The newest DC Universe film “Batman: The Long Halloween – Part One” dares to take on one of the most beloved Batman stories in recent years.
It’s not a miscarriage of justice. But it’s no triumph either.
The original 1996 miniseries by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale told how Batman, Police Commissioner James Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent united to take down Gotham’s crime families even as a serial killer dubbed Holiday – for the killer’s trademark appearance on holidays – stamps out the mobsters.
Sale’s artwork was gorgeous and spectacular, while Loeb’s story was gripping, if ultimately unsatisfying: The denouement revealed Batman never truly solved the case. That always seemed a cheat.
In this adaptation, writer Tim Sheridan heavy-handedly turns the spotlight onto the the troubled Dent family and practically gives the mystery away.
That is, if his story follows the blueprint laid out for him, and in one key way, it already differs: A character who survived the original perishes at the climax of this film. That’s a significant departure from the source.
Jensen Ackles (“Supernatural”) voices Batman/Bruce Wayne, sounding very much like the legendary Kevin Conroy, which begs the question: Why didn’t the producers just get Conroy?
Honestly, for every Batman animated film, this should be a no-brainer. Conroy is the definitive Batman.
With its retro backdrop, this film visually mirrors “Batman: The Animated Series” and could easily be viewed as a lost prequel. DC’s animated films have always seemed so lush, but this one, like “Justice Society: World War II,” released earlier this year, shows how DC is cutting corners. Too many static shots, too many close-ups that may remind you of the ’60s “Johnny Quest” cartoons, and not in a good way.
Josh Duhamel overacts the role of Harvey Dent, the future Two-Face, and his comments in the bonus featurette suggest he doesn’t understand the character of Dent.
Just when you might be getting bored, Troy Baker saves the film as that harlequin of hate, the Joker, who decides to rid Gotham of Holiday and hundreds of innocent Gothamites by strafing the city with poison gas.
The film is dedicated to the late Naya Rivera, who, in the last role of her life, brings Catwoman/Selina Kyle to life. If only Sheridan didn’t insist on writing her like a ditz. In one key moment, she’s so surprised by Batman’s appearance, she blurts out his secret identity in front of a stranger.
There is one odd visual gaffe: A character who significantly is shown several times working a crossword puzzle magazine snits that he is actually doing logic puzzles. Crossword puzzles and logic puzzles don’t look a bit alike. Not even close.
The conclusion of this animated story drops at the end of this month.