Batman: The Long Halloween features an all-star cast including Jensen Ackles as Batman, Naya Rivera as Catwoman, Josh Duhamel as Harvey Dent and Billy Burke as James Gordon. Also starring are Titus Welliver, David Dastmalchian, Troy Baker, Amy Landecker, Julie Nathanson, Jack Quaid and Fred Tatasciore.
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.
As the title suggests, Batman: The Long Halloween Part One adapts part of the story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s 13-part series from 1996. The sprawling, nuanced, murder-mystery – in its original form – clocks in at a whopping 384 pages and is on The Dark Knight’s most prolific cases.
Bringing that story to the screen are the team of director Chris Palmer and writer Tim Sheridan. The pair worked together on last year’s Superman: Man of Tomorrow which effectively rebooted DC’s animated universe. With that story the pair were able to bring a contemporary spin in Superman’s origin. Here they are able to demonstrate a delicacy in translating Loeb’s story to animation.
Sheridan – who is also now writing Teen Titans and Shazam for DC – displays a reverence for the source material which elevates rather than hinders the translation. Looking to other adaptions from page to screen, DC and elsewhere, there is a tendency to veer to either an inflexible or sloppy approach. That is not the case here. Sheridan’s script beautifully recreates the aesthetic of Loeb’s original text. Moments lift dialogue directly from the book and flow seamlessly in to small moments of new connective tissue.
On first watch it was difficult to discern any changes from the source material. There are moments, few and far between, with small tweaks to dialogue or to the order of events. But all those moments are deftly woven in to the core narrative and never stand out. Consistency is the name of the game here and Sheridan really delivers.
The art style, introduced back in Man of Tomorrow, marries perfectly to the murky streets of Gotham. The Long Halloween offers the creative team the chance to reintroduce Batman plus many of his early villains. Joker (Troy Baker) and Catwoman (Naya Rivera) are given the most exposure in this first part. Baker is no stranger to playing Joker but his new design feels perfectly rooted in this new DC animated landscape. Rivera, who completed recording prior to her death in 2020, cements herself in the pantheon of Catwomen within seconds. Her distinctive voice melts in to the character with the two becoming indiscernible from each other.
Whilst Sale’s artwork isn’t directly translated to the screen the spirit of his original work remains. This is Warner Bros. Animation’s third film in this style and it’s clear the studio knows what works for the audience. The contemporary approach adds a fluidity to the action which feels fresh to a franchise that has already released 41 movies.
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One also features Jensen Ackles debut as The Dark Knight. Having previously played Red Hood he had essentially already proved his worth. Whilst his voice is recognisable he still loses himself in the source material. The youth in his voice perfectly reflects that this Batman is only in his second year. In addition, Ackles is able to balance the darkness of Batman with the mask of Bruce Wayne. Though both voices are distinct there are characteristics which tie both together neatly.
With a little more than half the story remaining, Part One leaves the uneducated viewer on a striking cliffhanger. Rather than simply cutting the film in two, the creative team has used a natural pause as a jumping off point. It will undoubtedly leave the viewing wanting more. Thankfully we only have a month to wait!
Thanks to Tim Sheridan’s savvy writing Batman: The Long Halloween Part One faithfully adapts the source material into an exciting animated murder-mystery.
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