Batman: The Long Halloween — Part One

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$29.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence, bloody images, language and some smoking.
Voices of Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Billy Burke, Titus Welliver, David Dastmalchian, Troy Baker, Amy Landecker, Julie Nathanson, Jack Quaid, Fred Tatasciore, Jim Pirri, Alastair Duncan, Naya Rivera.

Originally released in 1996 and 1997 and best known today as a graphic novel collection, the comic book miniseries “Batman: The Long Halloween” is considered one of the seminal works of the Batman canon.

Taking place over the course of a year early in Batman’s career, “The Long Halloween” tells the story of how Gotham City transitioned from gangland violence to being overrun with costumed supervillains, while also tracking the toll it takes on new district attorney Harvey Dent, who eventually becomes the villain Two-Face.

This first half of the two-part animated adaptation (the second half coming in a month) is heavily focused on the mafia side of things, and feels very much like Batman (Jensen Ackles) has been dropped into the plot of The Godfather.

This is a Batman still perfecting his skills as a vigilante. He makes obvious mistakes, isn’t too adept at jumping from roof to roof just yet, and he doesn’t seem interested in being a detective. He forms a pact with Dent (Josh Duhamel) and police Capt. Gordon (Billy Burke) to clean up the gang wars, but this only puts more of a target on Dent’s back, much to the chagrin of his wife. It also opens the door for the costumed crazies that Batman has inspired, such as the Joker (Troy Baker) and Catwoman (voiced by the late Naya Rivera in one of her final roles), as a serial killer begins targeting key mob personnel each month on a festive holiday.

Batman fans already familiar with the “Long Halloween” arc should appreciate the adaptation, which matches the animation style of the earlier Superman: Man of Tomorrow and Justice Society: World War II, potentially putting it in the same shared universe as those adventures. Long Halloween was reportedly intended to kick off this new continuity years ago, but was delayed when it looked as if Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be doing the storyline.

Casual Bat-fans who don’t know the graphic novel will likely recognize many aspects of the story, particularly the troika of Batman, Dent and Gordon, and the focus on Gotham’s mob bosses, from Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, which was heavily influenced by Long Halloween.

The Blu-ray includes a nine-minute preview of the upcoming part two, which delves further into Dent’s transformation into Two-Face.

There are also showcases for previously released Batman animated movies The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and Gotham by Gaslight.

As is customary for these DC Universe releases, the Blu-ray also contains two cartoons from the Warner Bros. catalog that are thematically similar to the movie — in this case, the “Batman: The Animated Series” episodes “Christmas With the Joker” and “It’s Never Too Late.”

Also included is the newest DC Showcase animated short film, the 16-minute The Losers. This one’s about a special forces unit during World War II caught up in a mission on an island overrun by dinosaurs brought from the past by a powerful energy barrier. The premise seems cobbled together from a few familiar sources and as a whole the short doesn’t amount to much, but the implications of some of the plot developments could be intriguing if explored further.

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Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/4/19;
Warner;
Animated;
$24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for fantasy violence.
Voices of Troy Baker, Darren Criss, Kyle Mooney, Baron Vaughn, Eric Bauza, Rachel Bloom, John DiMaggio, Tara Strong, Tom Kenny, Carlos Alazraqui, Cas Anvar, Keith Ferguson, Brian George, Ben Giroux, Andrew Kishino, Jim Meskimen.

The popularity of the 2015-16 Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book miniseries made a movie version a no-brainer. Fortunately, respective rights holders Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon agreed to join forces to produce the pleasantly surprising Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bringing the two worlds together is a better fit than one might imagine, as both Batman and TMNT present heroes expertly trained in the martial arts with a vast supporting cast to play off of.

The key team up here, however, is between the villains, as the story brings together like-minded cult leaders Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul in an alliance that forces Batman and the turtles to join forces to stop them.

The film has fun pairing up different members of the supporting casts, and presents some great fight sequences, most notably Batman taking on all four turtles at once, and another of Batman in a brutal one-on-one showdown with Shredder.

The colorful animation style is evocative of the classic designs of many of the characters without looking too cartoony, finding a nice balance between the absurdity of the premise and a story that takes itself seriously but doesn’t forget to keep a tongue in its cheek. Yet it also doesn’t forget the nature of its characters and isn’t afraid to play up the bloody violence of which they’re capable.

The comic book itself a collaboration between two companies, DC Comics and IDW, spawned a second miniseries in 2017 and a third in 2019. So there should be plenty of material for future movies to work with.

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The Blu-ray includes the featurettes “Cowabunga, Batman! When Comic Worlds Collide,” an interesting look at the history of comic book crossovers that runs about 13 minutes, and “Fight Night in Gotham,” an 18-minute video that delves into the animation techniques used to depict the different fight match-ups and the fighting styles of the characters.