Josh Reviews Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is the latest direct-to-blu-ray DC animated film. It’s based on the three-issue mini-series from 2000/2001, written by Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) and Richard Pace, penciled by Troy Nixey and inked by Dennis Janke. The story mixes Batman characters with H.P. Lovecraft-inspired supernatural weirdness and horror. The original mini-series was very strange but also a lot of fun, and this animated adaptation is too!
Set in the 1920’s, the story opens with Bruce Wayne and his wards on an expedition to Antarctica, on the trail of a previous failed expedition led by Oswald Cobblepot. Cobblepot awakened an ancient horror beneath the ice, and the Waynes unknowingly bring that evil back with them to Gotham City. The resulting chaos reveals hidden secrets about the history of Gotham… and just might lead to the end of the world as the Elder Gods return…
I was impressed by how faithful this adaptation was to the source material! The steampunk aesthetic found in many of the original designs looks great in animation. Batman’s costume and tech looks particularly cool. The animation design is a pleasing hybrid of the very weird look of the original comic and the sleek, sharp style that Bruce Timo created for Batman: The Animated Series.
Batman’s creepy and bizarre villains (and other supporting characters) prove a smooth match with Lovecraftian horror. Part of the fun of this story is seeing the new, twisted versions of so many of Batman’s rogues gallery. This adaptation doesn’t quite capture all of the horror and weirdness of the original comic, but I can understand the choices they made in creating an animated version, and for the most part the changes work for the benefit of this version of the story.
These DC animated films can usually be expected to have a terrific voice cast, and the ensemble for this film is particularly excellent. David Giuntoli makes a wonderful Batman/Bruce Wayne, and he’s matched up with a terrific Bat-family: Jason Marsden as Dick Grayson; Brian George (Babu on Seinfeld) as Alfred; Tati Gabrielle as Kai Li Cain; and Karan Brar as Jay (actually Sanjay) Tawde. (As an aside, I love the choices to make this version of Jason Todd Indian, and to make Kai Li Cain — a version of batgirl Cassandra Cain — such a large part of the story. It’s fun to see versions of these characters who aren’t all white men.). John DiMaggio (Bender on Futurama) is terrific as James Gordon, and Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager) is equally great as Lucius Fox. Christopher Gorham is great as the rich and pampered, but ultimately heroic Oliver Queen.
The rogues gallery are just as perfectly cast. David Dastmalchian (Kurt in the Ant Man movies and the Polka-Dot Man in The Suicide Squad) is wonderful as the villainous Grendon. Patrick Fabian (Howard Hamlin on Better Call Saul) is perfect as Harvey Dent, and Jeff Combs (who played both Weyoun and Brunt on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) is fantastic in a small but key role as Kirk Langstrom. Emily O’Brien is tremendous as Talia al Ghul, and Navid Negahban (Amahl Farouk/the Shadow King on Legion) is an enjoyably villainous Ra’s al Ghul.
Here are some more detailed comments on the adaptation. Some minor SPOILERS ahead so tread carefully:
- I enjoyed the prohibition angle added to the story.
- I liked that Oliver Queen got a little more depth in this adaptation than he had in the comics. I’m glad that Oliver puts up more of a fight in this version when his end comes.
- Bruce’s kids — Dick and Sanjay and Kai Li — also get a little more depth in this version, which is welcome. (I was wondering whether they’d keep Dick and Sanjay’s grisly fates from the comic. I’m impressed that they did! I’m glad they added the bit where we see Kai Li’s reaction — in the comic, I was surprised how their deaths were pretty much ignored by Bruce and everyone else. This is handled better here. I liked the additional scene at the end of Bruce and Kai Li at the graveyard.)
- I didn’t love the device of having Alfred show up with a random book to give Bruce all the exposition about Ra’s al Ghul. That was handled better in the comic.
- Talia looks and sounds great.
- The comedic music when Harvey Dent sees the doctor for his infection sets entirely the wrong tone. This should be a scene of mounting horror!
- The car was a nice addition.
- I also liked the change in which they made Cobblepot be one of the four rich Gothamites whose secret pact is ultimately revealed. It worked well to tie Cobblepot — who appeared in the opening sequence — more directly into the main story.
- While Bruce’s transformation just sort of happens in the comic, it’s handled better here. I like that this version centers the story around the idea of Bruce’s accepting things beyond science and making a conscious choice to become this other thing. That works great.
- I loved the moment towards the end in which Bruce shoots his grappling line right through Talia’s chest! That was gnarly!
- Etrigan couldn’t beat Talia’s servant demon earlier in the story, but he can beat the ancient ultimate evil monster at the end? I didn’t quite buy that.
- I wish the shots in the action climax of the huge monster descending were more scary and epic. This should have been earth-shattering. But just seeing it as a small silhouette didn’t work for me.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable animated film! It looked great, and the story is truly bizarre and weird and memorable. This was a fun one.
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