Thursday, June 24, 2021

Batman: The Long Halloween (Part One)

Warner Bros. Animation finally gets around to adapting the thirteen-issue maxi-series from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale which follows Batman (Jensen Ackles) over one year as he attempts to catch a murderer know as Holiday for a killing on every major holiday tied to the Falcone crime family.

"Part One" takes us from Halloween and the first crime through New Year's Eve (roughly through the first 4 issues of the storyline). As in the comic, we get appearances from several of Batman's rogues gallery including the Joker (Troy Baker), Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian), Solomon Grundy (Fred Tatasciore), and Catwoman (Naya Rivera). Both Catwoman and Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) have large roles in the story as along with Jim Gordon (Billy Burke) they all are looking to take down crime boss Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver). The dense storyline has been simplified a bit, and the Joker's extended sequence remind me of one of the comic's original failings as the more colorful villains distract from the narrative as they take over center stage.

While I enjoyed the original comic series, I'm not as big a fan as some. I actually prefer Loeb and Sale's follow-up tale, Batman: Dark Victory. The film doesn't follow Tim Sale's designs too closely as both Batman and Catwoman are rendered more in tune with other DC animated adaptations. Personally, I like the choice of toning down both characters a bit from Sale's original style which helps fit them more naturally under the Gotham City skyline. However, in some of the supporting characters we do still see reference to Sale's designs so I do wonder how well things will mesh with so many more characters coming in "Part Two."

Set just after Batman: Year One and very early in the character's career, Batman's detective skills are noticeably lacking as he ignores a prime suspect in the Holiday killings and completely misses another until it is too late. Even if he isn't yet the world's greatest detective, I would like to see at least a glimmer of that potential showing through. Bruce's relationship with Selina and Harvey Dent's relationship with his wife Gilda (Julie Nathanson) get special attention here partly to lay the foundation for Harvey's turn into Two-Face in "Part Two."

The cast is solid. Ackles works out fine in the role that can be challenging given the character's limited emotional range. Baker's Joker feels like a riff from Mark Hamill's version of the character, but fills the need for the Clown Prince of Crime. Rivera, making her final performance in the two-part series prior to her death, is an interesting choice for Catwoman. Her voice is lighter and more playful than some actresses who have played the role and it certainly offers a change of pace, although I must admit I hear Catwoman's voice with a harsher and more sultry undertone than we get here.

Batman: The Long Halloween (Part One) is certainly a stronger and more successful adaptation than Batman: Hush (another extended comic run full of Bat-villain cameos). Given two films, there's certainly more room for the this one to try and stay more true to its source material. However, we've gotten less than half the story so far. And with two-thirds of the story yet to be told, it appears there's an awful lot that is going to either be crammed into "Part Two" or left on the cutting room floor.

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