Batman The Long Halloween, Part One review
The Long Halloween is on the shortlist of critically acclaimed, fan favorite all-time best Batman stories. It’s always been a matter of when, not if, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s masterpiece would be fully adapted. Christopher Nolan used aspects of it for The Dark Knight and now Warner Bros. Home Animation gives the property the dedicated treatment with Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1.
Given the animation takes on some beloved Batman stories, there was reason for apprehension. Fortunately there’s no need for Batman or DC fans to worry as this adaptation is one of Warner Bros. Home Animation’s finest efforts to date.
The big challenge now will be for fans to rearrange their Top 5 DC Animation film list. Yes, Long Halloween is so exquisitely done it warrants ranking alongside The Death of Superman, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, Batman: Under The Red Hood and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
Long Halloween is set in the earlier period of Batman’s career where he’s not perfect at everything. This is a Batman capable of making mistakes, taking brutal shots during fights and actually missing clues. It makes for a far more compelling Caped Crusader as he’s not a cheat code incapable of being outmaneuvered.
The wave of homicidal maniacs hasn’t completely overrun Gotham yet. It’s still largely under the thumb of the mob and the biggest crime lord, Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver, The Mandalorian). Someone is gunning down members of the Falcone family and this killer is choosing to commit their crimes only on holidays.
Soon, The Holiday Killer draws the attention of Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke, The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2), District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel, Jupiter’s Legacy) and Batman (Jensen Ackles, Supernatural).
This alliance of cross sections of crime prevention in Gotham receives some unlikely assistance from Catwoman (the late Naya Rivera).
If screenwriter Tim Sheridan doesn’t follow Loeb’s story note by note, he captures the tone and spirit of the mystery. It’s not a coincidence that the best DC Animation films have been the ones adapted from some of DC’s strongest stories.
Occasionally there’ll be a misfire like The Killing Joke and Batman: Hush, but that’s almost always attributable to the writers going rogue and significantly deviating from the source material.
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Sheridan doesn’t create his own problems and uses Loeb’s comics as a guideline and North Star to follow as his baseline. It’s a sound strategy aided by the fact Sheridan doesn’t have to cram a 12-issue story into 86 minutes. Long Halloween would have been a disaster if it was one film.
Spreading the story out to two installments allows Sheridan to properly build the mystery, establish suspects and motives. Is the killer Carmine’s mistreated son, Alberto (Jack Quaid, The Boys) or The Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian in an inspired creepy performance) or someone closer to Batman?
Sheridan also has some fun foreshadowing events we know are coming with teases to Harvey Dent’s dual nature, Batman and Catwoman’s relationship and the eventual fate of Gotham with Batman’s Rogues.
Character designs appear to channel Sale’s unique art style while incorporating thick, heavy black lines. I wouldn’t have minded a closer likeness to Sale’s artwork, but the approximation is a solid choice. The animation is also smooth allowing for easy to follow fight and chase sequences. Weather effects like snow and lighting look incredibly realistic to further add to the film’s ambiance.
The voice cast might be the strongest ensemble assembled for a Batman project.
Ackles delivered a memorable turn as Jason Todd in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He’s graduated to the main role as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Ackles proves just as adept as The Dark Knight perfectly channeling both aspects of his personality. At this rate, I’m thinking Ackles should be up for consideration for the next live-action Batman film once Robert Pattinson is done.
Troy Baker returns as The Joker delivering his usual terrifying take on Batman’s arch-foe in a scene stealing performance. Duhamel and Burke deliver the core personalities of their characters. Burke gives Gordon a progressive sense of weariness in facing Gotham’s worst while Duhamel provides Dent with the confident bravado of an impassioned lawman trying to make a difference.
Rivera is also very impressive as she gives more depth to Catwoman, making her less a seductress and more a fully developed character.
Long Halloween Part One ends on an ideal cliffhanger as Batman is still no closer to solving the mystery as the killer is still on the loose causing mayhem. There’s a post-credit scene that teases the start of the next chapter. If Part 2 is as good as this installment, The Long Halloween might stand as the best Warner Bros. Home Animation adaptation yet.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Animation
Pre-order Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 1 on Amazon.