Release Date(s)2021 (June 22, 2021)
Studio(s)DC Entertainment/Warner Bros Animation (Studio Distribution Services)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers. Skip the third paragraph to avoid them.]
DC and Warner Bros Animation have been on a roll for several years now, adapting every major and minor DC graphic novel and comic book series with mostly positive results. Outside of The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke (which they also adapted), The Long Halloween is considered one of the top tier Batman stories. Epic and sprawling in its scope, it features many of the characters from that universe, including a new origin story for Two-Face, and deals with the world of Gotham and its criminal underbelly in a more personal and down-to-earth way. Lasting for thirteen issues, it’s a fascinating read. Astute readers and fans will be keenly aware that it was also partly the basis for Christopher Nolan’s main storyline in The Dark Knight, especially as it pertains to the relationship between Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and Harvey Dent.
This new animated adaptation of The Long Halloween is a gorgeous and admirable attempt at making the story work in another medium. It’s a mostly successful endeavor, giving most of the characters depth and clear definition with a slick and classic art style. It makes some obvious alterations along the way, including changing a few of the characters (even dropping a couple of them altogether), but it’s an otherwise faithful representation of its source material, carrying over its intended tone well. Some may find an elongated story that’s light on action and more about character connections and mystery less intriguing than battles with major villains, but for others, it’s like candy. Featuring a voice cast that includes Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Billy Burke, the late Naya Rivera, Titus Welliver, Katee Sackhoff, Troy Baker, and David Dastmalchian, The Long Halloween is breath of fresh air that brings the original books to life in a compelling and satisfactory way.
In Part One, the nephew of one of Gotham’s biggest crime bosses, Carmine Falcone, is murdered by an unknown killer on the night of Halloween, leaving a jack-o-lantern behind at the crime scene. Though Falcone has his share of enemies, who did the killing is a complete mystery. Commissioner Gordon, Batman, and Harvey Dent meet on the roof of police headquarters and vow to discover who the murderer is. Watching closely nearby, Catwoman decides to intervene and aid Batman while also doing an investigation of her own. Meanwhile, Dent and his wife Gilda survive a bomb attack in retaliation for destroying the mob’s money. In the following months, more murders occur on holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum with his own agenda, and Batman, believing that he’s zeroing in on the prime suspect, has his world turned upside down when he discovers that he’s wrong. And after Bruce Wayne encounters the slavish touch of Poison Ivy, Batman’s investigation comes to a screeching halt, leaving the identity of the murder left hanging in the air.
Batman: The Long Halloween – Part One comes to Blu-ray from Warner Bros in a beautiful, though slightly troubled, high definition presentation. The color palette is rich with a variety of hues, both bold and subtle. Since the film takes place in Gotham City during different seasons within different environments, there’s a rich tapestry of color and locations with high levels of fine detail. Lines around characters are thick, sharp, and well defined, as are textures on backgrounds and animations. Highlights and shadows play an integral part of the film’s art style, which are generally excellent. Because the film is jam-packed onto a single-layered BD-25, occasional banding and pixelated artifacts do crop up. Blacks are otherwise solid with deep, detail-oriented shadows and excellent contrast. This is a film that’s begging for a higher encode in a 4K environment. Here’s hoping one debuts sometime in the near future.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French, German, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. The DTS-HD track is impressive as it captures the many surroundings in and around Gotham City with both nuance and explosiveness. Crisp dialogue exchanges and a haunting score by Michael Gatt envelope the listener. Sound effects are placed all around, sometimes as minor as rain and footsteps, and other times as blasts of gunfire. The sewers of Gotham are full of echoes and reverberations that wrap around the soundstage, while quieter moments between characters in above-ground locations are discreet and deftly handled. It’s an effective track. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, German SDH, Dutch, and Spanish.
The following extras are included, all in HD:
- DC Showcase: The Losers (16:04)
- Batman: The Long Halloween – Part Two Sneak Peek (9:10)
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1 Preview (12:34)
- Batman: Gotham by Gaslight Preview (8:28)
- Batman: The Animated Series – Christmas with the Joker (22:22)
- Batman: The Animated Series – It’s Never Too Late (22:24)
The Losers short is a fantastic one-off that’s harrowing, politically incorrect, and concise. It blows through its running time, but in that time creates strong characters, a compelling story, and beautifully-appropriate animation. An entire feature of this would have been great, but this short story format works perfectly for its source material. The rest of the bonus material consists of a sneak peek at the second part of The Long Halloween, and previews for the first part of The Dark Knight Returns and Gotham by Gaslight animated features. Also included are two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, which feel tacked on, but it’s such a great show that it doesn’t matter. Also included within the packaging is a Digital copy code on a paper insert.
A more satisfying presentation of The Long Halloween is apparently in the works, and justifiably so. More background on the making of the film, as well as an elevated visual presentation are just what this film deserves. As is, this is a great starting point, especially for those unfamiliar with the graphic novel.
- Tim Salmons