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REVIEW: Batman: The Long Halloween, part one (animated)

Some of the most recent DC animated movies have been "just okay" to "meh" lately. In fact, none of them have hit high spots of "Mask of the Phantasm" or "The New Frontier". However, that may have change with the latest entry "The Long Halloween, part one".

The story is set early in Batman's career as members of the Falcone crime family are getting bumped off on major holidays, starting with Halloween. Batman, Captain Jim Gordon, and D.A. Harvey Dent form an alliance to stop the killer dubbed "Holiday Killer." Bruce Wayne realizes he has to be a dark knight detective along with a brute force soldier in his war to save Gotham, but the clues in this caper are contradictory.

The story, adapted from the Long Halloween comic by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, also borrows themes from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. The atmosphere is reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series and oozes golden age noir. These elements, along with excellent animation and voice acting, make near-perfect Batman movie. The orange/red warm hues of the fall turn to cold blues and cloud-like snowfall as we enter the winter season give the viewer visual cues as the characters move from holiday to holiday and the bodies stack up.

It's been awhile since I read the graphic novel, so I'm not sure how well 'Part One' lines up with the original story, but that's fine. It doesn't need to.

Clearly, the story is leading up to Harvey's physical transition into Two-Face. The occasionally nauseating relationship between Bruce/Selina and Batman/Catwoman is featured here, but not in a way that leaves one rolling their eyes. Seeing the Gordon family was a treat, but I never understood the importance of Harvey's wife, Gilda. Perhaps she'll play a larger part in the overall story or perhaps she's just there because she appeared in the comics.

Joker and a few of the rogues show up, but he is as much a pawn in the machinations of Holiday as the crime families and our heroes. Jensen Ackles surprises as the voice of Batman and I honestly thought Mark Hamill was back as Joker (it was Troy Baker). Naya Rivera was miscast as Catwoman, but that may just be a personal preference--and informs my dislike for the Bruce/Selina relationship. I've always seen Selina as regal, empowering in her voice--as shown by the likes of Adrienne Barbeau, Michelle Pfieffer, or even Julie Newmar.

The extra feature from Part One seems to imply a larger role for the rogues gallery including Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, and Poison Ivy. The theme of the old, dying crime families in favor of the chaotic supervillains in control of the Gotham underworld is an excellent story to explore in any medium and was a welcome undertone in the first part. The reveal of the actual Holiday Killer is coming in part two, but you won't have to wait as long as Batman--the second part drops July 27.

My score: 8.5/10


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