Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2 might just be the darkest Batman movie yet. Not because of the violence, although it certainly contains bloody fistfights and murders. Nor because of any Tim Burton style kinkiness, although the virtual camera does love the curves on Catwoman and Poison Ivy. Not even because of any particular “grimdark” on the part of Bruce Wayne, who still aspires to greater heroics.
It’s the story and themes that are grim. This is the tale of one man and one family becoming systematically destroyed, as order gets overtaken by chaos. And the heroes can do nothing to stop it. At best, they can clean up afterward. For real-life police, response rather than anticipation is a steady part of the job. However, we expect comic book heroes to stop the disaster, rather than simply catching the culprit.
Christopher Nolan adapted several moments from The Long Halloween comic, even though he stripped out some of the more comic book aspects. His fall of Harvey Dent was the Joker’s fault; The Long Halloween indicts a system rather than the chaos. And Josh Duhamel, who might have made a fine live-action Harvey Dent, proves as effective doing a monster voice for Two-Face as he is for the more human Dent. It’s a tricky balance that could have gone very wrong; something Nolan fans know well from Christian Bale’s occasionally risible Bat-rasp.
It’s pretty much a given that anyone watching this will at least have seen The Long Halloween, Part 1, and most likely knows their Batman basics. So nobody should have trouble keeping up when it begins with Bruce Wayne under Poison Ivy’s long-term hypnotic spell, even though she only appeared in the last movie’s post-credits scene. Having guessed wrong regarding the Holiday killer’s identity, Batman is now completely sidelined in a plant venom-induced fantasy.
The body count keeps going up, with both the Falcone crime family and Harvey Dent getting more and more desperate. Evidence also increasingly starts to point toward Dent as the killer, as he starts to dissociate and develop a voice in his head. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Batman’s rogue’s gallery knows where this can only conclude. Mercifully, the dialogue in Part 2 doesn’t feel the need to foreshadow it so hard.
Maybe Nolan’s quick killing off of Two-Face made it less upsetting, somehow, than the notion that he remains alive but ruined as a human. The Long Halloween, Part 2 feels unique among Batman movies in its lack of triumph.
The mindset of a never-ending battle against the darkness, and that duty to hold it back regardless, seldom shows up in the live-action movies. Most of those seem more preoccupied with Bruce — or Alfred, on his behalf — finding a graceful exit strategy and a family. A Batman who sees the horror show and commits anyway feels like a truer Batman than Hollywood dares go with. Jaded and/or lonely are easier takes to play to the masses, perhaps. Actual law enforcement folks may vibe with this version a little better.
Visually, this installment does some wonderful things with snow. It also includes a show-stopper of a Scarecrow hallucination sequence. In it, the current DC animation “house style” becomes something more akin to stylized comic art. And this is the kind of story that features Solomon Grundy, but never explains him, something a movie playing to non-comics readers would feel obliged to do. To be honest, though, any other movie randomly featuring a Frankenstein-ish creation living in the sewers as a fait accompli would still rule.
A step above the usual DC animated offerings, The Long Halloween, Part 2 delivers its gut punch in a manner that creeps up on the viewer. It’s an effect that mirrors the way the more lunatic villains of Gotham slowly rise to eclipse the mob. No one moment brings it home; just the cumulative impact of the whole thing. Stay tuned after the credits for a slightly happier beat.
In complete contrast, the Blu-ray features a bonus Blue Beetle short, done in the style of 1960s superhero cartoons. For viewers too young to remember the tropes of 60 year-old ‘toons — probably a majority — they will be familiar from similar parodies like The Ambiguously Gay Duo. But there’s a mildly meta element. The characters know they’re Charlton Comics characters, for one thing. And the objectivist politics of The Question become a frequent source of mockery. He even busts out Ben Shapiro’s “Facts don’t care about your feelings” catchphrase. If this and the previous Kirby-style Kamandi short indicate a new level of individual styles and tones for these things, there will be much to look forward to.
There’s also an advance look at Injustice, which seems like a pointed attempt to win over #ContinueTheSnyderVerse fans by being as murderous as possible. Be warned that it spoils at least one major death.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2 arrives Aug. 10 on Blu-ray, and is available on digital now.
Recommended Reading: Batman: The Long Halloween
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