The caped crusader returns in style in DC’s new animated universe.
What’s it about:
DC’s live-action films have been a mixed bag this past decade, from the lows of the theatrical release of the Justice League in 2017 to the highs of Zack Snyder’s Justice League in 2021. DC’s animated movies and shows on the other hand have long held a reputation as the best in the genre. However, even the animated division of DC was in a bit of a slump of late. With the exception of the excellent Justice League Dark: Apokolips War from 2020 and season 3 of Young Justice in the same year, the DC animated movies and shows have failed to live up to their usual standards these past few years.
With the conclusion of the DC animated universe with the Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, DC launched another universe with Superman: Man of Tomorrow last year. It was followed up with Justice Society: World War II told from the Flash’s perspective, featuring the likes of Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and Superman. While it is not officially confirmed that Batman: The Long Halloween Parts I & II will be part of the same universe as the aforementioned titles, the distinctive animation styles and aesthetics in the three movies all but confirms it.
Batman: The Long Halloween Part I is the first of the two-part series, with the second part expected to be released on July 27 on digital services. The two-parter is based on Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale’s critically acclaimed graphic novel of the same name, featuring a young Batman investigating a series of murders committed on annual holidays, by someone named the Holiday Killer.
There are not many superhero movies, television shows, graphic novels, or even video games that can compete with the quality of Batman’s long list of titles. 2008’s The Dark Knight in films, Batman: The Animated Series in TV shows, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm in animated movies, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in graphic novels, and Batman: Arkham City in video games are rated as among the best in their respective categories across genres. However, the more recent animated films about Batman have been subpar - Batman: The Long Halloween Part I is the character’s renaissance film.
From a technical perspective, the creators of the film and the creative minds behind this potential interconnected universe have opted for thicker lines for character designs which has surprisingly improved the overall animation. The other minor details like the animation during gunfights and other action sequences have also been improved from animated movies and TV shows pre-Superman: Man of Tomorrow. The attention to detail in sound design is excellent as well. The overall animation style has been completely overhauled as a result, when compared to the unique and distinctive art style used in the graphic novel.
With regards to the voice acting, Jensen Ackles as the new voice for the Caped Crusader is a match made in heaven. The Supernatural star had previously voiced Jason Todd aka the second Robin aka The Red Hood in the critically acclaimed Batman: Under the Red Hood. He has introduced an unrecognisable and distinctive voice to the character, an ability perfected only by a few, like voice acting legends Troy Baker and Nolan North. Troy Baker in fact returns as the voice for the Joker with his uncanny resemblance to Mark Hamil’s version of Clown Prince of Crime. Baker has also voiced Batman and Jason Todd in the past. Selina Kyle/Catwoman was voiced by Naya Rivera, who tragically passed away in a drowning accident while rescuing her four-year-old son in 2020. Catwoman was her final role as an actor/voice actor and she has done the role justice. Actor Josh Duhamel's District Attorney Harvey Dent deserves credit as well.
The story is fast-paced with each character given time to shine. The screenplay is engaging throughout. It highlights the fact that Batman is still in his formative years as the Dark Knight and a long way away from eventually earning the moniker as the ‘world’s greatest detective’. Bruce Wayne’s struggles as a hero and his relationships with Selina Kyle, Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon, and mobster Carmine Falcone are perfectly captured in this excellent new addition to DC’s impressive catalogue of animated content.
The decision to go retro with the world-building in this universe is questionable, not just for this movie but also for the two preceding it. Batman is back to wearing trunks on the outside, something which pop culture has generally moved on from in the 21st century. There is no possible explanation for this decision other than to earn a few brownie points for evoking a sense of nostalgia amongst the legacy fans. The city, the cars and the Tommy guns used by mobsters in this movie are straight out of 1930s Chicago, even though the story is set in the digital era of smartphones. This is a similar aesthetic used in Batman: The Animated Series in the 90s to great effect, and it does look appealing in this movie as well. However, the creators should have been a little more innovative with world-building rather than rehash an old formula.
Even though there are a few questionable choices with the costumes and the world design, which might have even been beyond the control of the creators of this universe, the movie breathes new life into the Batman mythos. It is an excellent movie, for arguably the most iconic comic book character ever. The ending provides enough intrigue for the audience to eagerly anticipate Part II releasing on July 27.