Gotta give credit where credit is due – Batman: The Long Halloween Part II dropping only a month after the first part premiered was perfect timing.
A month is just enough time for the plot to stay fresh in one’s mind. But it’s also long enough to bring the good to the forefront and push the bad to the background. Especially when the movie in question is good and there’s not a lot that requires pushing back.
The second part certainly benefited from coming onto our screens when the buzz from the first movie just started to die down. The anticipation for the second started rising, letting the viewers breathe a little in between, without letting the interest die down.
Especially, considering, the first movie cut off when things really started going into the climax
So, was the month-long wait worth it?
The Set-Up: Timeskip, Ongoing Mystery, MORE Rogues
Let’s dial back a little to refresh the first movie in our minds. It ends at a double-defeat of Batman, so to speak, both as a caped crusader and as Bruce Wayne.
Right at the end, the mysterious Holiday killer brutally kills Carmine Falcone’s son Alberto and manages to escape Batman’s pursuit. It’s a dark but truly masterful animated sequence involving yacht propellers. It has no business being as good as it is.
In a post-credit scene – which hopefully you didn’t skip, and if you did, stop reading to avoid the spoilers (and do not start watching Part II, it will scarcely make sense) – Bruce Wayne gets trapped in Carmine Falcone’s web. If failure as the detective wasn’t bad enough.
In an unexpected (unless you’ve read the original comics, of course) twist, it turns out that Carmine Falcone is actually a worthy adversary who covers his bases. So when Bruce refuses to help him with money laundering, Falcone reveals to have hired Poison Ivy to ensure his cooperation.
And that’s where we left. Bruce Wayne is mind-controlled by Ivy and Falcone, after having failed to stop the Holiday killer.
Part II picks the plot up 3 months after. Poison Ivy (and Carmine Falcone by proxy) is still controlling Bruce (along with Alfred!). The Holiday Killer is still at large having stricken on Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, and April Fools’ Day, leaving multiple bodies behind.
Unlike Part I though, the action is quicker to arrive with Batman getting into altercations with multiple Rogues on multiple occasions. Fortunately, not at the expense of mob politics which still remain the center of the movie.
Where The Long Halloween 2 Went Right
Right out of the gate – pacing in Part II is MUCH better than Part I. If you were one of the fans who complained about “too much talking, not enough action” in the first movie, then this one is bound to make you happy. Especially in the last third.
All in all, the balance between the action sequences and the Mob politics going on in the movie is much better. Luckily, the movie doesn’t forget that at the heart it’s a murder mystery. It does tumble with pacing a few times, especially in the middle, but not at the expense of the plot and characters. In the end, that is what matters the most.
The creators of Batman: The Long Halloween understand that the original graphic novel’s greatest strength is its atmosphere of Gotham. It manages to merge two sometimes far two distinctly separated sides of Batman mythos: superpowered rogues and criminal underbelly.
And the movie capitalizes on it to the fullest.
The Rogues are well aware of who the power players of the Gotham underworld are. They have seemingly strong work relationships with them if doing work with their usual bizarre pizzaz. The Mob considers the Rogues just as suitable enforcers as any other, hiring each for their unique skillset depending on their needs.
In The Long Halloween, Gotham feels whole, and the screen adaptation, especially Part II, amps up this feeling, making the upset balance with the mob’s downfall and the rogues’ rise after the birth of the Two-Face feel all the more full of sinister foreboding.
Two Words About the Rogues
This is another thing the movie does right by the way. Harvey Dent’s transformation into a mentally deranged supervillain is portrayed with all the care it deserves.
It’s a tense and harrowing sequence. Any Batman fan tangentially acquainted with canon knowing what’s coming after Harvey is attacked. But you can’t help but feel tense all throughout, witnessing Harvey start disassociating more and more as evidence of him being the Holiday killer mounts.
You’d expect the movie to falter here and move the focus from the Holiday killer to the Rogues. But as the climax starts unfolding with the Two-Face attacking the Arkham Asylum and setting the locked up Rogues on a rampage throughout Gotham, it – like the original graphic novel – manages to bring everything together beautifully. Even with the increased focus on the rogues.
The strongest part of Batman: The Long Halloween Part II is that it escapes the biggest temptation and potential pitfall of the story. It never forgets that this is supposed to be a detective thriller. The main threat is an ever-elusive killer at the center, whom no one, not even Batman, can stop.
No matter where the story goes, the true climax lies with the final reveal.
WhereThe Long Halloween 2 Falls Short
Perhaps unsurprisingly, but similar to Part I, the main weakness of this movie is the runtime. The creators’ insistence to split the original material into two parts makes perfect sense. Balancing the number of characters, storylines, and narrative twists involved would be next to impossible otherwise. But it didn’t need quite as much time to come alive.
Two parts of around 70-75 minutes each would benefit pacing and storytelling in both parts. It would eliminate the need for prolonged sequences, when both dialogue and action felt dragged. As well as help avoid the few tumbles both movies took in the middle.
While 15 minutes of sequence a movie on average may not sound like much, with careful cutting and editing it makes a world of difference. And while a shortened runtime sometimes does narrative damage, it bears to keep in mind that The Long Halloween adaptation would still come around 2,5 hours in total.
Unnecessary Changes to the Plot
As is, even Part II feels the need to add storylines that weren’t in the original graphic novel. Even though it’s more action-heavy, deals with more characters and needs to bring multiple narrative points together.
For example, Catwoman’s quest for finding her origin, which was unnecessary to the overarching plot. Catwoman already gets more than a few minutes to shine. There’s no need to add another plotline, one that has nothing to do with Holiday murders, for her.
And with the reveal of Holiday Killer comes, perhaps the one true shortcoming of the movie. Or, dare I say, two:
- The unnecessary connection between them and the Marcone family. It wasn’t in the comics and added nothing, aside from a cheap soap opera feel;
- Letting Batman get the answer, even if he has no proof to bring them to justice.
The original graphic novel is in many ways iconic due to depicting Batman’s defeat on multiple fronts. He cannot save Harvey, he cannot untangle Holiday murders, he cannot even get all the answers to put his mind to rest.
And while the movie doesn’t let him get a win, it does let him get a little closure. Does it upend everything the movie did right? No. But it would be better if it didn’t.
Like the original graphic novel isn’t considered strictly canon in Batman mythos Batman: The Long Halloween dilogy isn’t strictly part of DC animated continuity.
(Though, considering the anti-Flashpoint reboot and “everything that’s ever happened is canon now” attitude DC comics has going right now that might not be true anymore).
And it greatly benefits from it.
Completely free to make narrative decisions, the creative team focuses on bringing the best adaptation possible. While they diverge from the original plotline at certain (major) points, overall it’s a genuinely good sequel. It ties the plot together smoothly and rather masterfully, if not without a few hiccups.
This is the version of Batman that we need to see more often. A detective first and foremost, fighting against street-level crime.
While watching him dealing with planetary-level threats along with the Justice League is fun, in the end, Batman will always be at his most interesting and entertaining when trying to solve complicated mysteries. Especially when he fails, showcasing that he’s still only a mortal man, who can be defeated by another ordinary person with no superpowers.
The Long Halloween offers Batman at his best. Vulnerable and struggling, yet determined to do his best by Gotham no matter the cost.
And it does so packaged in well-executed murder mystery full of great action scenes, beautiful animation, and some of the best voice acting in DC animation. Jensen Ackles already demonstrated he makes an exemplary Batman in Part I. John DiMaggio popping up voicing a DC villain is always a treat.
Batman: The Long Halloween Part II may not be perfect, but it is unequivocally good. And sometimes good is more than enough.