Initially published as a limited series in the mid-1990s, Batman: The Long Halloween quickly became a critical success and still stands as a high-water mark of Jeph Loeb’s tenure in the DC Comics universe. Weaving a compelling tale of Batman’s earliest days as Gotham’s crime-fighting hero, its plot centered firmly on gangland violence and a mysterious new addition to the rogues’ gallery made it a perfect candidate for an eventual Warner Bros. Animation adaptation.
This direct-to-video animated feature spanned an equally epic two-part presentation, each released in the tumultuous year of 2021. Late last month, however, both films were at last made available together as Batman: The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition.
Available now in a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, a Blu-ray + Digital bundle, and a standalone Digital release, what The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition lacks in supplementary bonus materials it more than makes up for in its dazzling animation, solid voice work, and sheer scope.
Beginning, fittingly enough, on Halloween, the story starts with the murder of Johnny Viti, nephew of local mob boss Carmine “The Roman” Falcone. While initially linked to the Roman himself, Batman, D.A. Harvey Dent, and a spry, young Captain James Gordon soon realize this to be only the opening salvo from a new villain on the scene.
Dubbed “Holiday” for his tendency to pick off high-profile targets from the Gotham underworld only on American holidays, the killer manages to confound Batman, vex the city’s other major criminal players (including the Joker), and help precipitate the onset of Dent’s burgeoning dissociative identity disorder as he navigates the flailing Holiday investigation, a rapidly unraveling attempt at toppling the Falcone crime family, and his own fraught relationship with his wife, Gilda.
All this ultimately results in an astonishing third act involving an obligatory mass breakout from Arkham Asylum, an all-out assault on the Roman’s compound, and, most importantly, the tragic transformation of Harvey Dent into the unscrupulous Two-Face. But how we arrive at the story’s tentative resolution is no more important or engaging than how we get there.
Batman: The Long Halloween can best be described as visually arresting. These Warner Bros. Animation projects are generally well regarded in terms of art direction, but The Long Halloween really leans hard into both the noir crime story and the simple human drama of its characters, pairing moody color palettes with clever angles to maximize the impact. In addition, extended sequences in which Batman falls victim to the feminine/hallucinogenic wiles of Poison Ivy and, later, is driven headlong into traumatic delirium by Scarecrow’s fear toxin also bring in some more surreal and terrifying visuals—a nice counterpoint to the symmetrical Art Deco leanings of old Gotham.
It also reaps the rewards of a stellar voice cast, though it is one that likely misses a number of big names we’ve come to expect in our Batman cartoons. Bruce Wayne himself is voiced by Jensen Ackles (who will forever be known in my house as Dean Winchester). Billy Burke, of Twilight fame, makes a great turn as young Jim Gordon, while Josh Duhamel, William Lennox in Bay’s Transformers franchise, also does a lot of heavy lifting as Harvey Dent/Two-Face.
Troy Baker channels Hamill’s iconic Joker, while the late Naya Rivera (to whom the film is dedicated) embodies a more heroic take on Catwoman. The bulk of the other baddies are brought to vocal life by two outstanding additions. Fred Tatasciore shines as both Vincent Falcone and the hulking Solomon Grundy, and David Dastmalchian’s Calendar Man and, to a lesser extent due to his undersized role in the narrative, Penguin shine in every scene fortunate enough to include them.
Like all adaptations, The Long Halloween alters a number of beats from the original narrative. That said, none of these weaken the film’s story and, in most cases, instead help close the circle on some added secondary plot elements.
It’s worth noting that, from a content standpoint, this is a Caped Crusader story best reserved for older viewers. There is violence aplenty, including multiple gunshot wounds and pistol whippings, some intense horror rooted in worlds real and imagined, and a peppering of colorful language to boot. If you and yours don’t balk at such elements, though, I can think of no better Halloween weekend fare than The Long Halloween – Deluxe Edition. The name says it all!
Review materials provided by Smith & Company for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. His post contains affiliate links. Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday.