Directors – Christopher Berkeley & Sam Liu, Screenplay – Jase Ricci, Based on the Graphic Novel by Mike Mignola, Troy Nixey & Richard Pace, Producers – Jim Krieg, Sam Liu & Kimberly S. Moreau, Music – Stefan L. Smith, Animation – Maven Image Platform (Supervising Directors – Haeyoung Jung & Youngsoo Kim, Animation Directors – Minsoo Kim, Hanhyung Lee & Sungchan Lee) & The Answer Studio (Supervising Directors –Takumi Fukazawa & Yoshihiro Takamoto, Animation Director – Yuji Watanabe). Production Company – Warner Bros. Animation.
David Giuntoli (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Tati Gabrielle (Kai Li Cain), Christopher Gorham (Oliver Queen), Emily O’Brien (Talia al Ghul/Martha Wayne), Brian George (Alfred Pennyworth), David Negahban (Ra’s al Ghul), David Dastmalchian (Grendon), John DiMaggio (James Gordon), Patrick Fabian (Harvey Dent), Mattew Waterson (Jason Blood/Etrigan), Jason Marsden (Dick Grayson/Young Bruce Wayne), Tim Russ (Lucius Fox), Gideon Adlon (Oracle/Mysterious Woman/Plant Creature), Darin De Paul (Thomas Wayne), Karan Brar (Sanjay “Jay” Tawde), Jeffrey Combs (Kirk Langstrom), William Salyers (Cobblepot/Professor Manfurd)
It is the 1920s. Bruce Wayne has spent two decades following the murder of his parents travelling the world, gathering assorted orphans. In the Arctic, they head in search of the missing Cobblepot expedition. There Bruce stops expedition member Grendon as he attempts to conduct a ritual that will let the abominable entity The Lurker on the Threshold into this world. With Gendon captured, they make a return to Gotham City and Bruce reopens Wayne Manor after many years. There he adopts his alter ego as the masked Batman and begins to investigate, searching for The Testament of Ghul that holds the occult secrets that will unleash the Lurker. At the same time, the centuries-old Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia, who head the Cult of Ghul, are seeking the same document. As Bruce learns, this involves secrets that involved the fathers of both he and his good friend Oliver Queen.
The film is adapted from Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham (2000-1), a three-issue graphic novel co-written by Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy, while also being drawn by Troy Nixey, who later went on to direct the remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011). The graphic novel was one of DC’s Elseworlds imprint, which consist of alternate retellings of familiar DC characters – where we get gender-reversed versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman etal, or place them into different milieus such as rewriting them as pirates, vampires, in the Victorian Era, The American Civil War or the French Revolution, or reconceived in terms of film noir, German Expressionism, the Arthurian legends etc. Elseworlds stories have been adapted to film before with Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Superman: Red Son.
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham marks the seventeenth entry in the DC Original Animated Movies series for Sam Liu, who had also directed the previous two Elseworlds adaptations Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Superman: Red Son. I also tend to the view that Liu is one of the more conveyor belt directors to work on the series. He co-directs with Christopher Berkeley, who has worked as a director on assorted DC-based animated series and the full-length Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword (2008), plus one of the episodes of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.
As with the other Elseworlds stories, Mike Mignola and co relocate Batman and many associated characters into a different setting and mix them up with another fictional universe. In this case, Batman is blended with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the writer of the 1920s-30s who created a unique mythos featuring cosmic entities threatening the Earth, and whose work has inspired quite a cult following and a number of film adaptations. (For a more detailed listing of these see Lovecraftian Films).
Aside from the general plot of people unleashing Iog-Sotha (which Lovecraft called Yog-Sothoth), an Elder deity that can drive all who see it insane, there are a number of other Lovecraftian references throughout. Iog-Sotha is referred to as The Lurker on the Threshold, the name of a 1945 Lovecraft manuscript posthumously completed by August Derleth, while the name of the door of a doctor that Harvey Dent consults is Herbert West, no less than the Re-Animator (1985) himself.
Aside from that, a number of familiar Batman characters are given a Lovecraftian spin. Both The Penguin and Two-Face receive their disfiguring conditions as a result of contact with the Lurker and the Cult of Ghul. Ra’s al Ghul and Talia are repurposed as cult adherents attempting to summon the Lurker, while Jason Blood (aka the demon Etrigan) turns up as on the side of good. Thomas Wayne and the father of Oliver Queen (aka Green Arrow) are wound into a back story where they became immortal. There are other assorted Batman characters that make appearances, including James Gordon, his daughter Barbara (aka The Oracle), Lucius Fox and Kirk Langstrom (who becomes the villain Man-Bat in regular DC continuity, a role that is actually inherited here by Batman later in the show). The story also winds in equivalents of the various Robins, including Dick Grayson, a Sanjay “Jay” Tawde (a near-homonym for Jason Todd) and the female Kai Li Cain (played by Tati Gabrielle with a very fake British accent for some reason), the latter two being characters added that are not present in the Mike Mignola graphic novel.
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is an okay, if not exceptional entry in the DC Original Animated Movies. It assembles great artistry in terms of producing a replication of a 1920s-styled Gotham City. The film/graphic novel creates a fascinating world – and one that you would be intrigued to see explored more in depth in other stories. And yet for all that, the film suffers the typical problems of Sam Liu – assorted action scenes of no great distinction before a big climactic scene in flashing energy bursts.