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The Long Halloween

Batman: The Long Halloween (2021 Animated Film)

Did you read The Long Halloween and wished there was a movie adaptation of it other than the Dark Knight trilogy taking inspiration from it? You’re in luck! Earlier this year, a two-part adaptation of this critically acclaimed graphic novel was released.

I went into the plot pretty well in-depth in my 2019 post linked above, so here’s a quick recap:

Johnny Viti, nephew to Gotham mob boss Carmine Falcone, is murdered on Halloween night. A Jack-o-Lantern is placed next to his body. He had been ready to testify against Falcone in court and provide evidence of his wrongdoings, so in Commissioner James Gordon’s mind, this can’t be a coincidence. He, District Attorney Harvey Dent, and vigilante Batman make a pact to take down the mob by whatever means necessary – within the law. However, as the year (“The Long Halloween” as it’s called by Gothamites) goes on, and the murderer they dub “Holiday” kills more and more people inside the case on each major holiday, the three men begin to suspect one another. Can they keep the promise they made to each other a year ago – if they’re even the same men anymore?

The movie did well by being split into two parts. The pacing wouldn’t have felt right if it had been condensed into one. This is a slow-simmering noir story and it only benefited from the extra run time.

This also allowed extra story elements to be incorporated. For example, there is more background to Harvey and Gilda’s relationship, a bit more insight into Jim’s home life, and more significantly, more screen time devoted to Batman and Catwoman. Some of these extra elements are more successful than others. What was supposed to be Catwoman’s motivation and then big character development moment was not well-executed and didn’t go anywhere, it was just… dropped. Perhaps this was supposed to add to her mystery, but it could have been omitted from the movie and it wouldn’t have been missed. We would have accepted at face value that she was acting in her own self-interest as is usual.

The voice acting was well-done. Jensen Ackles as Batman is a treat, as he previously voiced Jason Todd in 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood. Josh Duhamel’s Harvey Dent/Two-Face was by turns vulnerable, brash, and intimidating. Billy Burke as a tired dad Commissioner Gordon was a great choice as well. Troy Baker as Joker almost had Husband and I fooled thinking it was Mark Hamill! The late Naya Rivera’s Catwoman was smooth and sultry. There truly was not a bad performance to be heard.

This movie sees a welcome departure from what’s become the standard DC animated movie style. It looked and felt as if the creators and animators made an effort to match the illustration style of the graphic novel. This is most obvious in the title cards, which were beautiful! The backgrounds literally look like they were painted on watercolor paper; the texture is distinctive. The characters are modeled after their comic counterparts, and therefore are less sharp and angular than most DC animated movies. The coloring is darker and less stylish than in the book, however, and the stark shading that made the book work so well is also missing (to the animator’s credit, this may have been hard to pull off). While it doesn’t totally get away from the “standard” DC animated style, it does veer off in another, more stylistic direction, to pay homage to the source material. I hope future animated features do this, too!

If you’re looking for something to watch this Halloween weekend, look no further! Both parts are available to stream on HBO Max and to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Kathleen

Palmer, Chris (director). Batman: The Long Halloween. 2021.

Batman: The Long Halloween

What better graphic novel to review for Halloween week than this definitive Batman title? ;D I have read this one before, years ago, but came back to it for this week’s review.

This June wedding in Gotham City is an event to be remembered, on many fronts. The groom is Johnny Viti, the nephew of Carmine Falcone, one of the two biggest crime lords in Gotham City. Falcone himself tries to pressure Bruce Wayne and his company into laundering money, but Bruce refuses. Later that evening, on the rooftop of GCPD, Batman, police commissioner Jim Gordon, and ADA Harvey Dent make a pact to take down the Falcone family. They will bend the law if necessary, but never break it.

On Halloween night, Johnny Viti is murdered, and a Jack O’Lantern is left next to his body. This starts a string of murders in Gotham City: a member of, or someone close to, the Falcone family is murdered on a holiday, and the killer leaves trinkets relating to that holiday with the body. The killer becomes known as “Holiday.” Batman, Gordon, and Dent are thrust into the web of lies and double-crosses that’s standard territory in the mob. The men even begin to suspect each other. If they can’t trust or rely on one another… how can they work together to solve the case?

This story, originally published in 1996-1997, partly inspired the 2008 movie The Dark Knight (in the 2011 edition I read for this review, there is a conversation between director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer about how the graphic novel inflienced the movie). On a timeline level, this makes sense, as The Long Halloween chronologically takes places after the events of Batman: Year One (1987)… which partially inspired 2005’s Batman Begins 😉 This graphic novel, together with Year One and The Dark Knight Returns (1986), I believe made a big difference in the way that Batman was written and published thereafter. I believe these graphic novels marked the start of the shift from Batman’s historically campy, fun style, to the much more serious tone we see today.

With that in mind, for it’s time, the story was groundbreaking. Today, it is the perfect example of what a Batman story should be. We see three ordinary men who are trying their best to do the right thing, in a morally corrupt city. We see that they are not perfect, but fallible. We see the main villains as ordinary men, like our heroes, instead of the supervillains (though many members of Batman’s rogues’ gallery make an appearance). The mob characters serve as a foil to Batman, Gordon, and Dent: while they are also human, and therefore fallible, they are morally corrupt but believe they are doing the right thing. Many a comic was published before this one where the heroes always did good, and the villains were always, unequivocally, bad. It makes the events and climax that much more tragic.

The art is reminiscent of The Dark Knight Returns, and continues the style of Year One. The figures are rendered in a hard, blocky style, with little use of soft lines. The environments are rendered more simply, with buildings in the same blocky style, or with just one color, so that much of the reader’s focus is on the characters and their expressions. Usually there are only a few colors used in a single scene or panel, to set the tone and again allow greater focus on the characters and the story. Big blocks of black are used as the only method of shading, creating a stark and gloomy noir-like mood. This is used to phenomenal effect as we guess at Holiday’s identity and second-guess all the character’s intentions as we move through the story.

The Long Halloween is a must-read for every Batman fan, but especially for those who are also fans of The Dark Knight film trilogy. The story, in which you question the integrity of both the heroes and villains, is compelling and was one of the first of it’s kind at publication. The art is effective in it’s seeming simplicity. The Long Halloween is a landmark Batman story that has rightfully earned it’s place as an important and influential title in the hero’s history.

– Kathleen

Loeb, Jeph, and Tim Sale. Batman: The Long Halloween. 2011.

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