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Review – Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One – “Created with the utmost care”

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Coming to digital on June the 22nd and arriving on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray steelbook on the 21st of June, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One is written by Tim Sheridan (Masters of the Universe: Revelation), adapted from the graphic novel written by Jeph Loeb, is directed by Chris Palmer (Superman: Man of Tomorrow) and features the voices of Jensen Ackles (Supernatural), Naya Rivera (Glee), Josh Duhamel (Transformers) and Billy Burke (Twilight).

Taking place near the beginning of Batman’s crime-fighting career, The Long Halloween sees Batman (Ackles), Commissioner Gordon (Burke) and Gotham’s new district attorney Harvey Dent (Duhamel) teaming up to try and put a stop to warring crime families the Maroni’s and the Falcone’s.

But when Carmine Falcone’s nephew is murdered on Halloween night it signals the beginning of a spate of killings by a mysterious maniac called Holiday and an escalation in the war between the crime families that leads to Harvey Dent’s house being blown up.

As Batman tries to discover the identity of Holiday, as well as have sexy rooftop grapples with Catwoman (Rivera) AND try to stop The Joker (Troy Baker) gassing Gotham; Dent begins to go off the rails – the seeds of Two-Face to come starting to germinate.

A really great title sequence that uses panels from the comic book alongside the cast and crews’ names kicks thing off stylishly and respectfully, but Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One does not ape the look of the book again. There are a couple of episodes of the old Batman: The Animated Series included on this disc, which feels apt as the looming, shadowy art deco writ large style employed in this feature is very similar in look and feel to the old show, just modern and cleaner with gorgeous and angular fresh line work

The Batsuit design is pared back. It’s simple but elegant with short ears and a lovely long cape, and the shape makes for some great silhouettes and those brilliant pools of cape around Bats’ feet that you love to see. The suit itself is a grey body with black pants section and a yellow utility belt. It’s straightforward and stylish, not at all busy and evocatively classic.

Ackles’ voice work is pretty good. He doesn’t feel like he has enough gravitas, but is suitably gruff and deep. In fairness to the performer, as Bats is early in his career in this story, the younger casting and lack of vocal weight could be entirely on purpose.

Naya Rivera’s Catwoman doesn’t really stand out, but her and Ackles have decent chemistry and the Bat and Cat scenes are actually kind of hot and had me checking what the rating was! It’s 15, and although surprisingly steamy the sauciness quotient is tame-horny. 

The violence is also not at a 15 level, so I’m surprised this didn’t get passed for a 12. There is some blood, but no bullet hits and the murders nothing at all gruesome. Bats is quite mean and brutal though, happy to stick a hood in the leg with a Batarang and then hit him in the wound to get him to talk.

This has clearly been created with the utmost care, with cool shot selection, visually exciting action sequences that are dynamic and easy to follow and with voice-acting that is faithful and not distracting. The only annoyance here is that instead of paying for Mark Hamill, we have opted to hire Troy Baker to do an impression of Hamill’s Joker.

A stride through Arkham, shows us the rest of the rogues’ gallery to come, but we do get some fun Solomon Grundy scenes in this first part. And that’s the elephant in the room: does it need to be two parts? Well, at 85 minutes, you don’t feel like you’re not getting your money’s worth, and it also means no elements are skimped on allowing for a nice complete-feeling adaptation of the story. But, it also means that this first bit is doing all the groundwork and set up and at times feels a bit dry and lacking quite enough murder, mayhem and villains. So, I suppose a lot depends on how good part 2 is…

The disc itself has vanilla menus that are static with a piece of the score looping. There’s scene selection and the option of either English, French, German or Spanish audio and subs in the same languages, with the English and German streams being hard-of-hearing (with sound effects and music cues also subbed).

The English is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 stream, that folds down nicely to stereo if you don’t have surround, and both the audio and video encodes were faultless, with a crisp and colourful picture and crystal clear sound throughout.

The bonus material includes DC Showcase: The Losers, which is a sixteen-minute short featuring military types led by Captain Storm, plus dog, on the deck of a sub fighting a Gamera-like creature under the water. They lose, get wrecked and wash up on an uncharted island full of flipping dinosaurs. It’s bloody, really exciting and a nice shot of adrenaline after a slightly too sedate feature. I would love to see a full feature with these dudes.

A sneak peek at Long Halloween, Part Two is a ten-minute featurette that features storyboards, clips and talking heads in the form of the creators. It also features Jensen Ackles, Billy Burke and Josh Duhamel talking about their characters and also very exciting peeks at what Scarecrow and Poison Ivy will look like.

Similar additional featurettes for Batman, The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1; Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and two episodes of the classic Batman: The Animated Series – Christmas with the Joker and It’s Never Too Late – are also present and make for a satisfying amount of quality extras.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One is released on digital on the June of 22nd and DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray steelbook on the 21st of June.

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