Batman: The Long Halloween – a comic that should be a movie

Feature Rob Leane 2 Jan 2014 - 06:25

With Batfleck set to debut alongside Superman in 2015, Rob reckons The Long Halloween should be the next Batman story to be filmed...

Published by DC between 1996 and 1997, Jeph Loeb’s 13-part Batman series could be the perfect starting point for a new Batman franchise, which is surely something Warner Brothers are hoping for into as they try to build their own cinematic universe to rival Marvel’s.

The tone of this celebrated comic run is known to have influenced Christopher Nolan’s world building in Batman Begins, but the actual plot and structure of the story could be an excellent way to launch a new series with an older, more experienced Batman.

As Warner Brothers looks to re-establish The World’s Greatest Detective (no, not Sherlock) as a seasoned crime-fighter who has been active for several years, a text like this filled with pre-established versions of popular characters could be a unique, attention-grabbing way to reintroduce Gotham to the screen without the need to rehash any old plot points or origin stories in the way that garnered so much negativity for The Amazing Spider-Man.

The plot follows a year in the life of The Dark Knight as a string of murders on national holidays leave him stumped and push his detective skills to the limit. The victims are all linked to the Falcone crime family and The Bat is fully submerged into the dark underbelly of Gotham to seek out the killer.

Proudly displaying Batman’s skills of detection would be a welcome change to the Nolanverse where one of the few criticisms was the fact that Batman’s espionage attempts mainly included punching people in the face and shouting questions at them. A chapter near the end where Batman is undercover as a prison security guard would be particularly thrilling to watch unfold on the big screen.

Following Batman through this yearlong investigation would also be a welcome change to the usual closing act epic punch-up which is quickly becoming a super-cliché. Batman Versus Superman (featuring Wonder Woman) is sure to be a huge Zack Snyder picture filled with massive fights and unfathomable explosions and in the wake of Man of Steel and Avengers Assemble, a superhero film which plays out more like a gritty detective thriller could really capture audience’s imaginations.

The plot of The Long Halloween also allows for cameos from villains, which could be an effective sounding-board for which characters Warner Brothers could tackle next. In the comic, Batman’s search for the murderer known as Holiday leads him to the Riddler who survived an encounter with the serial killer. Catwoman and Poison Ivy also open the doors for some great female performances and even the Joker appears to attack Gotham Square on New Year’s Eve, distracting Batman from his investigation.

At the same time Harvey Dent, still district attorney and notably one-faced at this point, begins to think that Bruce Wayne might be the killer due to an link between his father and the murder victims, which leads to a court case scene which could allow Affleck some time to prove himself outside of the cowl. Trips to Arkham also allow appearances from enigmatic imprisoned suspect Calendar Man and a break-out attempt by Scarecrow. If Affleck’s Batman has been fighting crime for years, the idea that all these costumed psychopaths exist already would surely be more believable than attempting to reintroduce any villain already established by Nolan.

Potential problems

Despite the presence of all these established villains, there is one villain who gets an origin story in The Long Halloween which would cause problems for a direct adaptation, and that’s Harvey Dent’s transition into Two-Face. Aaron Eckhart’s version of this story in The Dark Knight is still fresh in the memories of movie goers, especially considering that Two-Face’s legacy was a key narrative point in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Any attempt at recasting the Two-Face origin story on screen at the time that the next standalone Batman film might hit screens (2017, anyone?) would undoubtedly seem like a rehash compared to the 2008 version. This isn’t a completely unavoidable problem though; there’s a lot crammed into this 369 page comic and the story would still hold up without the Two-Face factor, although more emotion might need to be injected in other areas to make up for it.

A bigger re-casting issue would be the impossible task of finding a new Joker for the New Year’s Eve set piece. Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance in his tragic final role is truly iconic and many believe it equals, if not surpasses, Jack Nicholson’s turn in Burton’s Batman. Again, the story could survive without the Joker part but the problem of recasting Batman’s nemesis must be faced by Warner Brothers at some point.

Unlike the Two-Face story, which is overtly similar to the 2008 screen version, the Joker’s appearance in The Long Halloween is relatively short and completely disparate to his archaic appearance in The Dark Knight. This could actually be a chance to fleetingly reintroduce the character without risking the whole movie, where the search for Holiday would be the main story.

With the casting of Affleck as Batman it’s clear that Warner Brothers aren’t afraid of trying different things, which could lead to a better decision than if they simply went looking for someone to do their best Ledger impression. Previous hot rumour for the part Johnny Depp is arguably too similar to Ledger to pull it off in his own unique way, with their similarity highlighted by Depp’s appearance as another side of Ledger’s character’s personality in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus.

To cast an older Joker who has been battling Bats for years brings two suggestions to mind. Jack Nicholson is one, but returning to a role he played so well in the 80s might not be a wise choice for him at the age of 76. There’s a fine line between an older Joker and an OAP one after all. Mark Hamill is the second name that jumps out, seeing as his run as the go-to voice of The Man Who Laughs in animations and video games (most recently Arkham City) has been a firm fan favourite for years.

One recalls reading an interview with Carrie Fisher saying that JJ Abrams had hired personal trainers to get all the older Star Wars cast members back into shape for the new instalment and if this is true, Hamill (now in his fifties) may finally look the part for a brief screen appearance in the role which has kept him busy post-Jedi. Fans of his earlier audio performances surely couldn’t argue with his credentials. Whoever steps into the clown shoes is sure to come under a mountain of scrutiny though, which might overshadow the movie and put Warner Brothers off the idea.

There is also the small matter of slightly resettling the narrative. Despite the returning villains and established supporting characters, the comic itself is actually a follow-up to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, which is set (as you might have guessed) in the early days of The Dark Knight’s crime fighting career, which is why the Joker isn’t behind bars and Two-Face doesn’t yet exist.

It would only take a few changes (such as removing the Two-Face origin as discussed earlier) to resettle the narrative a bit later into Batman’s career. The main bulk of the story, Batman investigating a mysterious killer surrounded by the ongoing threat of his growing rogue’s gallery, would work beautifully as a movie which could establish a new Batman without another screen depiction of his parents’ death.

Will it ever happen?

It’s a complete certainty that Warner Brothers are hoping for an Avengers-sized box office behemoth with Batman Versus Superman, which would inevitably allow them to spin out a new Batman series with Ben Affleck in the cowl. 

Seeing as our new Dark Knight is believed to be a seasoned crime fighter who has been battling baddies in Gotham for many years, they may be looking for a source material which already includes established villains rather than needing to reintroduce them, which would set them back further in trying to set up a wide-scoped shared universe to rival Marvels.

So a story like this is likely to be the next we see of live action Batman after 2015. This writer’s money is on a 2017 release if they manage to negotiate the casting complications listed earlier.

What would you like to see in the next standalone Batman film? Let us know in the comments below!

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Yeah good idea. I love Long Halloween, Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome. But i have a strange feeling that after Batman vs Superman, Warners will go straight to Justice League and then into solo films.

I mean I like The Long Halloween but it has more problems than you mention. Firstly, are people really going to get excited about a year long detective story. That kind of slow burn works on TV, but for a modern blockbuster audience it may well drag.
More importantly is the cast size. The Long Halloween has so many villains that if you are going to have any kind of talent in these roles this movie will cost a fortune and I certainly don't want to see some barely talented extras playing The Falcones or Calendar Man.

They kinda took the meat out of Long Halloween for the Dark Knight Trilogy though, havent they? Scenes like burning the stash of money, the roof top triumvirate and the take on Harvey/Two Face all come from this series. It is a really interesting one to go with though, and it would be cool to see Batman really submerged in street level crime without the main villian being from the Rogues Gallery.

The Long Halloween wouldn't work as a film anytime soon the best bits were seen in the Dark Knight. theres a lot of other stories with great elements that could translate into future movies the recent Court of Owls story by Snyder was outstanding, or the Dr Hurt character from Grant Morrisons run. Theres a great story called Absolution in which Batman hunts down a former employee who carried out a terrorist attack on Wayne enterprises and is forced to question if people can really change, or theres always Hugo Strange who was a brilliant enemy in Arkham City and is great in the story Prey. I do think however its time Robin was shown proper respect stories like Robin Year One and Nightwing Year One could be very entertaining on the big screen.

Ben Afflick will be a dreadful Batman, mark my words..wet and unconvincing.

The Long Halloween is one of my favourite Batman stories & would make a great movie, but I doubt that it ever will. Warner's seem to put spectacle above plot, with huge set pieces & big bangs, whereas The Long Halloween is a good old fashioned detective story with a twist ending. It is more film noir than tent pole & while I'd love to see it, I can't envision the studio going for it.

Wait... "The impossible task of finding a new Joker"? Really?

With all due respect we've heard that before after Nicholson's take on the character and it was cobblers then too. In that particular case it was followed up just three years later in the animated series by Luke Skywalker, what chance did THAT version have? Yet Hamill didn't just hold his own but establish a real claim to being the definitive take on Mister J. Heck he's even managed to deliver different versions depending on the particular medium / target audience with the Arkham games Joker showing what can be done without the need to hit a kid friendly rating.

Now while I'm not for one moment suggesting he should do the movie version (though if they want to overdub Joker and Bats with Hamill and Conroy I will never ever leave the cinema for the entire run of that film!). But casting a new Joker is fairly easy provided they do two things: 1) Do not, under any circumstances, recast the role. Write a new take on the character and let whoever you cast run with it in their own fashion. 2) Related note but try to create a different universe for the whole Bat franchise than the one Nolan did.

Provided it's something new and different and - above all else - good the audience will accept it. If it's seen as a cheap knockoff they won't.

I say just make it an animated movie.

I want a Mr. Freeze movie.

I think Nolan himself claimed to have been inspired by The Long Halloween and took several key elements from it, mainly the rooftop meetings and Harvey Dent.

Mark Hamill is 62 not "in his fifties".

Stick to Batman centered Justice League films for the next decade. Then after that reboot with a proper batman film not the 911 inspired terrorism mess of the last film.

I'd rather see a new story honestly. also Long Halloween is over-rated...

"I believe in Harvey Dent" is straight out of Long Halloween.

Just reading Robin Year One at the moment and I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying it.

Good thing they cast Ben Affleck instead...

Haha yes well spotted my spelling mistake..apologies

I understand they took a lot out of long Halloween beyond my examples but I agree there is too much in recent batman movie to use it again. If Zach Snyder is involved do the dark knight returns... It's more of a vision story that would suit him, could work for batman... There is a lot expected of Affleck, as much as people dismiss him, it would be cool if he pulled something out of the bag

Yeah its really good theres a follow up Batgirl Year One which is brilliant and then the Nightwing Year One which is really entertaining too and also introduces Jason Todd. Tim Drakes Robin had a couple of trades called a Hero Reborn and Tragedy and Triumph which are worth hunting down they show his early days as Robin the second one is especially good.

And which film is that? TDK was about the war on terror, but TDKR was more about the Occupy movement. Either way they are great films, but WB should go straight to the comics

The best Batman story for me. Most say The Dark Knight Returns or Year One, they are incredible but don't have the right Batman tone for me. The Long Halloween is definitive Batman, gothic fantastical and slightly off-kilter Gotham, beautiful art, Batman as a detective and not just a superhero, loads of classic villains and the two-face story is perfect. One of the best endings in comics as well

sounds like those are the only ones you've read.

Yeah the version of Robin Year One I'm reading has Batgirl Year One in it as well. Thanks for the heads up about the others though :-)

We need more dumbed down comic books for the masses!

I actually thought Jack Nicholson was terrible as Joker. In fact, I don't even think of him as the Joker at all - he's basically just playing himself in clown makeup. There is none of the range or subtlety that Ledger brought to the role.

That said, Cesar Romero still wins as best live action Joker :D

With DC/Warner already having successfully done certain classics like Year One and The Dark Knight Returns (and newer stories like Under the Red Hood), I don't see why not.

New Joker? Easy, I just watched Star Trek: Into Darkness again and when Cumberbatch gets all eeeeeevil and talky to Spock near the end I couldn't help but think he would be a perfect Joker. Thin/ lithe build, evil grin, agile, can do scenery-chewing madness....
OR for a slightly older take, watch Nic Cage in the scene where he smokes crack in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and tell me he wouldn't be brilliant as the Joker. Plus he'd do it in a heartbeat.

Nah I'm thinking Andrew Scott

But only if they do it well and get Paul Dini/Bruce Timm to write the script. Mind you nothing can be worst than Batman and Robin...

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