DirectorChristopher Berkeley, Sam Liu
Release Date(s)2023 (March 28, 2023)
Studio(s)DC Comics/Warner Bros. Animation (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is the latest entry into the direct-to-video line of movies in the DC Animated Universe, and the third such title to adapt stories from the Elseworlds imprint of DC Comics. The Elseworlds line placed familiar heroes into unfamiliar environments, going far beyond the alternate continuities that are so prevalent in the comic book world, and pushing things into completely alternate realities instead. The first unofficial Elseworlds title in 1989, Gotham by Gaslight, had thrown Batman back into the 19th century, pitting him against Jack the Ripper. Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham was a three-part Elseworlds miniseries from 2000 that moved the Dark Knight into the early 20th century instead, facing off against a Gotham overrun by Lovecraftian horrors. The DCAU had already tackled Gotham by Gaslight back in 2018, but this adaptation of The Doom That Came to Gotham is arguably the first time that they’ve firmly planted both feet into the horror genre.
The Lovecraftian nature of the story is made clear by the title, which is an allusion to Lovecraft’s The Doom That Came to Sarnath, even though the actual narratives have little in common. The screenplay by Jase Ricci is faithful to the broad contours of the story from the Elseworlds tale by Mike Mignola and Richard Pace, although it does change a few of the practical details (and characters) along the way. Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) has left Gotham to search for a missing Arctic exploration team, accompanied by his young assistants Dick Grayson (James Marsden), Sanjay Tawde (Karan Brar), and Kai Li Cain (Tati Gabrielle). They find the missing crew, but inadvertently unleash some otherworldly monsters in the process. Bruce races back to Gotham to don the cape and the cowl once again, and ends up teaming up with some old friends to stop the Elder Gods from returning to this world. The Doom That Came to Gotham also stars the voice talents of Jeffrey Combs, David Dastmalchian, John DiMaggio, Patrick Fabian, Brian George, and Christopher Gorham.
As that brief description should make clear, all of the characters in The Doom That Came to Gotham are shaken and stirred in this iteration, with some of them having been completely reimagined. Many familiar Batman heroes and villains make an appearance, often in unfamiliar forms. Sometimes, the changes are logical ways of working that character into this particular milieu—for example, Oracle is still a paraplegic working behind the scenes, but this time she’s a literal seer, acting as a medium rather than as a computer expert. Oliver Queen has become a Knight Templar, more of a Green Knight than a Green Arrow. Bruce Wayne’s assistants are all variations of the alter egos of different Robins and Batgirls from the comics, but none of them get to don their own costumes here (nor is it clear that they ever do so in this world). Similarly, Kirk Langstrom appears as his scientist self, but never becomes Man-Bat; in one of the story’s most radical changes, transforming into Man-Bat is reserved for a completely different character. Nothing is off the table when it comes to Elseworlds (including an amusing cameo from a familiar Lovecraft character.)
The Doom That Came to Gotham also fully sails into the mystic, something that modern Batman adaptations have been loath to do. That’s nothing unusual for the character in the comic book world, of course, but the various films and television series over the last few decades have done their best to demythologize the comic book settings. That’s true of The Batman and The Dark Knight trilogy, but to a lesser extent, it’s even true of Batman: The Animated Series. The latter show did eventually introduce mystical characters like Etrigan and Klarion, but not until near the end of its run. The Doom That Came to Gotham does feature Etrigan prominently, but even relatively grounded characters like Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze have become more openly monstrous or even demonic in these iterations.
Co-directors Christopher Berkeley and Sam Liu were happy to lean hard into these horrific elements, making The Doom That Came to Gotham the darkest and most gruesome entry into the DCAU to date. It’s strong stuff, with some imagery that would have sailed over the line of its PG-13 rating if it had been produced in live action rather than via animation. Of course, animation still remains the ideal medium for bringing Lovecraftian abominations like these to life, as they can be visualized on a scale that would be difficult to achieve with practical effects, and CGI never seems to integrate as well with the live action elements. In animation, the only limit is the power of the imagination, and The Doom That Came to Gotham is indeed an imaginative look at what could happen if Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s Caped Crusader came face-to-face with Lovecraft’s Elder Gods. In this Elseworlds version of Gotham City, nothing will ever be the same again.
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham was rendered digitally at 2K resolution in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, using a combination of 2D and 3D animation (with the latter being used primarily for vehicles and a few background elements). For this Ultra HD release, the 2K Digital Intermediate was upscaled to 4K and graded for HDR (only HDR10 is included on the disc). While there’s little real difference in fine detail at 4K, the fine wash of fake grain that was added to the image does seem a bit tighter, and that gives everything the illusion of more texture. The textures of the hand-painted backgrounds also seem ever so slightly more refined here than on Blu-ray. While the bitrate doesn’t run as high as it could, the quality of the encoding still gives the UHD another edge over the Blu-ray, which struggles at times with compression artifacts. The HDR grade takes the brightness levels down a notch, but allows for better-resolved details within the darkness. The Doom That Came to Gotham is generally a dark and desaturated film by design, but this darker grade still allows some brighter highlights and more vivid colors to shine during a few key moments. It’s not necessarily dazzling, but it’s not supposed to be. Make sure to view it in a properly darkened environment—this is one title that will be nearly unwatchable under daylight conditions.
Primary audio is offered in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s not the most engaging mix for a DCAU title, but it’s certainly more than adequate. There’s some deep bass at times, and the surrounds do spring to life during the action scenes, but they’re relatively muted for the rest of the film. That does seem like a missed opportunity, since the nature of the story calls out for greater immersion; the generally creepy atmosphere could have been significantly enhanced by more prominent surround engagement. There are some noteworthy directionalized effects during certain moments, such as bats flying around the viewer, but for the most part, the surrounds only provide vague and undefined ambience. Clarity is strong, however, and there’s an effective score from Stefan L. Smith. Additional audio options include French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The Warner Bros. 4K Ultra HD release of Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is a 2-Disc set that includes a Blu-ray copy of the film in 1080p, a slipcover, and a Digital Code on a paper insert. The extras are available on the Blu-ray only, all of them in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Sam Liu, Jase Ricci, Mike Carlin, and Jim Krieg
- Batman: Shadows of Gotham (13:12)
- Batman: Gotham by Gaslight Preview (8:29)
- Superman: Red Son Preview (11:21)
- From the DC Vault: The Demon’s Quest, Part One (22:18)
- From the DC Vault: The Demon’s Quest, Part Two (22:14)
The group commentary features Sam Liu, Jase Ricci, DC creative director Mike Carlin, and producer Jim Krieg. It starts out a bit dubiously, only taking 30 seconds for them to waste time making the standard (and utterly pointless) warning about not listening to the commentary prior to watching the film, but fortunately they get to the nitty gritty after that. They do have an interesting discussion regarding the correct pronunciation of “Ra’s”—something that has varied from adaptation to adaptation. (The Doom That Came to Gotham opts for the same pronunciation that was used in Batman: The Animated Series, which Bruce Timm based on what Ra’s al Ghul creator Dennis O’Neil had told him.) They also discuss how Lovecraftian horror differs from the nature of conventional comic book villains, as the heroes become little more than collateral damage in the cosmic plans of the Elder Gods. The whole track is a bit scattershot, but there’s still some interesting information here that makes it worth a listen.
Batman: Shadows of Gotham is a brief examination of the narrative, featuring interviews with Sam Liu, Jase Ricci, voice director Wes Gleason, and clinical psychologist Dr. Drea Letamendi. (Jim Krieg also makes an appearance in “found” footage as Professor Jabez Krieg, instructor of Elseworlds Studies at Arkham Community College.) They discuss the Lovecraftian horror landscape of The Doom That Came to Gotham, and how its descent into madness makes Batman into even more of a tragic hero than he normally is. They also analyze the nature of existential horror, and how Batman still manages to remain a beacon of hope despite the depths that the story plumbs. The Previews are for the two prior DCAU explorations of the Elseworlds corner of the DC comics universe: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Superman: Red Son.
The Demon’s Quest is the two-part episode of Batman: The Animated Series that developed the character of Ra’s al Ghul after his brief appearance at the conclusion of Out of Balance. It’s included here since it defined the relationship between Batman/Bruce Wayne and both Ra’s al Ghoul & Talia al Ghul—relationships that are radically revised in The Doom That Came to Gotham, so these episodes will help clarify the changes for those who are unfamiliar with the characters. The Demon’s Quest is Batman: TAS at its absolute finest: a rip-roaring adventure that takes Batman out of Gotham City and into some globetrotting Indiana Jones-style antics, but one that establishes crucial lore at the same time.
It’s not an extensive collection of extras, but The Demon’s Quest deserves an A+ all on its own. Of course, if you already own the excellent Warner Archive release of Batman: TAS, then it’s completely redundant here, so the value to you will depend on that fact. The score above reflects the inherent quality of the extras, not necessarily their utility to anyone personally. In any event, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is a memorable trip down the darker alleys of the Batman comics universe, and it’s a worthy addition to the DC Animated Universe as well.
- Stephen Bjork