When it comes to characters that we love, you’ll probably agree with me in saying that we all possess some vague memory of how we were exposed to them. As a lifelong fan of Batman, I can at least remember that Adam West was my introduction to the Dark Knight (or Bright Knight, in this case). Honestly, I can’t properly recall if it was via the TV show from the ’60s or the Super Friends animated series, but either way, he was my first Batman.
Having confessed that, you can imagine that I was quite thrilled when West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprised their roles of Batman, Robin and Catwoman, respectively, in last year’s Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Not only did returning in animated form allow them to defy Father Time, but it also showed us what that world looks like when freed of the budgetary constraints of that era of television. Likewise, its sequel in Batman vs. Two-Face doesn’t disappoint by any means, either.
To its credit, the latest animated DC offering can be enjoyed by those who previously watched the 2016 flick, and by those who haven’t. Really, it’s no different than how you could jump into most episodes from the original series and have a general idea of what’s going on. Perhaps that’s how director Rick Morales and supervising producer James Tucker intended it to be, or maybe not. Either way, this bad boy is accessible in every sense of the word.
Whereas Return of the Caped Crusaders spiritually felt like the premiere to a fourth season we never received – and this certainly does serve as a continuation – Batman vs. Two-Face is somewhat reminiscent of the recent Batman ’66 comic books insofar that it doesn’t shy away from utilizing characters who never appeared on the TV show.
Aside from the obvious inclusion of Harvey Dent, whom we’ll further discuss in a moment, we’re introduced to unique versions of Hugo Strange and Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Just don’t get too excited about the latter because her role is fairly small – but there is a polite wink to her relationship with the Joker.
Getting back to Harvey, I find it only fitting that another icon from that era be the one to voice him, that of course being the immortal William Shatner. And to be honest, he turned out to be a great choice, simultaneously bringing humanity to Harvey, while portraying the Two-Face side to the scarred psyche as menacing and tragic.
Actually, I can’t think of a better way to segue into talking about how this film is tonally. Obviously, it retains the comedic element the TV show was known for, but it’s also a bit more dramatic – even more so than the first season. Believe me, the trailer wasn’t deceiving in the slightest, because I found this to be a tremendous blend of the Adam West Batman we’ve come to adore from the small screen and the one we’ve followed in the comics. Rest assured that once you sit down to watch the movie for yourself, you’ll understand what I meant by that and probably be thoroughly entertained yourself.
Basically, the plot is as follows: We’re given an origin for the villain that is Two-Face before a montage conveys that he went on to establish quite the criminal reputation in Gotham City. Soon after, we see he’s cured in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of what happened in The Dark Knight Returns – only somebody is committing Two-Face crimes before long.
Suffice it to say, the element of mystery added marvelously to the viewing experience, with its only real flaw being that it perhaps contained too many cameos. Admittedly, I thought King Tut and Bookworm’s appearances were superfluous at first, but they’re actually part of a bigger scheme. Still, I couldn’t help but applaud how the writers figured out a crafty way of getting Lee Meriwether back into the Catwoman costume.
Bonus content, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. You see, there are two featurettes – “The Wonderful World of Burt Ward” and “Adam West Tribute Panel, Comic-Con International 2017” – that every nostalgia junkie must watch. The former shines the spotlight on the Boy Wonder himself, detailing his time on the show and telling us what he’s been up to in the time since, whereas the latter transports us to San Diego where Ralph Garman, Kevin Smith, Lee Meriwether and James Tucker share their fondest memories of the departed West.
As for the rest, well, there are three shorter featurettes – two focusing on Ward and one on Julie Newmar – but those others with Ward are only mere minutes in length and mostly recycle quotes from their larger counterpart. I’ll let the one with Newmar slide, though, since it’s the only chance she got to speak outside of the feature presentation.
Regardless, Batman vs. Two-Face not only surpasses its predecessor in my view, but it also may very well be the best DC animated film to be released in 2017. It’s too bad the possibility for a third doesn’t exist, but I’m satisfied enough with this product to say that I’m comfortable with it capping the legacy of the Bright Knight.
Adam West couldn't have asked for a better swan song than Batman vs. Two-Face.