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‘Batman vs. Two-Face’ (review)

Adam West’s final film puts him back in the cowl facing off against ’60s television hero William Shatner in Batman vs. Two-Face.

With co-star Burt Ward by his side, West and company reunite with other cast members of the ’66 series, most notably Julie Newmar as Catwoman and an appearance by Lee Meriwether as Lucilee Diamond.

Shatner plays a Batman ’66 version of Harvey Dent / Two-Face, a character that unusually never appeared in the show. The Dynamic Duo faces the entirety of Gotham’s rogue gallery that includes Hugo Strange, The Joker, The Riddler, Penguin and even King Tut and this reviewer’s personal favorite, Bookworm.

The story kicks off with Strange and assistant Harley Quinn extracting evil from all of Gotham’s bad guys.

When the machine goes Ka-Blam!, the essence wipes out star district attorney Harvey Dent and transforms him into Two-Face.

Batman and Bruce Wayne are naturally disturbed by this turn of events. Wayne uses his resources to restore Dent’s face to its natural look, but the evil Two-Face could very well be lurking below the visage.

The pace and tempo of West’s dialogue, long ingrained into our collective consciousness, is slapped right up against Shatner’s staccato delivery, making you wonder if we haven’t been missing Shatner in the Batman Universe for our entire lives!

In 2014, “The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face,” an episode written by sci-fi and Star Trek writer Harlan Ellison was released in comic book form from Len Wein (RIP) and artist José Luis Garcia-Lopez as Batman ’66: The Lost Episode #1. After seeing these pages, we’d love to build a time machine and persuade the network to make this happen with William Shatner in the role.

King Tut plays a role in moving the story along as the Dynamic Duo begins to rub two pieces of evidence together the clues that Two-Face is at the heart of Gotham’s current crime spree. In fact, even as Batman and Robin clobber Two-Face and his goons, Batman isn’t entirely convinced that Harvey is the bad guy. Two-Face does use his signature coin to decide his captors’ fates, but that could be his downfall in the end.

As a sequel to last year’s Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Batman vs. Two-Face once again bridges the fifty year gap between the stories by incorporating a darker feel and modern storytelling by introducing a more complicated plot and a grittier Gotham. That’s not to say the camp has gone away completely, quite the contrary, the actors have a great time steering into the nostalgia of the franchises while breathing new life into their old roles.

Shatner really nails it, as someone who is drawn on screen as a younger version of himself. When he plays Dent, he’s as sweet and caring as Ward or West are as the heroes. When Two-Face takes over, he’s scary and intimidating.

Two-Face captures the Boy Wonder and infects him with the evil formula, forcing Batman to recreate one of the internet’s favorite memes. Batman slaps ‘Two-Face Robin’ with a healthy gauntlet across the cheek before bringing him to the Batcave to cure him.

In a callback to the original series, large props and easy jokes like, “Batman, look at the size of those … balls” almost obliterate Batman and Robin on an oversized pool table.

Two-Face collects the rogues once again to unmask the duo for the highest bidder. The last third of the movie reveals Dent’s evil plan on unleashing evil on the innocent citizens of Gotham.

Can the Dynamic Duo stop this Duplicitous Dandy from turning the entire city into Doctors Jeckylls and Mr. and Mrs. Hydes? Luckily, there is even a narrator for these movies. You’ll have to tune in to find out.

This is highly recommended for children of all ages and the credits include a tribute to Mr. West. For Burt Ward and William Shatner, two heroes of ’60s television (along with the Catwomen of course) to send off the Batman ’66 series with such a great story filled with easter eggs and the sincere tones of friendship in every line is really a touching tribute. To lots of us, Adam West is Batman and were crushed by his passing. The cowl isn’t so much as passed on to someone else, but the spirit of Batman ’66 can live on in Batman vs. Two-Face.

Could they possibly recast West’s close friend and impressionist Ralph Garman as the voice of the Caped Crusader? Who is to say, but one thing for sure is that introducing Shatner to the cast, even if 50 years too late was the perfect addition to our childhood head canon. This Two-Face can now be as authentic as Cesar Romero’s painted over mustache when thinking fondly of the contributions to pop culture that Adam West was responsible for.

This, like many movies of people that have passed on before they were released, has the unique responsibility of being a highly regarded work as part of West’s oeuvre and also needs too serve as a tribute to all that came before. I truly think this accomplished both beautifully, with lines about friendship between Batman and Robin that mirrored the closeness of Adam West and Burt Ward off screen. Please rent and buy this movie as a small way to give back to the West estate and enjoy it with love and justice in your heart!

 

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