Written by: Tim Sheridan
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Naya Rivera, Troy Baker, Titus Welliver, Billy Burke
Reviewed by: Eric Joseph
Thanks go to WB for the free review copy.
“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.”
Let’s be honest: Whenever you view a new film in any particular franchise, you’re hoping on some level that it’ll be the best. In the case of Batman animated movies, it seems that the fandom have three that often contend for the top spot, those being Mask of the Phantasm, Return of the Joker, and Under the Red Hood. Well, get ready, because there’s a new heavyweight in town – Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One.
Saying that I had high expectations going in was an understatement, what with this flick being an adaptation of one of my favorite Batman storylines ever published. Not only did the filmmakers deliver, but they exceeded expectations. I knew in my bones that I was viewing something particularly special within the opening minutes. There’s just something about this movie that raises it to the upper echelon. Be it the perfect voice casting of Jensen Ackles as the Caped Crusader himself, a chilling score by Michael Gatt, beautiful visuals, or Tim Sheridan capably adapting Jeph Loeb’s words for the screen, every aspect of the production fires on all cylinders.
Anyone familiar with the source material is already aware of how it combines elements of a noir-ish crime drama with traditional elements of Batman lore without being entirely fantastical. And that makes sense when you stop to consider that we’re seeing Bruce Wayne in his second year of crimefighting. If you have friends who scoff at cartoons, you now have something to show them that’s on par with Christopher Nolan’s work. Yeah, it’s that damn good. Funny I say that, because The Long Halloween was indeed one of the literary works to have inspired The Dark Knight Trilogy, so I guess we’ve come full circle in that regard.
Seeing as how this is far from the first comic book or graphic novel to be adapted for animation, I wondered from the outset if we were in strict adaptation territory, or something “inspired by.” Delightfully, this bad boy finds some middleground, although it does stick pretty close to hitting the major beats. To be more specific and not spoil anything, it’s not as literal of a translation as, say, Year One or The Dark Knight Returns, but it’s not a hard left turn like The Death of Superman or Hush. I’d liken this opening salvo to Under The Red Hood, but do expect some surprises and a crazy cliffhanger. Oh yeah, be sure to stick around after the credits as well.
In the midst of all the mob hits, superhero fisticuffs, and detective work, there’s also some romance at play. Those who love seeing Batman and Catwoman in the earliest stages of their courtship will find much to love. This dynamic juxtaposes their more advanced relationship previously seen in Hush, so don’t expect a retread. It’s just sad to think that we won’t hear more of Naya Rivera as Selina Kyle beyond The Long Halloween, Part Two, for she tragically passed away not long ago. I do think she was a great feline fatale and has no doubt left her mark on the icon’s animated legacy.
As for bonus features, not too much is to be spoken of, but I enjoyed what was there. The latest DC Showcase short, The Losers, harkens back to the comics of old, yet has a modern spin. A first look featurette for Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two forces us to salivate for what’s to come later this summer, and two episodes from Batman: The Animated Series – “Christmas with the Joker” and “It’s Never Too Late” – are along for the ride. I just wish there had been a documentary of some sort.
Let me preface by saying that anything listed as a “negative” here doesn’t actually affect my opinion of the film itself. I just wanted to mention that I’d long dreamed of seeing Tim Sale’s artwork adapted to animation, and that didn’t happen. But on the plus side, the art style previously seen in Superman: Man of Tomorrow and Justice Society: World War II carries over, and it’s downright gorgeous. A new shared universe is probably being built, so it’s understandable as to why the filmmakers wanted some visual continuity.
I think I need a little more time with Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One before I fully decide if it has usurped Under The Red Hood as my animated favorite, but you should waste no time getting your hands on a copy. Like I said earlier, this film is on par with The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Part Two can’t get here soon enough. Now please excuse me while I watch this a billion more times.