Many of you may’ve noticed I don’t write a lot about superhero films on the Nightmare Shift. This isn’t because I don’t enjoy them. I do enjoy them. I enjoy them a lot, in fact. I enjoy their quirky, colorful charm, and I enjoy the ways they’ve changed and evolved over the course of my life. That in mind, there is a lot of them. This is part of the reason I hadn’t watched a Warner Bros. Animation in a few years, because, every other year, I know I will be seeing a lot of guys in spandex and manic supervillains, and so, I try not to indulge too often so I have more time to focus on the twisted macabre I so often write about.
For some reason, this Halloween season I was in a Batman mood. I started my replay of Batman: Arkham Asylum with my wife (genuinely, my fifth playthrough over the last decade) and I began a marathon of DC animated features starring the Caped Crusader. The first of which was a film I hadn’t seen prior called Batman: The Long Halloween, a fitting film to cap off the Halloween season.
Directed by Chris Palmer and featuring a familiar, but not too familiar cast of names, the two-part superhero film stars Jensen Ackles (of Supernatural fame) as our titular protagonist, a role he does amicably in. Some sticklers might argue he doesn’t bring a whole lot of changes to the man inside the cowl, instead sufficing as a convincing Kevin Conroy impression, but I find myself usually fairly forgiving when it comes to Batman portrayals and this one is solid. Where it really matters the most in my opinion is with Batman’s rogue’s gallery. The film sees Naya Rivera sporting cat ears and a whip as Catwoman (a hero in her own right, Naya tragically lost her life early this year in a boating accident, rescuing her son from drowning), whereas Troy Baker is the Clown Prince of Crime The Joker. Of them, they all help commit a consistent, strong portrayal of each set of characters. The Joker is arguably one of the most difficult characters to nail down with anything that isn’t Mark Hamill‘s voice or something that captures that same oomph feeling very off, but Troy Baker is one of the good ones, having consistently nailed the voice for years.
Something I love about the DC Universe Animated films is how lived in they feel. This is something I hope director Matt Reeves is able to capture in The Batman next year, and it is something I’ve never seen captured in such a way ever prior (even with the elaborately interwoven Marvel Cinematic Universe). What I mean is, someone is always doing something, in spite who the primary focus on the feature may be. They nail it in the Arkham videogames and they nail it here, even when your mind is on Two-Face or The Joker, don’t be surprised if Scarecrow or The Mad Hatter stop by to wreak havoc.
The film feels classical and conventional in some ways, which might keep it from having that jolt features like Batman: Under the Red Hood had when I first watched them.
The film has a lot of familiars traits to it. I have seen the Two-Face character and how he came to about a million-and-one times by now, and I have this natural eyeroll when I see Harvey Dent as Harvey Dent in any film. That in mind, that shouldn’t take away from how good and solid this portrayal is, adding up to one of the best on-screen portrayals we’ve ever had of the Two-Face character. The film primarily deals itself in the mob activity plaguing Gotham, you know, like Carmine Falcone and them, which often results in a lot of Italian accents, both good and bad, and Batman feeling like it is being taken hostage by what can often feel like goofy gangster scenes that aren’t ever exactly The Godfather.
So, it’s not all the most exciting, nail-biting of material, I’ll admit. All of it is fairly rudimentary, in fact, but, at the same time, it’s all very fleshed out and accomplished. This is a nearly three-hour film altogether and it doesn’t let itself get into a hurry even in the least. It breathes and I feel it paced itself pretty well. Ever since DC became cool with doing R-rated Batman, it has been a double-edged sword. It allowed darker, more expansive interpretations of the comic-books that inspired them, but “edgy dialogue” and gratuitously, unnecessary sex scenes had begun becoming shoehorned in. This one feels like it doesn’t fallback on that type of novelty. It doesn’t make any head scratching decisions nor sacrifice itself as a way to catch you off-guard. Instead, it plays it straight from beginning to end and tells a modest, but good Batman story.
Batman: The Long Halloween is a good Batman film. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, per se, and may even go back to the well in some ways, but everything it does do, it does well. The voice-acting, animation (set pieces, animation isn’t as stiff as certain other films in the catalog are), and overall production are all among DC Animations’ finest, and I’d recommend it to anyone even remotely interested as one of the better Batman animated films.