations mainly stem from the late 19th Century attitude of high-class officials who turn the other cheek and pay no attention to those who live below them on the social status totem pole other than for entertainment purposes. Her circus background as a lion tamer gives her the courage to stand up towards Jack The Ripper, but she doesn’t possess other handy skills that Batman has in order to properly combat the silent killer. If she was more resourceful, then she would have been a much more formidable opponent for Jack to handle. Despite that, she never purposely falls into the cliched damsel-in-distress routine. It’s no coincidence that her inclusion here is a reflection of the changing atmosphere where women have even more a voice that let’s them stand up to oppresive men. It’s an update that makes sense and Jennifer Carpenter gets the most out of the role. Her performance delivers a confident toughness to Selina’s femine charm which makes all-the-more likeable.
Finally, we get to our Jack The Ripper for this tale: James Gordon. Needless to say, it was most unexpected of him to become our main villain. In the original tale, he was a heroic police inspector who’s also a trustworthy friend to Bruce. Even when Wayne gets framed and arrested for the grisly murders, James doesn’t believe that he’s a killer and gives his imprisoned comrade the evidence he needs to figure out Jack The Ripper’s true identity. By the time Batman defeats his felon, he ultimately guns the murderer down after a surprise slice upon our hero. As for how Gordon is handled here, this will ultimately extend into my discussion on Jack The Ripper’s identity from the source material. He’s a Civil War veteran who’s become disillusioned by women due to his belief that they weaken men with their charms and that he must wipe out their supposed poison. This is made even more clear when it turns out that he’s broken his wife into being subservient to him. It could very well stem from a mindset where he believes that men are slowly losing their grasp over many facets of life as the times slowly-but-surely ultimately tip the tables in favor of women. If that’s the case, then it could very well be the build-up towards his subtle insanity. From his time as a battleline surgeon to a prized-brawler, he gives Jack The Ripper an identity that makes him infamous as a killer. Scott Patterson turns in a fairly-solid performance, giving his real identity enough of a noble personality that it’s throws the viewer off the trail during first-viewing, especially with a few red herrings placed in throughout the tale. His line-delivery runs a good gambit from calm & worrying to stern & serious all the way to fierce and threatening. Overall, not too shabby for a character that went through some changes in translation.
The story isn’t a nearly-direct translation of the original source material. In fact, the identity of Jack The Ripper turned out to be completely different. In the original story, our killer was actually Bruce’s uncle named Jacob Packer. He’s absent for a good chunk of the tale following the cruise from Europe to Gotham before appearing briefly to defend his nephew in trial. After Batman finally catches him, we learn that his motivation came from Martha Wayne. He used to assist Thomas during the Civil War and was helped by Bruce’s dad in making his way through medical school despite his struggles in his studies. When he asked Martha to be his one true love, she just laughed him off. Even since he was denied of the one thing that he could never have, his psychosis was forever plagued with the sound of women’s laughter. Thus, he used Thomas’ knife as his main slaying weapon. Not even hiring our Joe Chill-equivalent to murder her could ease his guilt, especially since young Bruce managed to escape. By the time Gordon arrives, he confesses his killings before making a surprise slice at Batman before James puts him down for good with a headshot. Here, he has a voiceless cameo as he sits next to Bruce during his trial. While Harvey Dent was briefly in the original tale and was his signature lawful role of District Attorney, he’s been expanded upon so that he has just enough dimension in order to us to consider him as a possible candidate for Jack The Ripper, yet also serve as a red herring. The details that we get about him do make him convincing enough to lean towards him as the possible killer, since he doesn’t mind seeing other women behind his wife’s back, while the biggest one is that he constantly expresses his sexist disdain towards Selina. He’s snooty, rude and acts like he’s superior to her in every way. Plus, it seems like he would sell Bruce out if it meant that he could continue to spite her. There’s also Tolliver who was in the original material, but he was the police commissioner and was mainly just an opposition to get Bruce arrested since Jack’s not-so-happy huntings coincide with Batman’s nighttime patrols. There are other characters that the source material didn’t have, like Sister Leslie, Hugo Strange and the first three Robins as orphans. For what it’s worth, each one of them fit their roles to the story and their respective voice actors do an effective job of giving them a personality to go with their characteristics. Finally, if there was an overlying theme to this tale, then it would be Progression and the fight to keep it prevalent. Selina’s addition helped to fuel this overarching motif, especially with the male society’s varying degrees of disdain with the feeling that women are acknowledged but only allowed certain privileges. For Gordon, females are a perversion of that thought since he believes that they cloud men’s minds and have thus warped his sense of justice. He most likely was a good man prior to the Civil War, but he emerged as a mentally-damaged man who’s sensible ethics died on and off the battlefield. If I had any complaints, then it’s this factoral nitpick. Selina’s lil’ song is entertaining, expect I don’t believe that it should even be around yet. This Andrew B. Sterling and Harry Von Tilzer tune came out in 1918, but the Victorian era was from 1837 to 1901. While an establishing year is actually not given in the film, the source material clearly gives it as 1889. Other than that, there’s not really anything out of place I can find here.
Overall, this is a fine antique that looks to stay right with age. The animation is still solid, the characters are greatly effective in their roles, the action never gets too big for its britches and the story gets a sensible update that fits with a modern sensibility. While I highly-recommend that you read Brian Augustyn’s work to experience the beginnings of DC’s Elseworlds brand, this film serves as both a companion and a stand-alone piece that makes sensible renovations to the tale in order to make it a bit more relevant that it already is. Either way, both versions are worthy of your time by room light, night-lite, or even Gaslight.
Next Time: Everyone’s favorite group of super-delinquents is back as the New 52 Animated Universe will chronicle their journey towards a particular item that the villain community has its eyes on. Prepare for a topsy-turvy road trip as we dig into “Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay”.
Batman (created by by Bob Kane and Bill Finger) is owned by DC Comics.