Batman The Long Halloween, Part One is the first of a two-part home-video release based on the 13-issue comic book miniseries written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale. Set in the early days of Batman’s crime-fighting career, the Caped Crusader works to stop a killer who strikes on holidays.
On Halloween night, Johnny Vitti, nephew of mob boss Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver), is murdered “the night before he’s gonna turn State’s evidence.” Police Captain Jim Gordon (Billy Burke) brings together Batman (Jensen Ackles) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) to take down Carmine and the entire Falcone crime family. Harvey thinks Carmine had Johnny killed. Considering all the evidence, Batman isn’t so sure. Some think new boss Salvatore Maroni had Johnny whacked while Carmine puts the ultimate blame on the gung ho new new DA who is coming after the Falcone family.
Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Naya Rivera) and Bruce Wayne/Batman have a relationship. In the latter role, she leads Batman to $1 billion of Falcone’s money. Batman alerts Harvey, and to determine if they are going to turn the money over to police or burn it, Batman gives Harvey the coin to flip for the decision.
Carmine hires San Ho Hui Triad gang member Mickey Chen to blow up Harvey’s house. Luckily, Harvey and his wife Gilda, who have a strained marriage, survive. On Thanksgiving, Mickey and his crew are killed.
On Xmas Eve, Gordon and Batman visit Calendar Man in Arkham Asylum, reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs, for the identity of the killer now known as “Holiday.” He gives three possibilities: Carmine, Salvatore, and Harvey. While there, Batman discovers the Joker has escaped. The Joker doesn’t like the idea of someone else becoming the city’s most notorious villain and he puts Harvey and Carmine on notice. While pursing the Joker, Carmine’s bodyguard is killed.
A week later, Joker tries to gas the New Year’s Eve revelers, assuming there’s a good chance Holiday has to be in the crowd. Batman thinks he has solved Holiday’s identity until his main suspect is killed at the stroke of midnight. In the post-credits scene, Bruce meets Carmine’s new assistant and falls under the spell of Poison Ivy, setting up a great cliff hanger.
With no memory of the comic book, the story is enjoyable. Batman hasn’t become a master detective yet and is still feeling his way as the Gotham’s vigilante hero. With all the victims so far and the circumstances surrounding their deaths, Harvey is the number one suspect and longtime Bat fans know he will become the villain Two Face at some point. The parallel relationship stories make the characters and their lives richer. The Joker involvement in the story makes sense while another character met in the sewer didn’t add anything to the story.
The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The film has a dark color scheme with the characters frequently in nighttime Gotham City exteriors. Bright red lights augment the Chinatown streets. Aside from garishly bright hues of the Joker, the characters are predominantly seen wearing dark colors. Blacks are inky. Rain and snow flurries make scenes visually dynamic. The art, particularly the establishing shots and backgrounds of Gotham building, impresses.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Dialogue is consistently clear. Composer Michael Gatt’s score and the ambient effects, especially the weather, fill the surrounds. The dynamic range is wide, from the soft scratch of a match lighting to the loud rumble of gunfire and explosions. The latter gets good bass support from the subwoofer.
The Special Features, which are in HD, are:
- DC Showcase: The Losers (16 min) – A ragtag group of WWII soldiers working with Chinese agent Fan Long land on an uncharted island where dinosaurs still roam. It’s a fun adventure that brings to mind the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but like the main feature is part of a larger story, although where it concludes is anybody’s guess.
- Sneak Peak at Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two (9 min) – The creative team speak about the second movie in the series.
- Previews for the previously released The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 (13 min); Gotham by Gaslight (8 min)
- From the DC Vault: Batman: The Animated Series:
- “Christmas with the Joker” (22 min) – The series second episode is a holiday themed episode with the Joker having escaped from Arkham Asylum and the Dynamic Duo interrupt their Xmas Eve plans to find him.
- “It’s Never Too Late” (22 min) – The series twelfth episode find Batman in the middle of a mob war between bosses Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell.
Although it’s only half of the overall story, Batman The Long Halloween, Part One is an enjoyable addition to the DC Universe Movie series and will surely make one seek out Part Two, which is now available on Digital and on Blu-ray August 10. The high-def presentation highlights the work of those involved in the movie’s video and audio. Hope to learn where The Losers story will continue.