BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN-PART 1
(***1/2)-JIM RUTKOWSKI
"...a well-seasoned production overall and a fine adaptation of the source material"

A Killer Holiday

(072321) First appearing as a 13-issue limited comic series by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween is a slowly-unfolding murder mystery that, in many ways, is a spiritual successor to Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli's Batman Year One (a personal favorite of yours truly which was also made into an animated movie in 2011). Taking place during Batman's early days in Gotham City, the story also features up-and-coming D.A. Harvey Dent and police Captain James Gordon, who work with Batman to figure out the identity of a serial killer that's been murdering victims once per month on major holidays. Also appearing are Catwoman and other established members of the Rogues Gallery (The Joker, Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and The Riddler) and even a few lesser-known villains (Calendar Man, Solomon Grundy), creating a well-rounded and perfectly woven tale that, for many Batman fans, is at or near the level of all-time classics including The Dark Knight Returns, A Death in the Family and, of course, Year One itself.

The aptly-named The Long Halloween - Part One is the first of two successive films in DC's ever-expanding animated universe, and the sixteenth (!) to prominently feature Batman. It's a stylish 85-minute production that admirably attempts to condense the first portion of this fan-favorite limited series into a sleek, screen-ready thriller.

It's difficult to summarize The Long Halloween: Part One without too many spoilers, but here goes: when Johnny Viti, the nephew of mob boss Carmine "The Roman" Falcone (Titus Welliver), is brutally murdered on Halloween night, the resulting investigation by James Gordon (Billy Burke), Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel), and Batman (Jensen Ackles) leads to the discovery of a literal warehouse full of laundered money with the help of Catwoman (Naya Rivera, in her final film role). While our heroes struggle to balance the investigation with their personal lives -- Gordon with his young children, Dent with his unhappy wife Gilda (Julie Nathanson), and Bruce Wayne with his sorta-girlfriend Selena Kyle -- the single murder turns into a series of killings, next on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Their search eventually leads them to Arkham Asylum and one of its residents, Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian), who offers hints about the killer's identity -- who, for now, is nicknamed "Holiday" -- that establish a list of suspects including The Joker (Troy Baker), Carmine Falcone, rival crime boss Sal Maroni (Jim Pirri), and a few others... including Harvey Dent himself, whose behavior has become increasingly erratic after being attacked by gang members. Part One wraps up on a snowy New Year's Eve when two parties are interrupted: Joker attempts to gas innocent partygoers on Gotham City streets, while a charity dinner aboard Carmine Falcone's yacht is crashed by a mystery person carrying a familiar-looking gun.

It's a well-seasoned production overall and a fine adaptation of the source material thus far, with mostly introductory elements trimmed as well as a few light side-plots and exchanges either removed or glossed over. The spirit and mood of the original books is largely intact, while the visual style partially evokes Batman: The Animated Series rather than aping the style of Tim Sale, although a few panels from the books can be seen during the opening credits. It's paced very well and, while this obviously doesn't feel like a stand-alone feature, neither does it play like something that's been thoughtlessly chopped off at the end. I've got a feeling that die-hard fans will really enjoy it.

But of course, Part One of this animated adaptation -- which was directed by relative newcomer Chris Palmer, who also helmed the surprisingly great
Superman: Man of Tomorrow -- is only half the story. (Structure-wise, it's actually closer to one-third, as it encompasses the original 13-part series' first four issues.) Part Two is slated for digital release on 7/26 and Blu-ray on 8/10; a deluxe edition containing both parts, similar to The Dark Knight Returns, is set to be announced for 4K UHD later this year. Unavoidably, this film will be seen as "the lesser half": The Long Halloween is, by design, a slow-burn story with a big payoff, which makes Part One feel more like a dress rehearsal for the main event. But it's still an enjoyable and well-made film on its own terms with solid technical merits including attractive animation, great voice acting, and of course a number of excellent twists, turns, familiar faces, and a pretty damn good cliffhanger.
 

Directed by:    Chris Palmer
Written by:   Screenplay by: Tim Sheridan, based on the DC graphic novel by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale
Starring the Voices Of:    Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Naya Rivera
Released:    062221
Length:    85 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for violence, bloody images, language and some smoking

BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN-PART ONE 2021 Warner Bros Pictures
Review 2021 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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