New ‘Batman’ Movie Embraces Lovecraftian Horror

For its latest DC Universe movie, Warner Bros. Animation turned to an early 2000s comic book storyline that reimagines Batman fighting monsters in the 1920s.

Originally published from 2000 to 2001, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham by “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola was branded as an Elseworlds tale, a label that cast familiar characters in different settings. The Doom That Came to Gotham was heavily influenced by the Cthulhu stories of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (the title itself comes from Lovecraft’s short story The Doom That Came to Sarnath.)

The story finds Bruce Wayne as an international explorer who accidentally unleashes an ancient evil, leading him to return to Gotham City to take up the mantle of Batman to protect the city from supernatural forces connected to his family’s secret history. The story presents reimagined versions of several Batman allies and enemies, including Robin, Green Arrow, Gordon, Two-Face, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc and Ra’s al Ghul.

For the movie version, the filmmakers confronted the challenge of adapting the dense gothic horror of the narrative for mainstream audiences.

“It just seemed like a natural fit … Batman and Lovecraft,” screenwriter Jace Ricci said during a WonderCon 2023 press event March 24 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California. “The original really did Lovecraft solid. It had this byzantine complex narrative going on in the background in terms of the mythology of rage and all that stuff, and that was really hard to translate. It had all these different monsters, the different versions of the rogue’s gallery in there.”

Of particular concern for the studio was that the movie had to be rated ‘PG-13.’

“I think when I first pitched the potential of doing it, for some reason I thought they were going to allow us to do an ‘R’-rated version of it. But when we started building it they kept telling me I had to make it ‘PG-13,’” said co-director Sam Liu. “There were things on the board I kind of felt would have been great … but we had to take it out.”

Killer Croc in ‘Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham’

Liu said the final version is still a good representation of the gothic horror from the original story.

“The range is all over the place.” Liu said. “Some people are going to get freaked out by it, and some people are just going to be like, ‘whatever’ … so it’s hard to gauge for everybody. … Some people are just super desensitized, and I think for some people it’s new and fresh to them.”

Liu said he was a fan of horror stories growing up, which made adapting Doom That Came to Gotham an attractive prospect to him.

“I think good gothic horror is a parallel of humanity within it, like the monsters are just people that are like don’t fit into society,” Liu said. “I think there’s an amplified version of Bruce Wayne’s journey as Batman. … There’s just a lot of things about this, I wish we had more screen time. There’s just a lot of interesting concepts in it … outside of the gore.”

For the cast, the darker elements of the story only made it easier to find the humanity in the characters.

“It almost made it easier to offer levity and to offer empathy,” said Tati Gabrielle, who voices the character of Kai Li Cain, a reimagined version of Cassandra Cain, one of Batman’s sidekicks in the regular comics. “It’s not as hard to find when there’s so much doom and gloom lurking. I’m very good and finding the nugget of the glimpse of light that’s there.”

Oliver Queen throws a party in ‘Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham’

One of the standout characters in the film is the new version of Oliver Queen, aka the Green Arrow, who is presented as an eccentric millionaire haunted by the need to atone for his family’s sins.

“We made pretty big choices when we were recording his dialogue with the singing and how drunk he was and we really went for it,” said voice actor Christopher Gorham, who plays Queen. “I think the character design really came in and supported those choices, which I was very happy with.”

Co-director Christopher Berkeley said he wasn’t sure how the movie version would come together, but came to appreciate the effort in making it.

“The horror aspect just made it much more interesting to work on, especially just trying to build toward a finale,” Berkeley said. “It made it a much more sort of pleasurable filmmaking experience because I’m building toward this, and I have to resolve it into that. It was very fun.”

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham was released on Blu-ray Disc, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and through digital retailers March 28 by Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment.

Promoting the ‘Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham’ animated movie March 24 at WonderCon 2023 were (L-R): co-director Christopher Berkeley, actress Tati Gabrielle, co-director Sam Liu, actors David Dastmalchian and Christopher Gorham, and screenwriter Jase Ricci.

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/28/23;
Warner;
Animated;
$29.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief partial nudity.
Voices of David Giuntoli, Tati Gabrielle, Christopher Gorham, Patrick Fabian, John DiMaggio, David Dastmalchian, Gideon Adlon, Karan Brar, Jeffrey Combs, Darin De Paul, Brian George, Jason Marsden, Navid Negahban, Emily O’Brien, Tim Russ, William Salyers, Matthew Waterson.

Comic book superheroes meet Lovecraftian horror in this Elseworlds tale that reimagines Batman as having to fight monsters in the late 1920s.

Based on a comic book miniseries published from 2000 to 2001 co-written by “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola, the story involves Bruce Wayne as an international explorer who accidentally unleashes an ancient evil while investigating a lost expedition in the arctic. Upon his return to Gotham City after a decades-long absence, he assumes the mantle of Batman to fight the dark forces that infest the city, uncovering a supernatural conspiracy that redefines everything he thought he knew about his family’s origins.

The premise offers a fun way to reshape the Batman mythology while allowing the filmmakers to indulge in their fascination for big scary monsters with a bold, vivid animation style. Among the most interesting elements is the re-imagining of the Green Arrow as a rich, eccentric drunk who bears the weight of his family’s sins for a centuries old pact that is tied to the evil now plaguing Gotham.

The Blu-ray includes a good commentary track with producer/co-director Sam Liu, screenwriter Jase Ricci, DC creative director Mike Carlin, and producer Jim Krieg, in which they discuss the merits and challenges of bringing this particular story to life.

There’s also a 13-minute featurette called “Batman: Shadows of Gotham” that explores the psychological overtones of the story.

Also included is the two-part “The Demon’s Quest” episode from “Batman: The Animated Series” that focuses on Ra’s al Ghul, a character with a crucial role in Doom That Came to Gotham.

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Uncharted

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Adventure;
Box Office $146.64 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence/action and language.
Stars Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Antonio Banderas.

While not a perfect adaptation of the popular video game franchise of the same name, Uncharted delivers an entertaining adventure film pastiche anchored by its likable leads.

The casting of Tom Holland to play the game’s protagonist, treasure hunter Nathan Drake, was almost certainly an attempt by Sony to repurpose the most bankable star on their roster as the anchor for a new franchise following his mega-successful “Spider-Man” movies. However, as Holland is a bit young to play the seasoned Drake portrayed in the games, the film’s plot takes on the flavor of a prequel, telling the story of Nate’s first big adventure.

In taking this direction, the film draws inspiration mostly from the third and fourth games, which featured flashbacks to the younger Nate’s time spent as a wayward youth in and out of orphanages with his brother, Sam.

Mark Wahlberg plays Sully, who in the games is Nate’s mentor and pilot, but is presented in the film as more of a rival and reluctant ally as the pair learn to trust each other to set up the relationship seen in the games. Wahlberg had actually been tapped to play Nate when attempts to make an Uncharted movie first started swirling a decade ago.

In the film, Sully recruits Nate to help him find the lost treasure of Ferdinand Magellan. Sully explains that he had been working with Sam, who disappeared, and he needs Nate’s help to decipher the clues to the whereabouts of Magellan’s ships. Nate agrees, hoping to find his long-lost brother.

Standing in their way is Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), whose family originally funded Magellan’s expedition. He wants to find the gold collected by Magellan’s crews in order to restore his family’s name.

From there, the film is pretty straightforward in sticking to the tropes of treasure quests — from Indiana Jones to National Treasure to The Goonies — with the characters navigating their way through clever clues and death traps to discover the prize. Director Ruben Fleischer provides a commentary track on the Blu-ray in which he lays out many of his inspirations for the film, as well as his attempts to stay true to the spirit of the games while also laying the groundwork for future movies.

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Holland and Wahlberg for the most part seem like their typical film personas than the characters from the game they’re supposed to be playing, but they work well together, and their breezy charisma brings a lighter touch to the proceedings. And, at times, the action does evoke some of the feeling of playing the games.

Aside from some clunky CGI used to enhance certain action scenes, the film looks great, hopping around the globe from one exotic locale to another.

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The Blu-ray includes several behind-the-scenes featurettes that tally close to a half-hour in total. The four-minute “Becoming Nathan Drake” looks at Holland’s take on the character, while the four-minute “The Buddy System” looks at the pairing of Holland and Wahlberg. The four-minute “Villains, Backstabbers, & Accomplices” examines many of the films’ supporting characters, and the four-and-a-half-minute “Charting the Course: On Set With Ruben Fleischer” delves into the director’s vision for the film. The six-minute “Never a Dull Moment: Stunts & Action” is pretty self-explanatory, and is supplemented by a five-minute breakdown of a big action scene set on a cargo plane.

Among the promotional materials are a three-minute music video for “No Mind” by Milkblood, and four-minutes of Web ads.

Rounding out the extras are more than 10 minutes of deleted scenes that offer some fun additional tidbits and character interactions.