Fans who have been keeping track know that the animation department for Warner Bros. and DC Comics has, for the most part, been doing a fantastic job with their animated features for over a decade. They have tackled new material, continuations of past iterations and, like this film, adaptations of beloved arcs from the comics. As with most DC releases they tend to go for the characters that are easiest to appeal to wide audiences, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and a smattering of other Justice League members.
This latest release is the second half of the animated adaptation of “Batman: The Long Halloween.” As with all stories split into multiple films or episodes, it can be hard to discuss and review their merits and faults as a singular piece, rather than a part of a greater whole and Batman: The Long Halloween – Part Two is no different. As this movie opens, viewers are dropped right into the action as Bruce Wayne has been under the thrall of Poison Ivy for months. Completely unaware of this mind control and having been forced to take actions at the whim of the super villain, Bruce is rescued by none other than Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Selina has figured out who Bruce masquerades as at night and helps free him, and take down Ivy.
It’s an exciting, and somewhat disorienting opening sequence. We feel almost as lost as Bruce, unaware of where we are in the story. Once he and we come to, the movie propels the story forward at a breakneck speed that is both necessary and bit disjointed. That is definitely the movie’s biggest fault. As it moves from vignette to vignette, it beings to feel like it doesn’t know what the point of the story is after a while. It is a lot of material to get through. We have to cover Batman’s detective skills, the majority of his rogue’s gallery who appear in this film, the fall and destruction of Harvey Dent’s mind and body, the further exploits and reveal of the Holiday killer, more Falcone family drama, closure to the story as a whole, and any other character beats that are important to the overall plot.
Fans of the first half and/or of the original story will find plenty to enjoy, as it is a competently made feature. Unfortunately, there is something missing that simply does not pull in the viewer like the first film did. The animation is just as beautiful as the first half. The action sequences and laundry list of character designs speak highly to that. And again, as wonderful as it would have been to see a version of Tim Sale’s work done here, it is fully understandable that that would have been quite the undertaking and removed this film from the stylistic canon of most of the other modern DC/WB animated features.
Once again the entire voice cast is an absolute knockout. Jensen Ackles continues to impress as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. His strength and tough resolve continue to grow in this portion of the story and Jensen brings it in spades. The youth and naivety of this younger Batman is undeniable as well. Naya Rivera thankfully gets a bit more to do this time around, with both a bit more dramatic dialogue and effectively placed zingers during fight scenes. It is a solid final voice performance from the actress, but the weight of her loss can’t help but be felt, even through an animated character. Troy Baker, Billy Burke, David Dastmalchian, and the rest of the supporting all return as their respective characters and do a truly wonderful job, but Josh Duhamel is true stand out this time around. His work as Harvey Dent in the first half was fantastic, as he fully embodied the character. It was like hearing a completely different person on screen than the one millions of people have come to know in his live action roles. He was Harvey Dent, and now that we have reached the point in which we must say goodbye to Gotham’s white knight as he makes his tragic fall to tortured, duplicitous, villain: Two-Face. The change in voice work between Harvey and Two-Face is fantastic. Once again fully becoming an entirely new character. Duhamel takes on Dent, Dent’s angry inner voice, and the fully venomous and horrifying voice of the scarred Two-Face, and magically makes them work all from one person. As this take on Two-Face has been the groundwork for so many other versions, it’s easy to become complacent and mentally skim over it as its re-told, but the performance here brings the power back to the build up and loss of Harvey Dent.
It is exciting and fun to see Scarecrow and Mad Hatter working together, Solomon Grundy and Two-Face coming face to face to face in the sewers, and the Joker attempting to wrangle the chaos of one of the worst years Gotham has ever seen into something that suits his sick sense of humor, but the fact is that it simply is far too much material to give all of it its full due. The Falcone family drama is thematically rich, but even it begins to drift away from the story, even though it is crucial to the core of the plot. The mystery of who the Holiday killer is, will always work no matter what form or medium the story takes. The early, detective-centric days of Batman’s career are fascinating and seeing him and other heroes jump to the wrong conclusions before the dark truth is finally revealed makes for an excellent and truly harrowing noir story.
While it ultimately ends being a mostly faithful adaptation, there is something lost in translation from page to screen. It works along with the first film, but on its own it is a decent, but underwhelming follow-up and closing to the tale. The whole simply doesn’t live up to the sum of its terrific parts.