‘Batman: The Long Halloween: Part 1’ is a gripping crime thriller that leaves you with more questions than answers

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Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s 1996 critically acclaimed graphic novel, “Batman: The Long Halloween,” was given the green light to be turned into an animated movie. The movie finally arrived after months of anticipation, and it did not disappoint.

Following the blueprint success of 2012’s The Dark Knight Returns and how massive the comic indeed was, it only made sense to split the iconic novel into two separate films. Thus DC comics animation took a similar path with “Batman: The Long Halloween” to note is often referred to as one of the greatest detective stories that ever graced the pages of the Caped Crusader, more commonly known as Batman.

Chris Palmer directed the film, and with the source material being so intense in maturity and strength in depth. It would only make sense for the story to be split into two movies. In my opinion, it was an intelligent move from DC Comics to make fans wait for part two of the film, especially with how gripping and thrilling part 1 truly felt.

It felt refreshing to see a freshman-like Batman, brought to life by Jensen Ackles (Batman: Under the Red Hood, Supernatural) and his Gotham allies, Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke) and Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), are taking on a year-long murder mystery involving some of Gotham’s notorious criminals, including the Falcone crime family. 

I felt the film was a perfect example of how systematic and psychological DC comics can genuinely come off. Significantly when the age gap broadens from childhood memories once perceived as Saturday cartoons to the violent and detective thriller crime escapes. It was clear with this particular story, and the levels of ground-breaking maturity brought to life by artist Tim Sale.

Along with the brilliant and captivating writing from Jeph Loeb. It was a clear-cut choice to split the film into a two-parter then. I felt the split gives the audience and viewer essentially a chapter break of sorts to ratify theories and question the subsequent impact and direction of the story being told. Of course, with the story arc following the murder mystery route. It felt at this point with the story being too massive in its entirety. A run time of an hour and a half couldn’t do the comic justice. Which meant the film was officially going to be split into two parts.

“The Long Halloween” marks Ackles’ debut as the caped crusader himself. The last time Ackles worked on a DC comics project was the 2010’s Under the Red Hood storyline, where he portrayed Jason Todd, the second Robin turned anti-hero Red Hood. Ackles proved to be an ideal casting choice for a young Batman. “The Long Halloween” is set at a designated point in Batman’s “late-night career.” He’s been doing the whole costumed vigilante thing long enough to set up a notable reputation but naive enough to think that his brutal ways of handling the criminal underworld are the ideal path.

Photo courtesy of WB

In addition to Ackles, Naya Rivera, who posthumously voiced Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, did an excellent job portraying the altruistic DC character. Regrettably, DC fans will never hear her performance after this thrilling saga reaches its end due to Rivera passing in July 2020.

One thing that deserves praise is the film’s strong writing which illustrates Batman before being a member of the iconic “DC trinity” long before he met Superman and Wonder Woman. In addition to Batman being firing on all cylinders. I enjoyed how the film expanded and justified the partnership between Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Dent before the fateful descent into madness that created Two-Face — proving that Batman was able to work with law enforcement to end crime in Gotham.

I believe in Gotham City.”

Bruce Wayne

To note, “The Long Halloween” takes place during a dark time in Gotham City. The city is systematically held hostage by the Falcone crime family. In many ways, the presence of crime in Gotham was another Thursday. So it would make sense to throw in a serial killer amid the rampant chaos. Now the unnamed serial killer was on committing methodical and pre-mediated murders during holidays. Which in many ways did feel like a cliche idea, but anything relating to Batman always manages to turn cliches into good stories. 

I noticed the film adaptation surprisingly managed to balance remaining loyal to the source material while also striking out on its own. For example, some of the lines, shots, and scenes originated straight from the graphic novel. Yet, other moments from the film could be perceived as being expanded upon or condensed panels from the iconic graphic novel.

The Holiday Killer made Batman experience something that some would consider a Dark Knight taboo: realize that he was wrong about something, which leads to why the ending to the film was so good. It presented shock value that leaves viewers with more questions starting with wanting to know the identity of the Holiday Killer.

As the killings continued, Batman suspected Joker, voiced by Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Batman Arkham Origins), of being the holiday killer. To the point of Joker evening going after Harvey Dent, the main District Attorney or principal of justice on the case, to bring down the Falcone crime family. The suspicion of the clown leads to him trying to gas the crowd during a New Year celebration in Gotham Square.

Photo courtesy of WB

But it turns out he wasn’t. Joker admitted that he is not the Holiday killer. Joker is the type of criminal that admits to crimes that he commits, so it did not make sense for him to be the Holiday Killer, although nothing about the Joker makes sense. In his clown prince of crime way, Joker displays jealously over the fact that the holiday killer is stealing his thunder and gaining Batman’s attention. Warning, unless someone has read the original comic, viewers may be confused about how Joker plays a part in the story, but they will still be entertained. 

Batman’s next suspect included Alberto Falcone, the son of Carmine Falcone, but shockingly, Falcone is shot right in front of the Bat by none other than the Holiday killer themselves. Batman admits to Gordan and Dent that he messed up. If 2019’s “Batman: Hush” proved anything, as a viewer, you think the culprit is one person, then the story takes a huge turn and reveals to be someone entirely off the radar.

Overall, Part I of “The Long Halloween” is a movie that does not disappoint. It’s a storyline that emulates a crime thriller that would be perfectly placed in the theaters during Halloween weekend, even though it was given a summer release date. “The Long Halloween” is a complex storyline that sends viewers to the edge of their seats, leaving people wanting more. 

The best way to sum up “the Long Halloween” is an adult adaptation of the iconic Bruce Tim “Batman The Animated Series” with brilliant writing and eye-opening animation. The new animation juxtaposed from the gray and gloom panels drowned out by the balance of shadows from the mind of the mind artist Tim Sale was fantastic, and it set the tone for the rest of the film.  With more of the story to be released in Part II in July, Part I shows us that its successor will be even more rapidly paced, as the story will introduce more players while venturing to its big finale. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Jahlil Rush

Jahlil Rush attends CUNY Baruch College in New York City. He is double majoring in journalism and digital communication while also double minoring in photography and film. The passion for journalism has always resided within him. He loves covering topics of all kinds, from politics to entertainment to even fashion and technology. When it comes to covering anything related to superheroes, video games and animation, he gets extra excited. One day he hopes to achieve his career Goal of becoming an ABC News National Correspondent and Photojournalist. Check out some of his work on Flickr and find him on Contently.

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