Gotham’s annual festivities turn to fearful nights of fright as a mysterious murderer known only as Holiday picks of the Falcone and Roman families one by one on each consecutive holiday. It’s up to Batman, Harvey Dent & Jim Gordon to put the pieces together and save Gotham from a year-long seasonal serial killing spree.
Firstly, character designs have been sucked clean of Tim Sale’s gorgeously noirish comic style for more generic and oddly unfinished looking appearances. As well as this, characters seem to be suffering from rigor mortis with a slow and jagged stiffness to their animation atop a gloriously smooth looking art deco backdrop. Not unlike the pop art style of the spy comedy series, Archer, but with more visual phrasing.
Joker says it best in this film, “Navy, navy, charcoal, black. Euk! Really Carm, is a splash of colour too much to ask?”. Despite the original comic’s dark and monochromatic appearance, the comic popped with a minimalistic festive colour palette; Halloween oranges, Valentine’s Day reds, New Year yellows, etc. Arguably, this was a large part of the comic’s charm and style. For a story gift wrapped in holiday spirit, the wide spectrum of bright holiday colours amongst the bleak backdrop of Gotham is sorely missing from this film adaptation. It’s very hard to tell what holiday we’re supposed to be celebrating.
VOICEWORK & WRITING
Let’s talk about the good in this adaptation. The voicecast, while nowhere near as iconic as the longstanding original voices, do a phenomenal job in recreating the beloved characters. Every voice is unique but unmistakably perfect for the variety of personalities throughout. Stand-out performances being Troy Baker’s return as the Joker with darker Hamillisms and David Dastmalchian as Calender Man with an uncomfortable monotone performance. Unfortunately, stellar impressions don’t make for a great performance as the dialogue and acting itself is both tonally inconsistent and awkward throughout, as if the actors had no frame of reference to work off of. Why the brilliant dialogue of the comic couldn’t be brought to life or at least replicated here is baffling to me.
Remember in Batman: Mask of Phantasm when you got goosebumps from Shirley Walker’s tremendously grandiose choir filling the Gotham night air on top of an earthshattering orchestral ambience? Listen to it again if you can’t remember it…yeah. Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One is virtually devoid of music aside from a minimalistic pinch of ambience every now and again. There’s an entire chase scene with no music whatsoever and it is SO AWKWARD! Batman has some of the best pieces of music in cinema history and this here is an embarrassing disappointment.
Annoyingly, events and details, bar the actual holidays themselves, are all out of place, altered or in some cases just omitted from the script with pointless padding in it’s place. This totally ruins the flow, suspense and drama of the original comic that makes it such a beloved entry in the mythos of Batman, as well as makes the twists painfully obvious. While I can’t say I like that Palmer is writing his own calendar for the monthly mayhem, it is intriguing enough to see where he goes with it and if he opts for an alternative ending to the comic. If the end result is the same however, what was the point in changing key details?
In conclusion, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One honestly feels like a bootleg adaptation of the classic comic in every way. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came out that Palmer couldn’t secure the rights to the story so he had to make his own that loosely follows the original. Either that or he hasn’t read the comic! Everything from it’s cardboard cutout look and monotonous animation to it’s first take dialogue and story inconsistencies makes the film feel wholly unfinished.
I hate that I have to write this review as it hurts me to my core. I was so excited to see my favourite Batman comic get the feature length animated treatment. There are sparks of the Batman spirit in the cracks of this film but the sheer amount of problems it has eclipse any semblance of hope for the adaptation. The only way I could see redemption for the film is if it leans into it’s askew recollection of the comic in order to produce a whole new take on the Holiday storyline, perhaps giving the adaptation a unique alternate reality edge with different results i.e. cementing it as it’s own story. However, if Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two continues to stumble it’s way to the original finish line, this will be cemented in my mind as a colossal failure for DC.
Let us know in the comments your thoughts on Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, your thoughts on the original Jeph Loeb comic & be sure to check out Dan’s review of Batman: The Long Halloween comic and my recent comic reviews for Batman: The Detective!
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