VOD film review: Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 1 and 2
Matthew Turner | On 06, Mar 2022
Director: Chris Palmer
Cast: Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Naya Rivera, Billy Burke, Alastair Duncan, Troy Baker, Titus Welliver, Jack Quaid, Katee Sackhoff
Directed by Chris Palmer, Batman: The Long Halloween is the 42nd of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies produced by Warner Bros Animation and DC Entertainment. It’s based on the comic books run by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, which consisted of 13 issues, beginning in Halloween 1996 and running through to Halloween 1997. The same story was a direct influence on Matt Reeves’ The Batman and there are a number of scenes and elements that appear in both movies.
Like The Batman, The Long Halloween takes place in Batman’s second year of costumed crime-fighting. It begins with a masked killer who appears to be targeting members of the crime family headed by mobster Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver). However, there’s a gimmick – the killer only strikes on holidays, earning him the nickname “Holiday” in the media.
As Batman (Jensen Ackles) investigates, he’s aided by Gotham City Police Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), who has sworn to take down Falcone. He also receives help from some unexpected quarters, namely Selina Kyle / Catwoman (Naya Rivera) and the imprisoned Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian), who isn’t happy that someone has stolen his only-kills-on-holidays thing. Meanwhile, Dent’s targeting of Falcone puts him on a collision course that has life-changing consequences.
The story here is almost identical to the source material, with a couple of very small changes. Conceived as a film noir-ish tale, it follows on directly from Batman: Year One, with a strong concentration on Gotham’s underworld, before the city became overrun with costumed supervillains. (In addition to the time period, there are several other elements of The Long Halloween that appear in Reeves’ The Batman, most notably the series of mysterious killings, the significance of Carmine Falcone and even how Catwoman fits into the story.)
The Long Halloween also serves as an in-depth origin story for Two-Face, although there are also roles for several members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, including Joker (Troy Baker), Poison Ivy (Katee Sackhoff), Mad Hatter (John DiMaggio), Scarecrow (Robin Atkin Downes), Solomon Grundy (Fred Tatasciore) and, to a lesser degree, The Penguin (also David Dastmalchian), who only turns up in one fight scene and doesn’t have any lines. (It’s a shame that this adaptation doesn’t feature The Riddler, as that’s one of the best moments in the original comics.)
The animation style is impressive, particularly the shots of Gotham City, some of which are genuinely stunning. The character designs are excellent, especially on Selina Kyle / Catwoman – this may well be her best animated iteration to date. Admittedly, the animation style is very different to the comic, although several of Tim Sale’s images appear in the credits sequence.
The action is cleanly staged and enjoyable to watch, whether it’s a car chase involving a sleek and simplistic Batmobile or a great fight sequence between Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Palmer also peppers the film with a number of striking images – a shot of Wayne Manor enveloped in ivy is particularly memorable.
The voice cast, assembled by voice director Wes Gleason, are on top form, with Jensen Ackles doing a solid job as both Bruce Wayne and Batman and Naya Rivera bringing real warmth to Selina, making her feel real rather than a cat-based caricature. (Tragically, Rivera died shortly after completing the role – the film is dedicated to her memory.) Burke makes an excellent Gordon and Troy Baker is good value as Joker, even if he never quite hits the heights of Mark Hamill in the role.
As with many of the DC animated movies, there are some adult elements, including a commendably grisly moment (it involves a propeller), some unnecessary swearing and some extremely skimpy costumes on Selina and Ivy.
In short, this is an engaging, strikingly animated Bat-thriller that does justice to the source material and tells a good story, with director Chris Palmer striking exactly the right tone throughout. It even finds a way to put an original spin on the parents-getting-killed part of Batman’s origin story. Oh, and there are post-credits stings on both films, if you like that sort of thing.