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Movie Review: BATMAN: THE DOOM THAT CAME TO GOTHAM (2023)
The Dark Knight faces down the horrors of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos in this fast-moving and entertaining animated movie
Once upon a time in the 1990s, there was Batman The Animated Series I remember watching. In later years, DC put out a number of feature-length animated movies in the same style that were often much darker and edgier than the show. Often they adapted comic storylines, like Under The Red Hood (the resurrection of previous Robin Jason Todd as the murderous Red Hood after his murder by the Joker) and Son of Batman (in which Batman finds out he and the villainous Talia al-Ghul have a son and he has to guide him in a healthier direction).
And now the comic The Doom That Came To Gotham, written by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, has just entered the DC animated canon. What happens when the Dark Knight has to face off against Lovecraftian abominations?
As a child in 1908, Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) witnessed the murder of his parents by a madman, and left his company in the hands of Lucius Fox (Tim Russ) to travel the world, studying martial arts, criminology, and other subjects. After a supernatural encounter in Antarctica, Wayne, his faithful butler Alfred (Brian George) and his young allies Dick Grayson (Jason Marsden), Sanjay Tawde (Karan Brar), and Kai Li Cain (Tati Gabrielle) return to Prohibition-era Gotham to find dark forces at work.
*It’s fast-moving and never dull. I devoured this one in two elliptical sessions, and it made them go by quite quickly.
*I liked the concept of integrating Batman and H.P. Lovecraft’s mythology, or at least an imitation of it. The title is a riff on one of his stories and there are plenty of tentacled monstrosities with hard-to-pronounce names.
*The film does a good job integrating familiar characters from the main timeline. In addition to the ones mentioned above (Batman enthusiasts will recognize them), Oswald Cobblepot, also known as the Penguin (William Salyers), is a scientist working for one of Bruce’s expeditions, and they give him some nice tie-ins with his main-canon self. Meanwhile, what seems to me to be the Killer Croc is muscle for the baddies. There are other characters too, but I’m not going further for spoiler reasons.
*They also integrate the main timeline’s lore in interesting ways. Bruce’s years abroad involve large-scale scientific expeditions he funds himself, something common in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The widely-heralded explorations of the South Pole, for example, would have only been a decade or so before.
*The animation quality is good. Most of it looks more traditional, but there are some times that CGI is used to move things along.
*There’re some good comedy to leaven the film’s darkness, many from the extraordinarily dry-witted Alfred.
*Lucius Fox, an African-American, running Bruce’s company for years while he’s away despite 1920s America being much more racist is handled in such a way that doesn’t totally break history — Fox acknowledges the other leaders of the company are not pleased, but they assume he’s passing on Bruce’s orders from abroad. If Bruce is the sole owner of the company, is unusually unprejudiced for his location and culture, and his presumed orders are something the other people in Wayne Enterprises broadly want to do anyway, that’s something that could work. And given some of Fox’s voice tone and body language, it seems he isn’t pleased with being viewed as a glorified secretary when he’s really so much more.
*Although I generally liked the animation style, Bruce looks awfully young for a man who’s probably in his late-late 20s or early 30s who’s been living an adventurous lifestyle for two decades. As things get progressively worse he does start to look worn, but still.
*Bruce has been abroad for 20 years, but World War I would have been right in the middle of that. I don’t think it’s ever discussed. Young Bruce could have been serving in some army or another (young Indiana Jones was a volunteer fighting for the Belgians) or at least the war would have affected his adventuring, but it never comes up.
*The human villains aren’t as impressive as their comic counterparts. In fact, one of them comes off as rather flat.
*Toward the end it starts to drag a bit.
Give it a watch, whether you’re a Batman fan or a Lovecraft fan. 8.5 out of 10.
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