June 9, 2017 was a sad day as one of geekdom’s greats past away. Adam West, mostly known for playing the campy version of Batman, DC’s dark and brooding costumed vigilante, passed away from leukemia at the age of 88. As his version was far away a stark opposite of the Dark Knight, most fans would refer to West’s version of Batman as the “Bright Knight” thanks to the incredibly goofy and lighthearted tone the show had. Just before he passed away, Adam West was still generous enough to give fans one more adventure with the Bright Knight. And this time, he faces off against Two-Face, a Batman foe that was generally thought of to be too crazy for ’60s television.
Batman vs. Two-Face takes place in the same “universe” as last year’s Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. However, none of the events are actually referred to in this film so this works as a standalone feature. In this adventure, an experiment that was supposed to extract the “evil” out of some of Batman’s greatest rogues goes wrong and Harvey Dent, Gotham City’s District Attorney and Bruce Wayne’s good friend, becomes Two-Face as a result. All of this actually happens before the opening credits roll, in which you do get to see clips of Batman facing off against Two-Face. But, after the opening credits are done, it appears that Harvey Dent has gotten rid of the scars as well as the Two-Face persona thanks to the help of Bruce Wayne and some plastic surgery. All seems right with the world until a series of crimes point to Two-Face and Batman and Robin come to odds as they try to figure out if Harvey Dent is still Two-Face or is someone trying to frame him.
One of the best things about Batman vs. Two-Face is that it’s definitely a love letter to the show it’s based on. The writing and overall presentation does a great job of making you feel nostalgic about the days when The Dark Knight was a goody two-shoes and he wasn’t so dark and serious all the time. There’s just a general lightheartedness to everything and, while it may feel jarring to those who were raised seeing Batman striking fear in the heart of criminals, fans of the goofy nature of the Adam West Batman will definitely get a kick out of Batman vs. Two-Face. Also, the show also has a lot of Easter Eggs that longtime Batman fans will spot and get a giggle out of. The show features a few really obscure Batman villains that were introduced in the live-action television show. Even a couple of the traps and images seem to be directly lifted from the comics as well.
I also have to commend DC’s animation department for bringing the ’60s version of the Caped Crusaders back to life. They managed to get perfectly encapsulate the really campy and silly look of the show. The characters look close enough to their live action counterparts to a great degree. It certainly helps that the animation also moves very fluidly most of the time. Even the action sequences are animated in such a way that they feel exciting… way more exciting than the fight scenes from the live-action show. However, while it is beautifully animated, the backgrounds in Batman vs. Two-Face hardly have any detail at all. Most of background are generally plain and empty. In fact, the streets of Gotham have nary a pedestrian throughout most of the film’s 72 minute runtime.
The voice acting is pretty great. Kudos to the soundalikes they cast for The Joker, Penguin and Riddler as they all play worthy facsimiles of Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin. I really liked the performance of the guy who did The Joker’s voice as he even got Romero’s weird over-the-top cackle when needed. Julie Newmar returns to voice Catwoman but, like in Return of the Caped Crusaders, you can really hear the age in her voice at times. Burt Ward’s performance as Robin actually sounds much better this time around but you can still hear hints that he’s not the spry duck he was as in the show.
I have to specifically mention Adam West’s performance as this was his last voice role before he went up to that Batcave in the sky. Hearing him once again take on the role of Batman and Bruce Wayne is actually really bittersweet as he mostly sounds like he did in the show way back in the ’60s. Maybe it was my imagination but there were times when it did seem like he slurred his words at times but the way he delivers his lines with deadpan eloquence in everything he said in Batman vs. Two-Face was just masterful.
The best vocal performance, however, has to go to William Shatner as Harvey Dent and Two-Face. He pulls of the dual role with much apblom that it almost seems like he took to it extremely seriously. Shatner even does two totally different sounding voices depending if he’s talking as Dent or Two-Face, which is a really nice touch. While his Harvey Dent sounds exactly like William Shatner, his Two-Face is sounds totally different, as if they got another voice actor for the role. It shows how versatile Shatner is in voice acting and I honestly hope he does more animated shows based on his performance here.
While I enjoyed the story of Batman vs. Two-Face for the most part, I did find some problems with the climatic battle at the end: it felt rather grim and unhumorous . It was a good action sequence but, since most of the film’s runtime was a kooky adventure, the switch from silly to serious just felt weird. It almost felt as if DC forgot this was the ’60s Batman featuring Adam West and thought they were making a new animated 1989 Tim Burton version of Batman. It doesn’t ruin the entire film but it did feel a little odd and out of place. In the grand scheme of things, I guess the final battle did have to be take itself seriously but I just expected something a little more goofy based on the rest of the film.
Ultimately, Batman vs. Two-Face is a beautiful swan song to Adam West’s life. It’s a lovingly crafted homage to the campy live-action Batman television series and DC pretty much captured what made the show an over-the-top fun and quality program. William Shatner as Two-Face is brilliant and the animation is gorgeous in general. It is a rather bittersweet film, though, as you can’t help but remember that this is Adam West’s final role. But it is still a good time and, if you liked the campy, not too serious Batman television show, you’ll definitely have a blast with Batman vs. Two-Face.
Rest in peace, old chum.
Have you seen Batman vs. Two-Face? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!