So how does Jensen do as the Dark Knight himself?
It's hard to talk about this movie without mentioning Batman: The Animated Series. Released in 1992, it came to define Batman for an entire generation. For many people, the voices of Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker) became THE definitive performances of the characters. In Long Halloween, it is clear even to my half-deaf ears that Jensen Ackles (Batman) and Troy Baker (Joker) are giving performances heavily inspired by Kevin and Mark.
I want to stress that word: INSPIRED. Too many actors when performing a role made famous by another will end up doing an imitation of the previous performer. Which is never good because instead of watching an actor pretending to be the character, you end up with an actor pretending to be another actor pretending to be the character. Even if the audience doesn't realize it, they can sense they're watching an inferior copy instead of an original. Jensen thankfully avoids this, delivering a performance in Kevin's classic style without trying to imitate Kevin's voice. He also goes and makes it unlike anything he's done before. I watched the film with a friend who's also a Supernatural fan (though a casual one) and throughout the film we challenged ourselves to "hear Jensen" and quite honestly, we barely could. Very rarely, he would utter a line and you could detect just the faintest reverb of Dean's usual voice at a pitch just underneath it. Otherwise, it was so different, we kept questioning if we were really hearing the same guy.
The movie does follow the principle that the Batman who's best is the one who speaks less (unless he's made of Lego) so some might say I'm being overly fanboyish towards Jensen here given that he might possibly have the fewest lines of any character in the film. To that I will point out that actors can mess up even a single line delivery and there are plenty of compilations on youtube of bad cartoon dubs to prove it. Besides, at a run time of 85 minutes there are still plenty of lines for him to deliver.
So, without spoilers, what's the movie about?
A killer is stalking Gotham and executing members of the mob on holidays. Batman, Commissioner Gordan, and district attorney Harvey Dent must work together to solve the mystery.
What kind of background knowledge do you need to watch it?
The bare basics of Batman lore will be required for the film: Bruce Wayne is Batman, and Selina Kyle is Catwoman. There are Easter eggs for the hardcore fans to get a chuckle, but anything else you need to know can be picked up from exposition and context clues in the scenes. It does not shy away from some of the weirder parts of Batman's lore so don't go into it thinking this is going to be a realistic, uber-gritty tale. This movie seems to take place early in Batman's career where he's a Dark Knight fighting crime, but hasn't yet become the World's Greatest Detective. The film duology seems to be the origin story of Batman earning that title.
The action sequences are well done and fairly exciting. It does earn it's PG-13 rating, though, with a few gruesome deaths that are thankfully more implied than explicit. I was also quite pleased with how "mature" the story telling was. By that I mean it frequently made efforts to show the audience parts of the story, holding back on dialog and exposition except when necessary. There are a lot of things going on or explained in subtext in the film which may make it confusing for younger viewers. A family watch for those with OLDER kids, NOT grade-schoolers.
Everyone else in the film does very well in their roles. I especially enjoyed Billy Burke (Bella's dad from Twilight) voicing commissioner Gordon, as I enjoy his work a lot, too.
Troy Baker pulls off a decent Joker on his own as well.
All in all, I enjoyed it and am looking forward to part 2 of the film (and my corresponding review) releasing on DVD next month (the movie released digitally on July 27).
Now if we can just get Jensen to go back and record Dean's lines for the Supernatural Anime...
Watch Jensen, Troy, several other members of the Batman cast, and the series' writer talk about their roles and give behind the scenes details of how they all came together to make this gem! You can see it all in Nightsky's Recap of the Batman: The Long Halloween Part 2 San Diego Comic-Con panel.
Please share below your thought about the movie!
Illustrated by Nightsky