A few years ago, DC Universe Animated Original Movies released Batman: Gotham by Gaslight – a Steampunk adventure that reimagined Batman in a 19th century Victorian setting, tracking Jack the Ripper. It had all the characters we’ve come to know and love, but with a completely separate continuity, which meant that origins, motivations, and even allegiances were often very different from what we’re used to. Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham does the same thing, only in a 1920s Lovecraftian world.
The story begins in Antarctica, as Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) and his three young wards, Dick Grayson (Jason Marsden), Kai Li Cain (Tati Gabrielle), and Sanjay “Jay” Tawde (Karan Brar), are on the trail of Gotham industrialist Mr. Cobblepot who recently led an expedition here. From Cobblepot’s journal, they learn that most of the members of the expedition were killed within a few days, with the few remaining ones driven to insanity by some unspeakable doom. Moreover, it would seem that that doom is now coming to Gotham.
To avert disaster, Bruce and his team must return to the place of his birth—a place he’s been systematically running from for the last 20 years. Upon their arrival, Bruce is greeted by a number of old friends, including mayoral candidate Harvey Dent (Patrick Fabian) and fellow playboy rich kid Oliver Queen (Christopher Gorham). While investigating the eminent evils and their origins, Batman is likewise greeted by a number of old enemies, as he uncovers a centuries-old cult built around a millennia-old evil.
There’s a lot going on in this movie. The Lovecraft vibe is done very well. The best Lovecraftian homages are the ones that understand that in H.P. Lovecraft’s best stories, the real horror doesn’t come from the monsters themselves, but from what they represent: ancient secrets with the power to drive one to insanity, and the people bent on uncovering those secrets. This film does a great job of capturing the growing anxiety and unease of encroaching doom. It also features Jeffery Combs in the voice cast, because it’s not a Lovecraft party without him.
On the other hand, sometimes, the movie seems like it’s trying to do too much. A number of plot threads are brought in briefly but never really explored. Specifically, a number of familiar Batman characters seem to appear only because the writers came up with a cool, Lovecraftian take on their origin stories. Once those origins are established, the characters don’t actually do much to contribute to the story. Other characters, meanwhile, fit the story perfectly, but I only wish they were given more to do. (I suppose I’m being a bit cryptic, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers.)
Special features on the Blu-ray include audio commentary, a featurette about the making of the film, previews of a couple of similar DC Animated Universe titles (They used to provide sneak peaks of upcoming titles, but lately the previews have all been for already-released films.), and, of course, a couple of episodes of Batman: The Animated Series from the DC Vault. They opted to go with “The Demon’s Quest” parts 1 and 2 for this one. They’re great episodes and fit the theme, but they were already included just recently on the Battle of the Super Sons Blu-ray.
Much like Gotham by Gaslight, The Doom That Came to Gotham is based on a DC Elseworlds graphic novel. Having not read it, I can’t say how faithful an adaptation it is; however, taken on its own, this is an imaginative and entertaining movie. It’s not the best of the DC Animated Universe films, but if you like Batman and Lovecraft, it’s certainly worth watching.
Creative Team: Christopher Berkley (co-director), Sam Liu (co-director, producer), Jase Ricci (screenplay), James Krieg (producer), Kimberly S. Moreau (producer), Sam Register (executive producer), and Michael E. Uslan (executive producer)
Released By: Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment
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