I have a genuine question for everyone reading this:
Do you think The Long Halloween is a good mystery?
I’m not necessarily asking if you like the book or not. Loeb and Sale’s classic is a lot of things, but shallow is not one of them – so there are plenty of reasons to enjoy the epic outside of its central mystery. So, with that in mind: do you think the mystery itself is any good?
I asked this same question to my coworkers when a group of us sat down to watch The Long Halloween, Part One. The book has a lot of famous moments, but one of the biggest ones is its ending: revealing the true identity (or identities) of the Holiday Killer. Each of us sat down and tried to plot out the timeline of events in each of the book’s thirteen issues, in order to try and figure out how the killer could have pulled off each murder – and who the killer even was each time. By the end of the conversation, we’d managed to gleam some answers, but most of those only resulted in more questions cascading unto one another. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that The Long Halloween‘s mystery is inherently flawed.
(This isn’t in the movie, by the way.)
I think the creators of this movie thought the same thing. When I watch Part Two, I see, like in the animated adaptation of Hush, a team trying to improve upon a beloved classic to make it more relevant for modern audiences. I have mixed feelings on the result, but rest assured it certainly does a better job than Hush.
To begin, let’s start with some immediate positives. For those of you who read my first review and found myself to be a little harsh, you’ll be happy to know I absolutely did like Part Two a lot more than I liked Part One – and that’s primarily due to the love and care this film gives to Harvey Dent. Josh Duhamel, of Transformers and Jupiter’s Legacy fame, really pulls out the stops in this back half of the two-parter, and his delivery of the haunted and conflicted DA is only overshadowed by how he perfectly captures Two-Face himself. The way the movie frames Harvey’s transformation feels more natural than its source material – and is one of the instances where I do actually think this adaptation does a better job than the original. There’s a lot of depth to Harvey and how he interacts with the people around him, and if you’re going to watch the film, it should be primarily for one of the best on-screen Two-Face adaptations we’ve seen from DC so far.
As for the animation, I’d also view that as a big plus – though your mileage may vary depending on how beholden you are to Tim Sale’s art style. This movie – even more than the previous one, I think – does a great job at displaying the different strengths of animation and comic books, and how one cannot always substitute the other. Take this beautiful art of the Scarecrow, for instance. Easily my favourite page from the novel.
Now, take a look at how Part Two captures the same moment.
With an unlimited budget, sure, maybe Sale’s masterwork could be captured perfectly, and given motion to bring the scene to even further life. But, seeing as we don’t live in that fantasy world, The Long Halloween, Part Two sacrifices that for the sake of a style that works better for fluid action, while keeping consistent with other recent DC Animated movies of late. To that end, there’s also a lot to enjoy.
This movie is by far a faster-paced movie than Part One, and the action sequences are numerous and often completely unique. From the opening fight between Poison Ivy and Catwoman to the climax of the movie, each scene has a new setpiece that will charm and enrich you into this new depiction of Gotham. (One which has to take place in either 2000 or 2028, according to my maths. Ask me in the comments how I figured that out!)
There’s even an entirely new action sequence exclusive to the movie, and I think it ended up being a great one. This movie leans more into the suspicion of Harvey Dent as Holiday than the original book ever did, and seeing as Harvey is the biggest strength of the movie, that works to this film’s benefit.
Now, some of this praise is a detriment to both movies as well. For one, watching this movie only served to make me more frustrated with the agonizingly slow pacing of Part One. I caught some flak for that review, but I stand by a lot of what I said when I consider how this movie begins. To recap, Part One only covers the first four issues of the book’s thirteen-issue run, leaving nine issues for this movie to cover. It covered the content about as efficiently as I expected: playing out some issues in five minutes or less, and entirely skipping two issues entirely. At the very least, Poison Ivy should have been the climax of the previous movie, seeing as it would have brought the strange (but intriguing!) Selina-Bruce dynamic introduced in Part One to a head at the end of the film. Seeing as that’s not what happened, I felt like I was J. K. Simmons in the middle of Whiplash while I was watching the feature. Well, Long Halloween? Are you rushing, or are you dragging?
Hell, the movie goes by so fast that it forgets its own established tropes after a point. Remember the text that would accompany each murder, telling the audience the name of the holiday (often after we already know which holiday it is)? Yeah, those are forgotten pretty quickly, because the movie stops lingering on the Holiday killings for very long at all.
That’s not to say the movie has no slow scenes – and unlike the previous film, they feel a little more natural here. Another highlight of the film is Sofia Falcone, brought to life by distinguished voice actress Laila Berzins. Sofia’s one of the most charismatic parts of the movie, and I honestly now wish was in more Batman content. Then again, this movie is ultimately about the death of mobster rule in the wake of supervillainy – and to that extent, the movie does quite well.
Other critiques from Part One remain – scenes that feel like they should have had a music track are just as present here, and the movie once again ends with a fade-out that makes you feel like the creators don’t know how to properly transition to an ending credits – but now I’d actually like to talk about spoilers, because I feel very conflicted about some other creative decisions that have been made here. Seeing as this review is out a little late, you might have seen the film already – but just in case, I’ll be hiding these thoughts behind a spoiler tag.
The movie’s decision to simplify the identity of the Holiday Killer is a double-edged sword – one that I ultimately think was for the best, but also one that caused plenty of problems of its own. Alberto Falcone’s legitimate death at the end of Part One was a genuine surprise, and one that I didn’t think you’d be able to fake like he did in the comics. Getting shot is one thing, but getting shot and then falling into a propeller is another. Instead of the title of Holiday bouncing between three people, the title is only given to one prestigious individual: Gilda Dent, who explains herself at the back end of the movie.
Unlike her confession in the comic, her motivation is much more reasoned and logical, which does paint a more interesting depiction of the character than that of a somewhat crazed and delusional woman. Here, most of the Holiday killings line up with where she is at that point in the story – excluding a few which I’m not sure hold up under closer inspection. She elaborates that she used to be in a relationship with Alberto Falcone, and Carmine forced her to get rid of the child they had out of wedlock.
It’s a tragic explanation for Gilda’s obsession with the Falcone family, along with her desire to end their reign – even if it does clash with the theme of supervillains superceding the classic mobster. It’s not a very good reason for why Gilda murdered her completely innocent ex, Alberto, though. That, along with her marrying Harvey to get closer to the Falcones and her murdering the man who sold her the guns she used, paints her as something of a cold-hearted murderer, interesting motive or no.
You’d think that sort of thing would cause Batman to turn her in, seeing as he figures out who Holiday truly is in this adaptation. You certainly wouldn’t think he’d walk away from a woman who confessed to over a dozen–
Batman walks away?!
I’m sorry – I don’t think I’m someone who needs every iteration of Batman to adhere to a strict bible of what Batman should and should not do in any given situation. He’s a complicated character who can be interpreted in a lot of different ways, and discussing the ways he might act around certain criminals is part of what makes him a fun hero to dissect. But is there any reality, any possible universe, where Bruce Wayne’s Batman would casually let a murderer walk free just because she said she was “finished” with that lifestyle? (Don’t say Tynion’s Batman.)
Honestly, Batman’s characterization is something I have a lot of problems with in this movie. Half the cast seems to know his identity, from Catwoman to Alberto to even Carmine Falcone at the end of the movie – and the guy takes off his mask in the middle of Crime Alley, which is a concerning thing for Batman to do even if under the influence of fear toxin. The Batman of the source material isn’t a great detective either, but ultimately this Batman only really figures out Gida is the killer because he essentially thought Two-Face’s “vibes were off” when Holiday was mentioned. Coupled with the fact that I never really bought the comraderie between Batman and Harvey, it makes for a movie that doesn’t feel like it has much development in the way of its main character, despite some genuinely fantastic moments with him, Alfred and Selina.
Really, the whole film is like diving into a packet of jelly beans at random – you’ll get some of the beautiful orange ones, but a few of the black ones too, and you just have to take the good with the bad.
- You enjoyed Part One of the two-parter, but were hoping for a more intense second half.
- Josh Duhamel voicing one of Batman’s best rogues sounds like a good time to you!
- You’re okay with an adaptation taking a few liberties and trimming the fat of its source material… even if it doesn’t always know where exactly to trim.
It’s always interesting reviewing a movie like this – one where you really like some creative decisions. while take serious issue with others. I don’t think Parts One and Two knew how to properly divvy up their source material into a well-paced adaptation, but I also think what they did do was pretty decent. The second of the two instalments was definitely above average, and though I don’t plan on rewatching it any time soon, I would definitely suggest this to people who are looking to hear a little more about Two-Face before he inevitably gets adapted in another live-action film down the line. While I think the two movies overall are pretty average, I guess you could say Part Two… wasn’t half bad.
Parts One and Two, Combined Score: 5/10 (This one may be subject to change)
Sorry. You’ll never have to hear two-related puns from me again. I’ll be going now.
(P.S. Watch out for another post-credits scene!)
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this movie for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch
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