It's no easy task adapting a classic Batman comic, and that struggle was notable in 'Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One'. It was far from a dreadful telling, and it certainly had its heart in the right place. Although despite its good intentions, the efforts of 'Part One' to condense the labyrinthine nature of its source material ultimately fell short. Weeks on, we now have the final part of the story in 'Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two' - a film that, while also suspect to many of the pitfalls present in 'Part One', is a far more confident piece revelling in increased stakes and a growing list of rogues.
With Bruce Wayne (Jensen Ackles, TV's 'Supernatural') under the spell of Poison Ivy, Batman has been missing for months. The Holiday Killer is still at large, and without the aid of the Dark Knight, Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel, 'Transformers') is losing control. He's trying to end the mob war, revive his marriage, and come to grips with a voice in his head pitching less than desirable ideas. Moreover, as mob boss Carmine Falcone (Titus Welliver, 'The Town') continues to lose loved ones at the hands of Holiday, he sees no choice but to enlist the help of Gotham's supervillains. The actions of these men delve them into a fate neither can turn back from. And with the calendar nearing Halloween, Batman becomes witness to a changing power in Gotham City.
As mentioned, a lot of the issues in 'Part One' unfortunately carries over to 'Part Two'. The animation is still quite stiff. The filmmakers still stumble in handling such a sprawling tale. And to a certain extent, this film is also guilty of feeling flat in places. Some of these factors are to be expected when you remember this is a direct continuation. Of course, the filmmakers wouldn't change their art style just because they decided to split the film into two. However, it does keep the film from ever truly encompassing the brilliance of the text. That said, 'Part Two' finds itself a tad more comfortable as the narrative ramps up.
The key difference is that 'Part Two' holds a much firmer grip on storytelling. Whereas many of the character interactions in 'Part One' felt stilted, in 'Part Two', these characters can breathe. When this film takes its time, it feels far more purposeful. It's also able to orchestrate a stronger sense of dread because finality beckons. The physical conflicts of 'Part One' often played like side quests to the excess of simmering tension at that film's centre. Although, with the story building to a close, the marriage between tension and conflict is a much smoother blend in 'Part Two'. It's not a night and day type of difference, but it's certainly more engaging.
The film also relishes involving more of Batman's rogues' gallery. The film takes full advantage of the Scarecrow and Poison Ivy to create palpable discomfort. But it is the turn of one character that garners the most intrigue. I doubt it would be a spoiler to note that 'Part Two' sees the transformation of Harvey Dent into the villainous Two-Face. After all, the DVD cover does show his scarred side. And this interpretation of Dent's metamorphosis is compelling. It may not stand alongside the best renditions, but 'Part Two' benefits from a steady descent into madness stretching back to 'Part One'. Festered through Josh Duhamel's desperate vocal performance, seeing Dent's dark side flourish is always interesting to watch, and that's still the case here.
While it can be said that 'Part Two' is an improvement over what came previously, it's still a lukewarm recommendation. 'Part Two' is a watchable take on a key point in Batman's mythology, but it won't stick long in the memory in the same manner the comic does.
But while 'Part Two' fares much better than its predecessor, it isn't without its own problems. The film seriously falters in the alterations it makes to the text. Changes made to Catwoman's motivations to integrate her into the story more are fairly uninspired. And without giving too much away, there's a change to the ending that is nothing short of baffling. A moment of ambiguity, with knowledge previously privy to only a certain character and the reader, now includes Batman. But, by doing this, the resulting choice of making Batman just look the other way feels totally misjudged. 'Part One' made some subtle changes, and many were for the better, but big deviations like those seen in 'Part Two' do nothing to serve this adaptation.
So, although it can be said that 'Part Two' is an improvement over what came previously, it's still a lukewarm recommendation. 'Part Two' is a watchable take on a key point in Batman's mythology, but it won't stick long in the memory in the same manner that the comic does. It has a suitably eerie tone and the needed gothic tendencies, but what it doesn't have is the impact.
Call me a purist but 'The Long Halloween' is a perfect text. And while this attempt to bring the story to animation hasn't been insulting to the effect of something like 'The Killing Joke', it's a long way from matching the reverence of the comic. It doesn't match the animated versions of titles like 'Year One' or 'The Dark Knight Returns'; it's firmly in the middle. It's fine - no more, no less. And with DC animation bringing a comic as brilliant as 'The Long Halloween' to life, you'd ultimately hope for something more than just fine. Despite a sturdy finish, I'll still be sticking to my paperback.