Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1 (2021)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of Batman: the Long Halloween Part 1

Film: Sometimes the best Batman stories are the ones that have a limited lifespan. Year one, The Dark Knight Returns and their ilk all stand up and really put Batman on the map, both as a flawed hero and an obsessed human being who’s obsession makes him more a bad guy than a good guy.

Myself and a few friends used to host a podcast called the Nerds of Oz where we predominantly talked about comic movies, but also other nerdy stuff, and one of the members of the podcast crew, Shane, says that this graphic novel/ limited comic series was one that made him really sit up and pay attention to just what Batman can be, and it turned him into an obsessive collector who just two days prior to me watching this Bluray, bought every single Batman ‘66 action figure, vehicle and play set from McFarlane toys.

Batman was a serious part of my upbringing as well. I still have memories, and photos, of me going to school EVERY DAY when I was in kindergarten, dressed in a Batman Halloween costume, and could only be addressed as ‘Batman’ whilst wearing it. When you consider that my stori in relation to Shane’s is 40 years prior, you can tell that Batman consistently been THE superhero that fans want to see on screen, whether it be due to the very fact he is someone who just stood up and said ‘Enough’ in regards to injustice, or whether you’re a furrie who likes to hang out in black leather on rooftops, getting your kicks from beating people up.

The Bat-man himself!

Anyway, this film, Batman: The Long Halloween Part One, is a part of the amazing DC animated features that have been coming out for well over ten years, and personally I think in most occasions have been more entertaining than the Marvel or DC live action movies because they lean much more heavily into the ‘real’ world of the comics, rather than thirty Hollywood writers adapting stories to what they feel the ‘general’ public could digest easily… you know, with that typical lack of respect some production companies have for the cinema going audience.

Dumb it down to make it more palatable to the masses… I’m looking at you, Thor: Ragnarok.

Ok, so I’ll tuck my soapbox aside and look at this film.

Halloween night in Gotham City always brings out the crazies… actually, every night in Gotham brings out the crazies, but Halloween seems to see the population rise.

Batman (Jensen Ackles), Captain Jim Gordon (Billy Burke) and DA Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) have come together to investigate the murder of the nephew of gangster Carmine ‘The Roman’ Falcone (Titus Welliver), who was about to roll over on the crime family in court.

Problem is though, it’s just the beginning of a series of murders that take place on holidays, and after being hospitalised by the Falcone gang, it might appear that Dent himself is the prime suspect and may be leading a double life… and if you know who Dent becomes, double is exactly the name of his kind of trouble.

Gordon and Batman go to the Calendar Man (David Dastmalchian) in Arkham Asylum, who offers them some cryptic information, but quickly they discover the Joker (Troy Baker) has escaped, and the last thing this investigation needs is a wild card in the deck…

Calendar Man explains the situation.

The first thing I’ll have to say that I really liked about this feature was the new take on the animation style. I got a real ‘Archer’ feel from it, with nice hard black outlines that don’t deter from the realism that it’s going for. There’s a real smoothness to the animation too that makes it almost feel more like live-action, which really gave the story a lot of gravity.

The design of the whole production is really amazing, borrowing styles from Batman the Animated Series, Anton Furst’ s designs from Tim Burton’s Batman and David Mazzucchelli’s art from Batman Year One. It’s weird that they decided to ignore Tim Sale’s style from the comics, but at least that gets seen in the opening credits.

The story is fantastic (so far); it’s a classic gangster/ crime drama, but with Batman villains thrown in for good measure, just to remind you that it takes place in the DC universe. The inclusion of a a-grade villain like Calendar Man is simply exquisite, especially to transform him into an almost Hannibal Lector advisor in the crimes.

I can’t comment on whether or not there was much difference between this and the source material, but I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed the story… let’s hope Part 2 doesn’t screw it up.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras:

DC Showcase: The Losers is one of the short animated features that they slip on as extras onto these discs, and I love them because, as the title suggests, they ‘showcase’ characters who may not be popular enough to get a full feature. This is not the Losers seen in the 2010 movie of the same name (starring Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Idris Elba) but instead based on the original comics created by Robert Kanigher, which told of Navajo pilot Johnny Cloud and his platoon and their adventures in World War 2. This tale sees them trapped on an island with dinosaurs and a traitor… a lot of fun, and some nice visual tributes to Jack Kirby’s artwork here and there.

A Sneak Peak at the Next DC Animated Movie, Batman: The Long Halloween Part 2 looks at the second part of the story, available on a future release.

There is also previews of other Animated films, such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. Also from the DC Vault, we have two episodes of Batman the Animated Series; ‘Christmas with the Joker’ and ‘It’s Never Too Late’. I find these extras occasionally irrelevant as most people collecting these discs would be collecting all of DC’s animated product, so ‘previewing; something that came out three years ago seems superfluous, and most of us would already have the episodes on season collections of the series’s. I do appreciate that they try to make the episodes relevant to the story, and I do find myself revisiting them, so I shouldn’t be too harsh.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I’ll have to watch it again when I watch part 2! Seriously thoigh, it’s a good, engaging mystery where Batman is actually being a detective instead of most modern-day iterations where he’s just a thug-like vigilante. I look forward to watching it again!

The whole thing starts with a murder…

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release of the film.

Justice League Dark (2017) Review

 

One from the to watch pile…

Justice League Dark (2017)

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Film:  As a teen I read any comic I could get my hands on, and that evolved into me pretty much exclusively reading only Marvel comics. I stopped reading comics in the beginning of the nineties as basically, well, they sucked.

I started reading comics again in the early 2000s. I started with Marvel but drifted to DC, and now read a bit of both. Even though Marvel have nailed down the movies with their cinematic Universe, DC seem to be struggling. The interesting thing though in their animated movies, which are released direct to bluray, are amazing.

The reason is quite simple: there is an assumption that the viewer knows who the heroes are and they don’t feel the need to retell and retell their origin story every time a new one comes out.

I’ve pretty much enjoyed most of them, though their have been a couple that have meandered a little; this is one of them.

Justice League Dark tells of the darker side of the DC universe: when a villain of magical proportions threatens the DC Universe, Batman employs the assistance of those from the darker side of the DCU, including John Constantine and Zatanna, who bring along other magical beings such as Etrigan the Demon, Swamp Thing, Deadman and all the magical powers of the House of Mystery and Black Orchid.

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The problem with this story is it’s just not entertaining. The whole thing felt quite flat and dull, and at times I was struggling to maintain any sense of interest. Batman’s inclusion is strictly as lip service to the DCU and even he comes off like he feels like he shouldn’t be there.

That’s not to say the character design and the animation is great, because the film looks fantastic, and I’m really enjoying the character design in these animated features.

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Several of the voices will sound familiar as Matt Ryan, who plays the live action TV show Constantine, plays him here too! Zatanna is portrayed by Lara Croft (the video game) actress Camille Luddington and Jason O’ Mara returns as Batman. Most of the voice acting is pretty cool except for one glaringly awful choice which is Nicolas Tutturro as Deadman. I always expected Boston Brand to have an other-worldly voice, not that of an annoying stand-up New Yorker.

Unfortunately this was a big miss for me, but I do hope the JLD return for another adventure, maybe just with a better thought out story, and without the yoke of Batman following them around like a lost dog.

Score: **

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Format:  This Australian region B bluray release of Justice League Dark runs for 75 minutes and is presented in an excellent 1.78:1 image with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track of similar quality.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc opens with a trailer for Wonder Woman (the live action one with Gal Gadot) before taking us to the menu screen.

As always with these DC animated films, we are treated to a look at the next film to be released, in this case it being Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. I love the Teen Titans so I for one can’t wait!

The Story of the Swamp Thing looks at the genesis of Len Wein’s creation of Swamp Thing, a DC muck creature created in the 70s who became a staple of DC’s Vertigo line in the 80s and beyond. This has interviews with Wein, artist Kelly Jones, writer Mike Carlin and others and is one of my favourite docos of this type on these discs. Still a shame Alan Moore wouldn’t make any sort of commentary on the character.

Did You Know? is broken into 4 mini docos ‘Constantine Origin’, ‘The Color of Magic’, ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘Deadman Casting’. These are just 30 to 60 second vignettes talking about various aspects of the movie and it’s characters. Interestingly, the casting of Deadman is talkied up when in fact I think his vocal casting was the worst.

Justice League Dark at the New York Comic Con 2016 sees the creators and cast of the film talking about the film. It’s a pretty interesting look at the challenges of making the continuity of these new ‘animated universe’ features. It ends with a pretty good Q and A session too.

There are two other ‘sneak peeks’ for previous releases of Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters, as well as episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold guest starring Deadman and The Demon.

There is also trailers for the DC All Access App and Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.

Score: *****

WISIA: Whilst it’s not my favourite one of these DC animated features, I’ll probably watch it again just because of Jack Kirby’s Demon making an appearance.

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