Batman: The Long Halloween Part 2 picks up the story in the latter half of a year plagued by the mystery killer named Holiday. Members of the Falcone and Maroni crime families are littering the pavement of Gotham City, with Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and Harvey Dent unable to do anything about it. As both crime families scramble to protect themselves from the law and from Holiday, they opt for extreme measures and hire a colorful cavalcade of criminals to keep the city busy, as they try to narrow down who the Holiday Killer is.
I can’t lie to you all, I was hesitant to write this review. I loved Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1 and the prospect of disliking its follow-up left me saddened. It’s rare that we get to see Batman take on the mob, when more often than not we experience his epic battles with the more colorful members of his Rogues Gallery, and I worried the transition from mob to madness may be handled too abruptly. I’m familiar with the source material and knew we would be getting to this point, where the down-to-earth crime fighting is replaced by metahumans and intense criminal psychosis. I was worried that this film wouldn’t deliver on the meticulously lain out structure of its predecessor. I found that, delightfully, my fears were ill-founded. Warner Bros’ Batman: The Long Halloween Part 2 exemplifies the practice of adaptation by following up a well-paced, slow build of a first film with an explosive payoff that not only pays homage to its source material, but also carves its own narrative path.
Picking up where the end credits scene of the previous film left off, Bruce Wayne is under the influence of Poison Ivy at the behest of Carmine Falcone. From here (no spoilers) the plot only extrapolates on the growing costumed criminal element in Gotham City. Batman has inspired desperation in the mob with his three-way partnership with Gordon and Dent. This desperation manifests in the hiring of Scarecrow, Joker, Poison Ivy, etc. to keep the Bat from messing with the Falcone operation. However, I would argue that though Batman is the title character, the true main character is Harvey Dent. This idea is taken from the source material, but it’s stretched to its extreme here in a cacophony of sorrow and anger. I honestly cried during one particular courtroom scene (yes, that one) as Josh Duhamel’s voice acting is charged with all the tension Harvey has experienced. As the cracks in his persona grow, Duhamel’s voice introduces a growl that seems to loom behind every word. This culminates in...well...you know. The transition from Dent to Two-Face is traumatic, and makes you understand every decision he makes thereafter. He’s tried operating within the law, and he seems to be the only one suffering. This story is Harvey Dent’s story. A story of duality that is obviously par for the course when dealing with Two-Face. Duhamel should be praised for the character work he achieves through voice alone, his knowledge of the character clear in every line.
Jensen Ackles also gives an understated performance, which I found phenomenal. His Batman is inexperienced but is quickly being shown the ropes by every perceived failure in a year of un-prevented murders. There is a genuine humanity to Ackles’ performance, something that is often left out from other Bat-voice actors in lieu of mysterious machismo. Ackles brings the man to the Bat. This is met by an equally stellar performance by Naya Rivera’s Catwoman. The late Rivera conveys the cattiness (ha!) of the character while maintaining intimacy with Batman, creating undeniable chemistry that adds heart to an otherwise depressing tale. The Cat/Bat relationship is done so well here as each character comes to the table with their own motivations concerning Falcone, that ultimately grows into a romantic entanglement (with each other, not Falcone).
The animation style of this film does not bother me. I state it this way because I’ve come to realize that it does bother a lot of other people because it isn’t an revamp to Tim Sales’ original artwork. This film utilizes dull palates that allow Batman to sink into—and become—shadows. Gotham is muted, anxious, waiting. There is a particular moment with the introduction of Scarecrow that blew my socks off with its scratchy lines and malevolent oranges, allowing us to watch the death of the Waynes—again—but in such a beautiful sequence that I didn’t mind in the least. The cinematic quality of the action plays wonderfully into the animation style and (my opinion) to decry the style over it not being an homage to Sale detracts from this film as it deserves to be seen as its own entity. There are story beats that are different. Hell, the ending is different from the source material. The spirit of the graphic novel is in this film, but this does not mean it has to match panel-for-panel. Granted, this is all just my opinion. Writer Tim Sheridan made bold moves in this adaptation that I feel pay off in emotional and entertaining ways. I never quite knew what would happen despite my knowledge of the original text, and the voice acting kept me so engaged I felt I was sitting in a movie theater watching The Dark Knight all over again (since The Long Halloween was a major inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight).
Watch. This. Film. We can nitpick about animation style or what a “true” adaptation is supposed to be, or we can enjoy the magnificence of these two films. Voice acting, art style, and bold writing culminate in a cinematic experience (with full intention behind the word). Watch it, enjoy it, and thank your lucky stars we live in a time where this movie exists. Pick up Batman: The Long Halloween Parts 1 & 2 on Amazon now! Check out the graphic novel as well, preferably from your LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP...or Comixology.
Read our COMICS RETROSPECTIVE of Batman: The Long Halloween here.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials (1993, 1994, 1995)
Batman: The Long Halloween (1996) 13-issue limited series