Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham delivers with some creative Lovecraftian versions of classic Batman villains, but its plot is rushed and overly confusing.
Over the years, Batman has done a lot of things in the realm of DC animation. He’s become a martial arts expert, he’s become a ninja and he’s even explored a Victorian-era Gotham, searching for Jack the Ripper. One thing he’s never done, however, is fight monsters inspired by the stories of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. That’s where Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham comes in, DC’s newest animated release based on the three-issue comic book series of the same name. It finally scratches that incredibly niche itch in a way that’s suitably bizarre and absurd, but at the same time, somehow not quite bizarre enough. I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but I wish Batman had fought even more Lovecraftian beasts.
Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is set in a 1920s version of Gotham, where everything has been given a Lovecraft-inspired redesign. When supernatural forces start to attack the city, it’s up to the caped crusader himself, Batman (David Giuntoli), to fight against them and stop an ancient evil from destroying the world. The main draw for this film definitely isn’t its plot, which is overly complex and frustratingly hard to follow, but instead the actual universe it’s set in. This is a film made for Batman fans, with the best part being seeing how they redo all of the classic characters in this new Lovecraftian style. If you’re not already familiar with the Dark Knight’s rogue gallery, you probably won’t get a lot out of this film, as you’ll probably spend the majority of the runtime scratching your head in confusion.
You’ll particularly be confused in the third act, where the film unfortunately chooses to focus on what I think is its weakest villain, resulting in a climax that just feels unmemorable. In a world where we’ve already seen so many wacky, creative takes on classic Batman villains, to end the film focusing on the most uninteresting and conventional one of the lot is a major disappointment. Up to that point, if you’re on board with the concept and can follow along with the plot, this film is a lot of fun. The opening is particularly great, immediately giving us a taste of horror straight out of the gate, perfectly setting the tone for the rest of the experience. It’s overall a much darker and more mature affair, which is a nice breath of fresh air following this year’s much more light-hearted superhero offerings so far.
Technicals wise, it does everything just alright without ever doing anything brilliantly. What it’s missing is that one big creative risk that really helps separate it from the rest of the crowd. Batman: Ninja (2018) had its unique 3D animation and Catwoman: Hunted (2022) had an art style heavily influenced by anime, but Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, despite its creative character design, just all feels a bit too typical. I would have loved to have seen something a tad more visually creative so that the visuals can match the ridiculous, horrific heights the story is trying to reach. As is, the stiff animation and bland art style don’t at all help give this universe a unique identity of its own, which really would have helped elevate this film to the next level.
With all that being said, I’m very conflicted about Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham. It feels like it’s about five steps away from brilliance, with a stellar concept and dozens of incredibly creative moments, but missing that final brush of creative brilliance to solidify it as a classic Batman story. I love what they did with Two-Face (Patrick Fabian) and Mr. Freeze (David Dastmalchian), but characters such as Oliver Queen (Christopher Gorham) just feel superfluous. He’s given this big storyline to do with his father and whilst it definitely has some interesting moments in it, it just felt like it constantly distracted from what I really wanted to see, which was Batman fighting Lovecraftian versions of his catalogue of villains.
There is a lot going on narrative-wise, and with its brief runtime of 86 minutes, it feels incredibly overstuffed, with countless plot points and characters feeling undeveloped. I assume a lot of them had more to do in the comics, but it results in a film that is desperately crying out to be longer. Perhaps doing it as a two-parter a la how they handled Batman: The Long Halloween (2021) would have been better, but as is, the film is certainly a mess. It’s an enjoyable mess, and I’d easily recommend it to any Batman fan, but a mess nevertheless.