Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, 2021.
Directed by Chris Palmer.
Featuring the voice talents of Jensen Ackles, Naya Rivera, Josh Duhamel, Billy Burke, Titus Welliver, Julie Nathanson, Troy Baker, Jack Quaid, David Dastmalchian, Fred Tatasciore and Alastair Duncan.
Inspired by the iconic mid-1990s DC story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One begins as a brutal murder on Halloween prompts Gotham’s young vigilante, the Batman, to form a pact with the city’s only two uncorrupt lawmen (Police Captain James Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent) in order to take down The Roman, head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. But when more deaths occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it becomes clear that, instead of ordinary gang violence, they’re also dealing with a serial killer – the identity of whom, with each conflicting clue, grows harder to discern. Few cases have ever tested the wits of the World’s Greatest Detective like the mystery behind the Holiday Killer.
For many years now, one Batman story fans have clamoured to see adapted has been Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s groundbreaking Batman: The Long Halloween. The story, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has seen elements of it used in other Batman media such as The Dark Knight and Gotham, but never a proper adaptation. That is, until now with not one but two animated films adapting this classic story from Superman: Man of Tomorrow‘s director Chris Palmer and writer Tim Sheridan. Batman: The Long Halloween Part One is an engrossing film which follows the original story faithfully while making appropriate swerves alongside great animation and a stellar cast.
One of the most appealing aspects to The Long Halloween has been the focus on Batman as a rookie in his crime fighting career. He may be a great fighter and succeed in scaring the living daylights out of criminals, but his detective skills are not up to par, nor is his experience handling criminals of the supervillain variety. The Long Halloween Part 1 captures Batman’s rookie status very well, showcasing him as an adept and intelligent fighter, but not a strong detective as he admits he never thought he’d have to rely so much on his detective skills to combat the mob or stop a murderer like Holiday. Supernatural‘s Jensen Ackles captures the spirit of Batman, showcasing both his intellect and inexperience as he juggles with this confounding case. There’s a nuance to Ackles’ performance where he differentiates between Bruce Wayne and Batman, but not by very much as Bruce is still solely focused on his mission and hasn’t yet fully crafted the public playboy image of himself. Ackles carries the film as Batman by making him more vulnerable emotionally through his relationship with Catwoman and the self-doubt he feels over whether or not he can discover who Holiday is.
On a more somber note, former Glee star Naya Rivera is absolutely great as Catwoman. Rivera nails the femme fatale aspect of the character and makes you uncertain of her motivations. You never know if she’s helping Batman because of their mutual attraction or if its purely to serve her own interests. Ackles and Rivera have great chemistry in the film, making them one of the best pairings for Batman and Catwoman. Rivera’s Catwoman is tough, sassy and intelligent, but she also makes her fairly vulnerable through her relationship with Bruce and the mysterious obsession she has in taking down Carmine Falcone. Her posthumous performance as Catwoman is one of the best aspects to the film, so much so that Rivera is one of the best actresses in recent years to voice her. It is again a tragic shame Rivera passed so soon.
Storywise, The Long Halloween Part One follows Loeb and Sale’s original story pretty well, but Palmer and Sheridan take enough liberties to give well-versed fans a new experience while still remaining faithful. It will definitely scratch the itch of those who enjoy a good old fashioned Dark Knight detective story as it places slightly more emphasis on the mystery rather than Batman’s superheroics. From theorizing on the several suspects to going over the evidence with Gordon and Dent, the film presents a great whodunit. The animation is also excellent with its fast-paced fight choreography and the character’s body language, showing a large range of expressive emotions from them. Even smaller details like the changes in the characters clothing with the new weather seasons is well done with its attention to detail and the film’s colour palette evokes an old school film noir as Batman, Gordon and Dent struggle with the case.
The supporting cast deliver great performances as well. Each role is perfectly cast with Billy Burke’s Jim Gordon an easy standout as he captures the honest nature of Gordon and helps both Batman and Dent in their frustrations. Josh Duhamel makes Harvey Dent a likeable character as he tries to do what’s best for both Gotham City and his wife Gilda. Julie Nathanson as Gilda gives a tragic element to both the character and Harvey as he puts on a pair of rose coloured glasses when it comes to Gilda’s needs and feelings. Nathanson delivers an earnest performance that makes us feel for Gilda and understand where she’s coming from. David Dastmalchian gives an air of control and quiet snark as Calendar Man while Troy Baker is looney as ever as The Joker, bringing an energy reminiscent of his portrayal in Batman: Arkham Origins. On the mob side, Titus Welliver and Jack Quaid as the father-son pair of Carmine and Alberto Falcone are great together as Welliver’s delivery is threatening even with his quiet statements while Quaid makes it clear Alberto just wants the respect he deserves while being disinterested in his family’s criminal activities. All round, from Ackles, Rivera and the supporting cast everyone does great work with their characters.
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One had a lot to live up to with the source material’s status as one of the best Batman stories ever, but Palmer, Sheridan and the rest of the team more than met the bar with what is easily one of the best Batman films to date, both live-action and animation. The cast is stellar, the animation is rich and the mystery is given a compelling focus. Part One even works as an intriguing tale on its own, but it only raises the anticipation for Part Two and how the team will wrap up this fantastic adaptation.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.