Written by Alexander Reams
Back in 1996, the character formerly known as Batman was in a weird place, on the silver screen we received interpretations that included the infamous and nightmare-inducing “bat-nipples”, and in the comics, he was becoming a slight dud. That is until Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale came together and created a 13 issue story spanning over a year, and released as such, entitled Batman: The Long Halloween, a follow up to Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special, which is within the continuity of Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, (which would eventually become Batman: Haunted Knight) (and yes I realize this is weird, don’t ask questions just be glad we have these beautiful runs by Loeb and Sale to feast upon). This run by the duo was universally praised and is still considered to not only be one of the best Batman runs ever but one of the best comic books of all time. Ever since its release, there has been a constant campaign for The Long Halloween to be made into a film, alas, the closest we have gotten are tidbits throughout modern Batman films, most clearly in The Dark Knight. Now, we finally have not one, but a two-part film on the comic, clocking in at a combined total of 170 minutes, but not live-action, instead- animated?
Yes, animated, instead of a live-action film DC elected to make the film in their animation department. Something that ends up serving the adaptation in its favor.
There are multiple sequences that are frame-by-frame from the comic book, and not taken and watered down (looking at you Batman: The Killing Joke), instead it’s continually elevated and adds depth to where you simply cannot in a book. The plot is one that still sends chills down my spine, even after reading the graphic novel countless times. It’s Halloween and someone has killed Johnny Viti, the nephew of notorious crime boss Carmine “The Roman” Falcone. The weapon is, let’s call it “unique”, an untraceable pistol, with a nipple from a baby bottle as a crude silencer. Soon after The Roman’s funds go under attack thanks to help by Catwoman. Another murder takes place on Thanksgiving, a group of thugs who attacked District Attorney Harvey Dent is murdered, and on Christmas, another murder, this time Milos Grappa (The Roman’s bodyguard). Thus a pattern is secured and the killer is dubbed Holiday.
Something that has eluded adaptations of famous Batman adaptations (The Killing Joke, Gotham by Gaslight, Under the Red Hood, etc.) is a sense of fear and dread. Dread when you see that signal light up the fog-ridden sky, knowing that he is hunting. The Long Halloween Batman was always supposed to be different than other incarnations of the caped crusader. He was supposed to be more brutal, as shown in Batman’s fight with Mickey Chen and his gang. He does not show remorse often and only rationalizes when necessary. He is still green, he hasn’t learned how to be a detective, and this is his trial by fire. This is conveyed brilliantly by Jensen Ackles (who is no stranger to the DCAMU as he portrayed Red Hood in Batman: Under the Red Hood), he brings this gruffness to Batman that I’ve only seen in Ben Affleck’s interpretation. The voice cast that was assembled alongside Ackles is nothing short of impressive. Josh Duhamel as Harvey Dent & Two Face, Billy Burke as Commissioner Gordon, Naya Rivera (in her final performance, and who the film is dedicated to) as Catwoman, Jack Quaid as Alberto Falcone, Titus Welliver as Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, and a special appearance by David Dastmalchian as Calendar Man.
Batman: The Long Halloween is a brilliant adaptation of truly perfect source material and gives hope for the future of the DCAMU after the conclusion of its long-spanning storyline in 2020 with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. I loved this film and its interpretation of the source material and hope that the comments made by the creatives are true, in that they will come back to continue the story with Batman: Dark Victory and Batman: Haunted Knight. The 170-minute runtime flies by and is another example of DC Animated doing fantastic work, up there with one of the greatest comic book adaptations they’ve done, The Dark Knight Returns, shifting that into a combined film was a fantastic move and hopefully will be done for this instead of two separate films. The Dark Knight Returns and The Long Halloween are two of the best offerings DC has given us in their animated department and if this was eligible for Oscars this should and probably would be the frontrunner to win, but for now, we celebrate that we received this great adaptation.
The Long Halloween Part One Trailer
The Long Halloween Part Two Trailer
The Long Halloween Part One & Two are streaming on HBO Max.
You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.