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Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: Batman vs. Two-Face

Adam West vs. William Shatner

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: October 17th, 2017 – U.S.
Rating: PG
Genre: Animation, Action, Comedy
Running Time: 72 minutes
Director: Rick Morales
Writers: Michael Jelenic, James Tucker
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, William Shatner, 
Julie Newmar, Jeff Bergman, Sirena Irwin, 
Thomas Lennon, Lee Meriwether, William Salyers, 
Lynne Marie Stewart, Jim Ward, Steven Weber, 
Wally Wingert 

In the 1960s, Adam West's Batman and William Shatner's Captain Kirk were two of the most iconic characters in all of television. In "Batman vs. Two-Face," a sequel to the wonderful "Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders" set in the colorful "Whap! Pow! Bang!" universe of the 1960s "Batman" show, West and Shatner are together at last – terrible TV movies notwithstanding – as both best friends and archenemies. Thanks to the powers of animation, they haven't aged a day since the '60s.

At the beginning, we are introduced to Dr. Hugo Strange's latest invention: a device that sucks out and isolates the evil from Gotham's super-villains. What could possibly go wrong? With a quack like Strange at the helm, it doesn't take long to find out. Things go awry – because of course they do – and undefeated lawyer Harvey Dent (who bears a striking resemblance to a young William Shatner) is transformed against his will into the villainous Two-Face. I was not expecting that in the first five minutes of the film.

After rehabilitation and plastic surgery, Dent is allowed to practice law again. However, the former legal ace is now reduced to being the assistant to the assistant district attorney. It's quite a fall from grace – and a ready-made formula for a super-villain origin story. Or is it? When Two-Face (Shatner) inevitably resurfaces, Batman (West) refuses to believe his "old chum" Dent is the man behind the dual identity this time – despite the repeated protests of a jealous Robin (Burt Ward).

"Return of the Caped Crusaders" featured such a memorable rogues gallery of villains – The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman – that any sequel would be hard-pressed to top them. While Shatner's Two-Face is a more-than-worthy adversary, he's not the only one who makes an appearance. "Batman vs. Two-Face" dips deep into the lore of '60s Batman show and trots out a couple of suitably corny c-level baddies: the felonious pharaoh King Tut (Wally Wingert) and the literary lout The Bookworm (Jeff Bergman). If you didn't just smile, you've never seen the magical TV series all of this is based on.

(And if you're a fan of the other villains, don't worry: there are several cameos and a surprising deleted scene – hidden in plain sight on the Blu-ray – featuring arguably the most popular criminal adversary in Gotham City nowadays.)

Adam West and Burt Ward have never sounded better. Julie Newmar's Catwoman also returns in a reduced role (along with another cat-related surprise I won't spoil). Shatner is surprisingly restrained in his voicing of Two-Face – if you were expecting his usual long pauses and various Shatner-isms, they're not really there – but he does a nice job of making Dent and Two-Face sound distinctive from each other.

Like "Return of the Caped Crusaders" before it, "Batman vs. Two-Face" feels like an extended episode of the old show – and that's exactly how it should be.

Which movie is better? I slightly favor the first because I remember feeling so so giddy with glee watching a reunion unfold before my very eyes that I never thought would be possible. But I've heard from Bat-fans who prefer this one. Either way, you're going to have a great time.

In one of the extras, Burt Ward revealed that he and Adam West have been submitted to "The Guinness Book of World Records" as the only two actors who have worked together over the span of 50 years. "Batman vs. Two-Face" ended up being Adam West's final role before his death at the age of 88. The very end of the credits features a touching text tribute to the "Bright Knight" that is guaranteed to make even The Joker shed a tear or two. These are special films, and we're lucky to have them.

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