Our columnist expresses shock and joy (though mostly shock) at what he found within DC’s latest Batman animated offering.
By Seun Odukoya
As much as I love The Caped Crusader (if you do not know who that is, maybe you shouldn’t go any further), I do not consider myself his #1 fan. If an actual ‘top fans list’ was created, I don’t think I would be in the first hundred, or even two hundred. Honestly. I say this because the only Batman merch I own are comics and maybe a t-shirt/hoodie or two. I do not own a single action figure (a friend gave me one once, but it vanished from my house) I do own a miniature Batmobile and a grapnel, but that’s about it. But I digress.
While I may not own any other Batman stuff, I own quite a bit of his books. And I have read quite a bit more. I said all that to say this: rarely have I consumed Batman material in recent times that surprised me. Impressed me? Oh, for sure. Engaged and inspired me? Definitely. Surprised me? Not so much. ‘Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham’ animated movie surprised me.
I said all that to say this: rarely have I consumed Batman material in recent times that surprised me.
The title is a reference to ‘The Doom That Came To Sarnath’, a story by HP Lovecraft, the creator of the Cthulhu mythos (do not bite your tongue trying to pronounce that). Now, I read the comics years ago. I had a bit of Mike Mignola fever at the time, brought on by Hellboy. I consumed all the Mignola material I could find. I didn’t enjoy ‘The Doom’ much, however. Possibly because I am not a fan of Cthulhu mythos and the particular story’s ending was depressing. I’d hoped that would be changed in the animated film.
No such luck. Still, I did enjoy the cartoon a lot more than I expect to, so much that I watched it twice in as many days. It’s a simple premise: Scientist Oswald Cobblepot (mind blown) disappears while exploring the Antarctic, and Bruce Wayne is somehow tracking him despite having not been in Gotham for twenty years. Bruce is not alone: Dick Grayson, Sanjay Tawde, and Kai Lin Cain, his adopted kids – and of course, the ever-present Alfred, are all with him. They find Cobblepot shipwrecked and his crew dead. A naked figure surrounded by some birds appears over the horizon and Bruce follows. What he finds is the last of Cobblepot’s crew, a man named Grendon, digging at a huge mound, with some beast behind it. After a skirmish with some mutated birds, Bruce destroys the mound with dynamite and carries an apparently dead Grendon back to Gotham.
‘The Doom That Came To Gotham’ is a lot of fun. One of my favorite things about Batman is how malleable the character’s mythos is. I can write a Batman story in 3AD Yorubaland, and it would just be business as usual for the Dark Knight.
While reading through Cobblepot’s journal, he finds clues that allude to a cult he was already investigating, a society with ancient ties to Gotham. They get to Gotham and are welcomed into Wayne Manor by Kirk Langstrom’s corpse and surprise guest Jason Blood, coming to deliver three cryptic prophesies. And then, all hell breaks loose. The doom does come to Gotham.
‘The Doom That Came To Gotham’ is a lot of fun. One of my favorite things about Batman is how malleable the character’s mythos is. I can write a Batman story in 3AD Yorubaland and it would just be business as usual for the Dark Knight. Not a lot of characters are that fluid. I mean, Cobblepot a scientist? Take my money now!
A good chunk of Batman’s rogue’s gallery gets reimagined: Killer Croc is a mindless monster in the thrall of Talia al Ghul who is eviller, more bloodthirsty, and more loyal to her father than her pre-New 52 version. Ra’s al Ghul is a mystical guru/Rasputin lookalike who seeks to restore the ancient Snake civilization to their former glory. Oliver Queen is a hard-drinking, spoilt playboy who is Bruce’s best friend but is hiding some deep, dark secret from said best friend. Gordon is Gordon, and Barbara Gordon is a hard-drinking Oracle – literally. Harvey Dent is Harvey…as in, somehow, he is always Two-Faced.
Of course, the voice cast is excellent as always. Batfans know; no one can replace the legendary Kevin Conroy when it comes to that voice. However, David Giuntoli’s performance is not bad at all, considering he had already voiced Batman once before in Soul of the Dragon. Tati Gabrielle is Kati Li Cain, Brian George is Alfred, Christopher Gorham is Oliver Queen, Emily O’Brien plays Talia al Ghul, Navid Negahban is Ra’s, William Salyers is Cobblepot, Gideon Adlon plays Oracle, John DiMaggio is James Gordon, and Patrick Fabian is Harvey Dent.
Selina Kyle is conspicuously missing – but it’s a good thing. There’s still quite a lot to explore in Batman’s world without a love interest. The Joker is also missing, but his absence I applauded. That is a character I’m tired of, with every Batman live-action director eager to put their own spin on the character. But again, I digress. ‘The Doom That Came To Gotham’ closes out at 126 minutes (plus credits), and is worth every minute of that viewing time. Batman hardly fails to deliver, and this is another solid entry into that catalogue.
Odukoya lives and writes in Lagos.
Actors’ strike ends: The SAG-AFTRA deal, what happened, and what’s next
In July, Hollywood’s actors joined writers on picket lines for the first time in 63 years. After nearly four months, the actors’ strike ended after SAG-AFTRA’s leadership approved a tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Nov. 8.
Members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists who work under the union’s film and TV contract with companies that belong to the AMPTP, a group that represents all the major producers in Hollywood. Members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike on May 2 but reached a tentative deal with the AMPTP on Sept. 24.
While the writers came to a tentative agreement with the studios in late September and ratified a deal in October, SAG-AFTRA remained on strike. SAG-AFTRA resumed talks with the studios but the strike dragged on as the two sides negotiated.
The negotiating committee of the performers’ union approved a tentative deal on Nov. 8. It will still need to be ratified by the members. Additionally, the actors who work under SAG-AFTRA’s interactive contract, including those who provide voice work for video games, are considering a second SAG-AFTRA strike.
How did the actors’ strike happen? SAG-AFTRA, a 160,000-member performers union, voted in favor of a strike authorization by 98% before negotiations began with the studios in June. After they couldn’t reach an agreement by the contract expiration on June 30, they extended talks for two weeks until July 12. Then, a federal mediator was brought in before the extension ended with no new contract.
On July 13, the SAG-AFTRA board voted to approve the strike. Actors joined the picket lines July 14. Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA and former star of “The Nanny,” delivered a fiery speech when the union announced its strike plans.
SAG-AFTRA proposed that a third-party company measure the success of shows and that residual payments be tied to how they perform. AMPTP companies rejected that idea, arguing that many streaming platforms are not yet profitable. Other sticking points were over self-taped auditions, contributions to the union’s health and pension plan and a pay increase.
Artificial intelligence also emerged as a major issue in negotiations.
Some high-profile projects already in production, including “Deadpool 3” with Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman and “Gladiator 2,” starring Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal and Denzel Washington, have shut down because of the strike.
SAG-AFTRA has granted waivers to some independent films and television shows. The projects allowed to continue filming are not affiliated with the major studios and streaming giants that are members of the AMPTP.
Projects with big names attached, including Mel Gibson, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Paul Rudd and Jenna Ortega, are among those allowed to continue filming.
The work stoppage does not apply to performers who work under other contracts, such as actors who work on commercials, soap operas and talk shows. Broadcasters who are in the union also are not affected. Actors (and writers) cannot attend promotional events.
SAG-AFTRA specifies that actors cannot act, sing, dance, perform stunts, pilot on-camera aircraft, puppeteer or do performance capture and motion capture work in front of the camera. Impacted events include San Diego Comic-Con and the London premiere of “Oppenheimer.”
MJ biopic director ‘blown away’ by Jaafar Jackson’s resemblance to late uncle
Director Antoine Fuqua is teasing ‘Michael’, the Michael Jackson biopic he is set to work on and says he’s “blown” away by the “uncanny” resemblance between the lead star and his real-life uncle, the King of Pop.
Jaafar Jackson, who is the son of Michael’s brother Jermaine Jackson, will play the iconic singer in the Lionsgate biopic.
“It’s uncanny how much he’s like Michael,” Fuqua told EW in a recent interview. “Sounds like him, dances like him, sings. It’s really uncanny. Graham King, who is a fantastic producer, found him, and introduced him to me, and I was blown away.”
Although the film is on hold due to the writers and actors strike, Fuqua said the biopic will retell Michael’s story “as we know it” and would tackle some of the controversies the singer was involved in during his lifetime.
“Just to tell the facts as we know it, about the artist, about the man, about the human being. You know, the good, bad, and the ugly,” Fuqua added.
‘Michael’ will be directed by Fuqua with a script from John Logan. Graham King is set as a producer, who was behind the Freddy Mercury Queen story of Bohemian Rhapsody. GK Films will produce alongside the co-executors of Jackson’s estate, John Branca and John McClain.
#QuickReview: Is ‘Justice League: Warworld’ worth a watch?
One thing longtime fans of DC have come to count on is that while the company spent the last ten years floundering around in a pool of confusion, their animated films rarely, if ever, miss. Justice League Warworld continues to lend credence to this argument, though not in a particularly new, unique, or memorable way.
Here’s the premise: The big three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) are scattered across time by some phenomenon they do not understand. They have no memories of who they are or how they got there, but they know they have to consistently ‘keep moving’.
Wonder Woman visits a wild western town in which a distinct DC anti-hero rules with an iron fist. Batman is stuck in a prehistoric world, complete with dinosaurs and warlords and warrior women. And then, the big three reunite at the end for what starts as a ‘mystery-in-a-diner’ noir-esque story that sort of explains what’s been happening but does nothing with that revelation.
The big three reunite at the end for what starts as a ‘mystery-in-a-diner’ noir-esque story that sort of explains what’s been happening but does nothing with that revelation.
But there’s a lot to root for in this film: the voice cast is splendid, with Jensen Ackles playing Batman, Darren Criss as Superman, Stana Katic as Wonder Woman, Troy Baker as Jonah Hex, and so on. Somehow Ackles has avoided the Conroy comparisons (probably because he started voicing Batman before Conroy passed) so far, and in a good way.
The art style stays within the confines of the Tomorrowverse comfortably, and the animation looks great and fluid. The action sequences leave quite a bit to be desired, though, with Batman going through the motions and forgetting what makes him such a much-revered hand-to-hand fighter. The heroes also act out of character a number of times, Batman leaving someone who just freed him to die, and Superman being quite thick-headed and missing several obvious clues.
The heroes also act out of character a number of times, Batman leaving someone who just freed him to die, and Superman being quite thick-headed and missing several obvious clues.
Still, the biggest letdown is the fact that the movie ends, but there’s no resolution. It rather spends the climax setting up a sequel, which may be the just-announced Crisis on Infinite Earths. The movie skimps on the emotional satisfaction that comes with a perfectly-landed climax and instead jerks the audience away on the ‘something-bigger-approaches’ segue. It feels as though the ending was changed just before it left the cutting room. Still, ‘Justice League: Warworld’ is worth a watch.