Based in the world of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween is something of a follow-up tale that continues the focus on Batman’s early years using a stripped down, minimalist style. Rather than bombarding the viewer with non-stop action sequences, The Long Halloween takes the approach of building an atmospheric and moody film noir punctuated with moments of sharp violence. This is the gritty world of the Dark Knight Detective, a world where mobsters meet their fate at the barrel of a gun and lawmen struggle against a corrupt system.
The Long Halloween films do a good job capturing the style and atmosphere of its material. Much like Batman: the Animated Series it effectively conveys a sense of tone and pacing that harkens back to the pulp detective fiction of the 1940s and 1950s. This is a story of the early Batman, finding his way as a detective in an increasingly shifting mystery surrounding the mysterious Holiday killer. Members of prominent mob families are being murdered by this figure during the major holidays throughout the course of a year. Every time Batman thinks he knows who Holiday is, the field shifts and he finds himself back to square one.
Where The Long Halloween is most effective is in its presentation and immersion into the world it creates. It is in many respects a relief to encounter a DC animated project that engages the intellect and invites the viewer into its story rather than pummeling its audience over the head. However, something else that must be said is when these movies call themselves The Long Halloween, emphasis should be put on the word Long. While the slower pacing is in many ways welcome, if the movies are taken in all at once they can become sleep inducing.
The films also suffer from a little bit of an identity crisis. There is only so far one can strip down a story to fit a real-world police procedural before it no longer stays in keeping with the superhero excesses of a Batman story. At times it feels like these films want to make everything as grounded and down-to-earth as possible while simultaneously throwing outlandish characters such as The Mad Hatter and Solomon Grundy into the mix. It feels as if the story works against itself at those moments and I found myself wishing the filmmakers would either lighten up and allow themselves have some old fashioned comic-book fun, or else eliminate those subplots and adhere more to the main mystery. What we wind up with instead are scenes where something silly is being presented in a heavy and serious light, and as such they don’t quite work.
My other complaint, which is probably directed more at the original source material than the movies themselves, is I don’t think the basic story of the Holiday killer is epic enough to warrant two full movies. It seems as if the original comic writers had an idea to tell a story of someone murdering people during the major holidays, but then to keep this story going over the course of a year they layered on a lot of unnecessary subplots involving a “greatest hits” list of many of Batman’s most prominent villains. While this story does wind up telling a definitive, tragic tale about how Harvey Dent, Gotham’s City’s crusading District Attorney, became twisted into the arch-villain Two-Face, much of the rest of it seems extraneous.
Overall I would consider The Long Halloween to be well done in its presentation but a disappointment in its narrative and its length. It has an interesting mystery story at its core but is filled with too many side plots and overstays its welcome.
3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray & Digital Special Features (Part One)
DC Showcase – The Losers (New Animated Short)
A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie – Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two.
From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series – “Christmas With The Joker”
From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series – “It’s Never Too Late”
Blu-ray & Digital Special Features (Part Two)
DC Showcase – Blue Beetle (New Animated Short)
A Sneak Peek at the next DC Animated Movie – An advanced look at Injustice.
DC Universe Movies Flashback
• Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
• Batman: Hush
From the DC Vault
• Batman: The Animated Series – “Two-Face, Part 1”
• Batman: The Animated Series – “Two-Face, Part 2”
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One and Part Two are now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital
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 Gordon 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.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two continues as the Holiday Killer is still at large and, with Bruce Wayne under the spell of the venomous Poison Ivy, Batman is nowhere to be found. Liberated by an unlikely ally, Bruce quickly uncovers the real culprit: Poison Ivy’s employer Carmine Falcone. The Roman, his ranks decimated by Holiday and his business spinning out of control, has been forced to bring on less desirable partners – Gotham City’s rogues’ gallery. In the meantime, Harvey Dent is confronting battles on two fronts: attempting to end the mob war while also dealing with a strained marriage. And, after an attack that leaves Harvey hideously disfigured, the District Attorney unleashes the duality of his psyche that he’s strived his entire life to suppress. Now, as Two-Face, Dent decides to take the law into his own hands and deliver judgment to those who’ve wronged him, his family and all of Gotham. Ultimately, the Dark Knight must put together the tragic pieces that converged to create Two-Face, the Holiday Killer, Batman and Gotham City itself.
"Batman: The Long Halloween": an effective if over-long story
Where The Long Halloween is most effective is in its presentation and immersion into the world it creates. It is in many respects a relief to encounter a DC animated project that engages the intellect and invites the viewer into its story rather than pummeling its audience over the head.