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Review: Batman vs Two-Face


Overview:  Batman and Robin come face to face with Two-Face in this animated spin-off of the 1966 live action series.

 

Synopsis (spoilers ahead):  The movie opens with an experimental machine being tested at Gotham Penitentiary, “The Evil Extractor” which is able to extract the evil out of super villains and turn into a green chemical.  Gotham’s District Attorney, Harvey Dent is on hand and is joined by Batman and Robin after Batman pays a visit to an incarcerated Catwoman.  After Batman and Robin arrive, a group of supervillains, including the Joker, Penguin, and Riddler, are brought in and seated at the device.  The machine’s creator, Hugo Strange activates the machine and things begin to go wrong as the supervillains overload the machine with their evil, causing an explosion.  Dent is caught in the blast, transforming him into Two-Face.  The open credits then roll over a montage of Batman and Robin fighting Two-Face, leading to his capture.

 

The film then moves to a POV shot from a hospital bed as a doctor removes bandages from Dent’s face, with Commissioner Gordon, Chief O’Hara, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson standing over the bed.  The doctor passes a mirror to Dent, revealing that his face has been repaired and apparently cured and allowed to return to his life in the District Attorney’s office.

 

The film then flashes six months later to the “Amiable Skies Aviation Hangers” where a guard is overpowered by King Tut and his men.  King Tut proceeds to steal a bi-plane from the hanger.  Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara discuss the crime and admit, as usual, that they are out of their depth and activate the Bat-Signal and summon Batman and Robin to the roof of headquarters.  Batman and Robin return to the Batcave to analyse the crime on the bat computer and learn that King Tut’s next crime is a double decker bus giving a tour to Gotham’s rich elite, including Aunt Harriet and Alfred.

 

King Tut and his men storm the bus and hold up the guests as Batman and Robin arrive and a fight ensures, which ends with Batman and Robin being rendered unconscious and taken prisoner.  The Dynamic Duo escape the death trap and defeat Tut and as Batman and Robin walk off with Tut, twin thugs, wearing shirts labeling them as Twin 1 and Twin 2 appear to take the duffel bag of valuables that Tut dropped.

 

Back at police headquarters, Batman and Robin interrogate Tut as to whereabouts of the stolen property, including the previously stolen bi-plane, as Harvey Dent looks on from behind the two-way glass flipping his coin.  King Tut is put on trial and convicted. Harvey and Bruce Wayne share a celebratory drink and Harvey asks Bruce to sponsor a charity at a newly refurbished “Winning Pair Casino”.  Bruce agrees as Alfred alerts him to the Bat-Phone and Bruce and Dick excuse themselves.  Gordon alerts them to a mysterious package addressed to Batman, which is found to contain a world atlas eaten away by worms, alerting them that the Bookworm has resurfaced.

 

Batman and Robin track Bookworm to the rare edition section of the Gotham Library.  A fight ensues between the Batman and Robin and the Bookworm and his Henchmen who are quickly taken down.  After the fight is over and the police have arrived, the rare books that the Bookworm was trying to steal have disappeared.

 

Batman and Robin realize that the books that Bookworm was stealing all were about duality and that King Tut’s crimes involved the number two, leading them to suspect that Two-Face is behind the crimes.  Batman and Robin head off to Two-Face’s last known hideout, an abandoned sign factory.

 

The film then cuts to the inside of Two-Face’s hideout, where Two-Face is speaking with his henchmen, with the unscarred side of his face obscured in shadows.  when Batman and Robin arrive. Batman and Robin fight Two-Face’s henchmen and end up trapped under a fallen sign.   Two-Face spares their lives after a coin toss.

 

Batman and Robin go to confront Harvey Dent, who is sitting at his desk unscarred.  Dent denies all knowledge of the crimes, stating it must be some sort of imposter.   As Batman and Robin leave, Dent makes a phone call, begging that the person stop what they are doing.  The voice on the other end, belonging to Two-Face, reminds Dent that they have a deal, framing other criminals for Two-Face’s crimes while Dent rebuilds his reputation.

 

Meanwhile, Hugo Strange is attacked by Two-Face, his good side still obscured, stating that they have unfinished business.  Back in that Batcave, Batman looks for a possible criminal that could be responsible for framing Dent and Robin tells Batman that he isn’t being objective and the two argue, with Robin storming off.

 

Back at Gotham Penitentiary, Catwoman breaks out of prison after being stood up by Batman while Robin follows Harvey Dent to a warehouse containing the Evil Extractor.  Dent tries warns Robin to leave before it’s too late before Robin is taken out from behind by a shadowy figure with Two-Face’s voice.  Robin wakes up to Two-Face standing over him, the right side of his face still obscured in darkness.   Two-Face explains his plan to put Robin into the Evil Extractor with the help of Hugo Strange, who has joined Two-Face.  The scene ends with Robin being gassed by Strange.  Batman tracks Robin down, to find Robin split down the middle like Two-Face and laughing as he destroys a city street.  Batman knocks out Robin and takes him back to the Batcave where he cures him.

 

Batman and Robin then track Two-Face to the casino where Dent is holding his charity action.  Batman and Robin are captured and Gotham’s criminals, including the Joker, Penguin, and the Riddler, are invited to the Casino.  Batman and Robin wake up tied to a giant coin which has been rigged to flip onto a floor covered in metal spikes.  Harvey Dent speaks with them as half his face transforms and he reverts back into Two-Face.  Two-Face explains his plan to expose Batman’s secret identity, unmasking Batman briefly to prove that his suspicions are correct.  Two-Face then pulls back a curtain to reveal Batman’s rogues and states he plans on auctioning off Batman’s identity.  The villains start trying to outbid each other as Strange secretly extracts their evilness and loads in onto the stolen bi-plane.  The villains combine their bids to win the action.  Batman and Robin escape by triggering the coin flipping mechanism and shift their weight to avoid the spikes and are freed from their ropes by Catwoman.  Batman, Robin and Catwoman fight off the room full of rogues and discover Two-Face’s plan to cover Gotham in the evil extracted from the villains.

 

Batman and Robin speed off in the Bat-Cycle as Two-Face begins to transform Gotham into versions of himself.  Batman and Robin board the bi-plane and dispose of the evil gas.  The plane crashes into an oil refinery and Batman and Robin chase after Two-Face.  Batman orders Robin out of the factory as it starts to explode and goes to confront Two-Face.  Two-Face attacks Batman from behind and as his good side apologizes to Batman, Two-Face overtakes his good side, and his entire face becomes scarred.  Batman and Two-face fight as the refinery burns.  Batman is knocked down in an explosion and Two-Face stands over him, ready to kill him when Batman points out that his coin hasn’t decided his fate yet.  Two-Face flips his coin to discover that his coin has been replaced by a coin with no marking on it.  Harvey Dent takes hold of Two-Face’s body and Two-Faces two sides fight each other until Harvey reclaims his body and Batman and Dent escape the factory as it explodes.

 

Harvey Dent is put back behind bars and Batman blankets Gotham City with an  antidote, curing Two-Face’s victims.  The story cuts to months later at a charity bachelor action where Bruce and Harvey meet, with no memory of Batman and Robin’s identities.  The story ends with Batman auctioning himself off for charity with the opening bid going to Catwoman.

 

Analysis:  Very seldom does a celebrity death have any real effect on me.  At the end of the day a famous person is still a stranger and while I can appreciate that work that they’ve left behind, I can’t say that it usually brings up any sort of emotional reaction.  I can’t say that about the death of Adam West.  Adam West was, much like many other people, my first Batman.  As a child in the 1980’s, West’s Batman would enter my living room via reruns every afternoon and I watched with excitement as I waited to find out which villain he’d be facing off with that day.  His adventures were serious and the deathtraps real. As I got a little older I moved on to other interpretations of the character, and it wasn’t until adult hood that I’ve come to really appreciate the humor and satire of the 1966 Batman series, largely due to Adam West’s deadpan delivery in the midst of all the silliness.  Adam West seems to have been a person that wanted to bring a smile to his audience and I truly believe that the world is a better place having had him in it.

 

It is with that in mind that I sat down to watch Batman vs. Two-Face, the latest offering from Warner Bros Animation and what is one of Adam West’s final performances, fittingly as his signature role of Batman.  This is the second Batman ’66 inspired movie, following last years Return of the Caped Crusaders.  In this sequel, Batman faces off against Two-Face, bring into the world of Batman ’66, a villain that famously was never featured during the run of the television show.

 

By in large this film is an improvement on Return of the Caped Crusaders.  I enjoyed the first film, but I felt there was far too much winking and nodding about a return of the “Bright Knight” in the plot about Batman becoming a darker version of himself.  This film does a better job of feeling like a continuation of the classic series, with Batman foiling two villain plots in the same structure as watching a couple episodes of the show, while the overarching Two-Face story playing out over the course of the entire film.

 

Two-Face’s origin goes through a Batman ’66 filter and removes the scarred by acid story, and instead goes for a more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde version of the character, which works within the framework of the world in which they are bringing Two-Face.  They’re actually was an unused Two-Face story treatment from the 60’s by Harlan Ellison that was turned into a comic a couple years ago, and I like the choice to make an original story rather than adapt one from elsewhere.  I also have to give the filmmakers credit for not making this film a Two-Face origin story, but instead they get Two-Face’s origin out of the way early and spend the rest of the time telling an interesting story involving this character.

 

There is a strong influence from the first chapter of the Dark Knight Returns in this story. The film plays with the same notions of a reformed Harvey whose scars run deeper than what’s on the surface.  It’s an interesting mesh of Batman ’66 with what is in some ways its “grim and gritty” polar opposite.  The casting of another 60s icon, William Shatner, as Two-Face is inspired, with the character design very much inspired by Shatners 60s era appearance.  I found myself impressed by Shatner’s performance, or should I say, performances, as he creates two distinct voices for Harvey Dent and Two-Face.

 

The film makes good use of the returning voices of Adam West and Burt Ward, who slide back into the rolls of Batman and Robin.  Much like with the last film, it takes a moment to adjust to the fact that their voices have aged 50 years, but it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect everyone to sound like they did half a century again.  Julie Newmar’s return as Catwoman is also a welcome one.  Speaking of Catwoman, Lee Meriwether joins the cast in a minor roll and there’s a fun nod to her time in that roll.

 

The film does a great job of inhabiting the world of Batman ’66, with villains like Bookworm and King Tut making appearances.  There are a lot of nice little touches that have been added, like the William Dozier inspired news reporter providing some narration and the constant stream of labelled backgrounds and equipment.  I also appreciated Easter eggs like Harley Quinn’s brief cameo and an Adam West version of the original 1939 Batsuit hanging in a case in the Batcave.

 

That’s not to say that this is a perfect film but the film’s flaws are fairly minor.  The film invents a conflict between Batman and Robin that doesn’t feel like it adds anything meaningful to the story.  Chief O’Hara is more of a buffoon then he ever was on the show and the film slows to a crawl whenever they let O’Hara off the leash.  In particular, the Chief’s interrogation of King Tut goes on way too long.  Catwoman in general doesn’t get a lot to do in this story and her involvement seems tacked on, but given this is likely the last time we will get her returning as Catwoman, it’s hard to argue with the film finding a spot for her

 

Final Thoughts:  This film is an energetic and entertaining return to the world of Batman ’66 and does an excellent job in capturing the look and feel of the classic television series while bringing in new elements.  More importantly, the film is a fitting farewell to Adam West’s legacy and is an excellent way to pay tribute to the “Bright Knight”.  Go watch it.

 

Editor’s Note: Batman vs. Two-Face is available now digitally and released today on DVD and Blu-ray at retailers across the country. You can order your copy of the film on Blu-ray by heading over to Amazon now. 

 

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