DC is fairly well known for their animated endeavours. While DC clearly has no grasp of how to produce, and direct, their live-action films - the grasp they have over the animated realm is firm and strong. Now, of course I am aware that Marvel has been attempting a 'comeback' in the animated genre with entries such as 'Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse'. And, yes, Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is a damn good film, but one aspect that make it remarkable is the fact you don't expect it from Marvel. Marvel has had good animation, the majority of the fans of the X-men probably have fond memories of the 1992 X-men series but that has largely fell to the wayside. The majority of Marvel's animation are primarily targeted towards children and thus have exceptionally simple plots with even simpler animation. Hell, Into the Spider-verse ain't even a Marvel film, it's more a Sony production than anything else.
Now, I am mentioning all of this to set the expectation for DC animated films especially in a Batman animated film. Batman is one of DC's most popular characters and the comic book publisher has rightfully treated their best detective with a huge amount of respect, and that has elevated the quality of his stories above many. For this reason, that being the quality of the character and the precedent set with previous DC animations, an animated Batman film that depicts the critically acclaimed 'The Long Halloween' story arc has a lot to live up to.
Batman: The Long Halloween takes place roughly two, or three, years into the crime fighting career of Batman. The main plot revolves around the gang war between the Falcone and Maroni family with the underlying mystery being the identity of the Holiday serial killer that seemingly targets high profile criminal figures at random on a specific holiday date. If you're thinking that this story is pretty grounded, given the grandiosity of Batman plots these days, you're right. Batman story's that dabble in the early parts of his career don't usually hold the bombastic plots that future stories do. This is primarily because Batman's primary focus in the beginning of his career was ending organized crime.
This all crafts a unique narrative wherein we get to witness a naïve Batman handle a conflict that sits at the precipice of change in Gotham, a tale that sets the reality of all Batman stories going forward.
The forever changing Gotham
One aspect of the plot that I believe needs to be discussed thoroughly is the purpose of this plot. Batman: The Long Halloween is a story that details how Gotham became the Gotham we know. In this sense, the Long Halloween acts as a tale documenting the shift of Gotham from the time of crime families ruling the streets - to costume supervillians roaming without repose and the role Batman has in that change. What contributes to the viewer engaging with this interesting dynamic is the slow paced storytelling.
Slow paced storytelling is not a bad thing, it just gets a bad rep. Slow paced storytelling is a good tool to utilise when a director wants the audience to truly engage with the themes, and tropes, of the film as it lowers the audience time to think of the plot without being bombarded with jump cuts and never ending fight scenes. Slow paced storytelling also compliments Batman story arcs as they allow for Batman's detective skills to truly shine.Now, Batman isn't really a 'detective' in this film - for the large majority of the screen time anyway - as his incredibly naive and thinks on things on a superficial level. This isn't really a bad aspect of his character given that Batman - at this point in his career - had largely been fighting mobsters with an emphasis on punitive tactics - there really wasn't a reason for the Dark Knight to think that much. However, with the appearance of the mysterious serial killer, Holiday, forces Batman, and Gotham, as a whole to change.
Now, the plot (while being great) is not perfect. The issue that you may experience with this two film series is boredom. Staying engaged to this story can be somewhat of choir at times, especially because Batman is truly naïve at certain points, and I'd recommend a break in between sittings. It's a good story, it's just that the slow pacing can be somewhat of an annoyance especially if you aren't use to it.
Good animation, good casting and overall just damn goods
I find grading the animation, in animation films, to always be a daunting task as critiquing it almost requires the utilization of animation jargon that I don't fully comprehend. So, I'm just going to tell you that the film looks good. The designs of the characters are good, are they amazing? No, not really. There's no true groundbreaking animation in this film, but that isn't a bad thing - it's a damn good film.
In terms of characters, other than Harvey Dent, none of them are truly marvelous. Batman's naïve, and at times infuriating to watch, Gordon is just as naïve and some villains appear for cameo value.
Now, in regards to casting, I want to make mention that Mark Hamill does not portray Joker in this film, and it's fairly obvious to anyone familiar with his portrayal. Rather, Troy Baker - a voice actor familiar with the Joker character - takes up the mantle, and while his performance is 'ok' - it ain't Hamill and Hamill's performance is the barometric precedent that every other Joker performance is measured against. Joker, like many of the other villains in Batman's rogue gallery, are largely unremarkable in this film and mostly portray caricatures of themselves. The only 'villain' that has a truly 'remarkable' story is Catwoman but her story is just a rehashing of every other Catwoman story you've ever read or seen on screen. I know I said I wouldn't spoil, but come on, once you see 'Catwoman' involved in a Batman story - it's always the bloody same. Catwoman is the DC equivalent of Felicia Hardy in Marvel, two female love interests that solely exist as the emotional conflict of the main character for a brief period and then to be discarded to the wayside and it's a damn shame. It's a shame because they could of done something new with her character, but they don't because - like most directors - they view, and value, her character for the plot device she can function as in stories.
Batman: The Long Halloween is a good, going onto great, film. It tells the story it needs to tell and allows for enough breathing room to leave its audience to ponder the reality of Gotham as a whole. While some characters are portrayed in a lackluster fashion, that doesn't take away from how engaging the plot is, a plot that heavily benefits from a mystery that will leave even the most hardened of comic fans gobsmacked.
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