Batman vs. Two-Face
Release Date: October 10, 2017 on Digital
Main Release Date: October 17, 2017 on Blu-ray and DVD
Synopsis: Holy coin-flipping conundrums, Batman! When a device meant to remove evil from the criminal mind goes haywire, Gotham City's D.A., Harvey Dent, is transformed into the sinister split personality Two-Face! Add in the crime-creating chaos of The Joker, The Penguin and The Riddler, and the Dynamic Duo may be overwhelmed and outmatched. Can a helping claw from the coy Catwoman unravel this confounded case and foil Two-Face's maniacal endgame?
The "Batman vs. Two-Face" direct to video animated movie is a sequel to last year's "Batman: Return to the Caped Crusaders", based on 1966 live action Batman television series. It centers on the conflict between the late Adam West's Batman and William Shatner's Two-Face. 54 years in the making, West and Shatner last shared the screen in a 1963 television series of "Alexander The Great" that never was greenlit by the studio. Shatner easily steals the show with his take on both Harvey Dent and Two-Face and elevating them from being a two-dimensional villain -- get it? -- that definitely fits into the 1966 canon. Adam West will always be the Bright Knight and this was another masterful performance. From flirting with Catwoman, to his usual quips, the surprising tension with Robin, the inner conflict with taking on Two-Face while trying to save a friend -- West takes us on an emotional journey. "Batman vs. Two-Face" was truly a showcase of his mastery. Returning to reprise their roles, as well, are Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman and there's a special cameo by Lee Meriwether as new character Lucilee Diamond. Like West, Ward and Newmar will ratchet up their performances - whether that was from the experience of the first movie, a better script, or their own personal motivations - and you really feel closer to these characters than you did in the first movie. The returning cast from the first movie include Jeff Bergman, Sirena Irwin, Thomas Lennon, William Salyers, Lynn Marie Stewart, Jim Ward, Steven Weber, and Wally Wingert. This is arguably one of the strongest casts assembled by Wes Gleason to date.
Two-Face is infamous in fan circles as one of the classic Batman villains who never appeared in the 1966 television series but that piece of trivia has been rectified with this movie and an unproduced script that was recently adapted as a comic. The conflict between Harvey Dent and Two-Face lends itself well to the "straight camp" tone of this movie. There were surprising moments of drama and tension between Batman and Two-Face and Batman and Robin. I even detected a tinge of detective noir, coming to a head in a scene where Dent draws the blinds in his office at City Hall and "speaks with" Two-Face on the phone. Yet there's still everything we associate with the tone of the TV show. Dynamic Music Partner's Michael McCuistion, Kristopher Carter & Lolita Ritmanis recaptured the 1960s but also added in 'new' sounds that convey the sense that these movies are like the TV series if it wasn't canceled and continued into the transitional period of the later 1960s to the early 1970s.
Structurally, Batman vs. Two-Face is vast improvement over Return of the Caped Crusaders. The pacing, the sub-plots, the 'mystery', and the twist -- all flow very well with each other. I couldn't think of a point where the movie gets too bogged down. It did seem the movie was a bit too self-aware of itself especially during King Tut's court trial. As someone who didn't watch the TV series start to finish, I'm lost if that was something they played with doing or this is more an influence of James Tucker and Michael Jelenic slipping in their own commentary. Or they just wanted to make Chief O'Hara weep. The only gripe I have with the story is Two-Face's 2 fold master plan. Not so much auctioning off Batman and his secret identity, but dousing the city in evil essence to create more Two-Faces. I was left shrugging my shoulders. Definitely in the vein of a 60s Silver Age caper but still... really? Oh, and Hugo Strange "sneaking" out of the movie.
The cold-open begins at Gotham State Penitentiary but quickly shifts into Two-Face's origin and instead of continuing, the title sequence handles the initial conflict between the villain and Batman and Robin. Then several months later, Dent is seemingly rehabilitated thanks to his best friend, Bruce Wayne. However, it becomes clear Two-Face is returned but Batman won't accept it's Dent again. All the while, Batman's relationships with Catwoman and Robin are explored in contrast with Dent. They soon battle King Tut and Bookworm but begin to realize they are part of a greater conspiracy. On paper, all these sub-plots would ruin any movie but not here. Batman's blindspot for Catwoman is similar to his blindspot for Dent, King Tut's dual personalities and Bookworm's obsession inform the audience about Two-Face, and the endurance of Batman and Robin's friendship lends itself to the former's faith in Harvey Dent. All the while, Two-Face continues to execute every stage of his plans behind the scenes and is a rather formidable enemy. He even succeeds in unmasking Batman and nearly turning all of Gotham into Two-Faces (I kid you not) then battles both Batman and Dent in a factory on the verge of ruin.
The special features for Batman vs. Two-Face are focused on the returning actors West, Ward, and Newmar. "The Wonderful World of Burt Ward" looks at Ward got the role of Robin, working on the show, and operating a dog rescue with his wife. A recording of the Adam West Tribute Panel from this past summer's San Diego Comic-Con International features radio personality/friend/Batfan Ralph Garman, Kevin Smith, Lee Meriweather, and James Tucker talking about their personal experiences with Adam West. The next three are quick vignettes with Ward talking about being starstruck and ambition while Newmar talks about drawing from Rita Hayworth for inspiration in her acting. Rounding off the special features are the sneak peeks for "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" Part 1 and Part 1 and trailers for "Teen Titans: The Judas Contract", "Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders", 4K UHD, and Experience the Next Generation of Digital Movies. The final special is a bonus scene where the Joker finds himself a freeman from his jail cell thanks to the newly improved Harley Quinn, a lovely nod to the "Mad Love" comic book. The only real issue with these specials is the short run times and you're left wanting more.
"Batman vs. Two-Face" is a highly recommended purchase for both DC or animation fans new to the classic 60s television series and diehard fans alike. The acting is phenomenal and on another level. The story is polished, the pacing is fluid and rarely stumbles, and everything ties together for a satisfying ending. Heart, humor, and heroism prevails in the never ending quest for justice. Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, and William Shatner all deliver amazing performances of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, and Two-Face in a proper celebration of the franchise. The passing of West was felt by all but his legend lives on in everyone who met him in-person or by watching him on screen.
Main Feature: 4 out of 5
Special Features: 3 out of 5
Average Rating: 3.5 out of 5