With the success that Warner Animation had with last year’s release of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders it’s no surprise that they’d give the classic campy world of 1960s Batman another spin, and back are Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar to provide voices to their most iconic creations. But alongside them an icon in his own right William Shatner joins are trio of television legends to lend his voice to one of Batman’s most dangerous adversary but also one who never got the chance to make an appearance on the original Batman series.
In a pre-credit sequence we find Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) being asked by his friend District Attorney Harvey Dent (William Shatner) to oversee a radical experiment to be performed by Doctor Hugo Strange (Jim Ward); with the assistance of Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Sirena Irwin) Hugo Strange will attempt to use his “Evil Extractor” to remove the evil essence to be found in the volunteering criminals; Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Egghead and Mr. Freeze, but of course things go wrong when the supervillains begin to laugh maniacally which causes the machine to overload and explode. Quick action by Batman manages to spare his pal Harvey from the full blast but enough of the evil toxic cloud hits Dent and horribly scars one side of his face.
Now this movie isn’t about the birth and rise of Two-Face, all that is brilliantly covered in a nice montage of Batman and Robin fighting Two-Face over the years, but the story really begins at the hospital where reconstructive surgery has not only restored Harvey Dent’s face but his sanity as well. Of course the years of terrorizing the populace of Gotham City cannot completely be overlooked so Harvey has to settle for being the assistant to the Assistant District Attorney. Bruce Wayne is happy to have his old college chum back on the straight and narrow but not so happy is Robin who is not only jealous of this rekindled friendship but also of all the time Batman spins visiting Catwoman (Julie Newmar) in prison.
Before Batman can sit back and relax he and Robin are called into action when King Tut and his Tutlings steal a valuable bi-plane and hi-jack a millionaire party on a double-decker bus, and then the Bookworm must be thwarted in his plans to steal rare editions of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde and A Tale of Two Cites. It doesn’t take the Caped Crusader long to realize that these arch enemies are committing crimes that all have duality themes to them and that of course spells Two-Face. Batman can’t believe his reformed friend is behind these dastardly crimes but Robin is more than eager to see his rival pushed out of the limelight, and this leads to Robin rushing off on his own and getting into double trouble. Turns out someone has taken up the Two-Face mantle and has teamed-up with disgraced Hugo Strange to use his “Evil Extractor” create a gas that will mutate people into Two-Face versions of themselves.
What mastermind is setting up Gotham’s top criminals? Is there a new Two-Face in town? Could the reformed Harvey Dent be involved? Will Batman and Catwoman ditch Robin and go on a well-earned romantic getaway? All these questions and more are answered in the exciting action packed entry. As in the previous film Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders director Rick Morales is at the helm and once again he manages to capture the vibrant madcap fun that made the original live action series so entertaining, and not only do Batman’s top rogues gallery show up as they did last time out we also get appearances of not only King Tut and Bookworm but Mr. Freeze, Egghead, Shame, Clock King all pop in to join Joker, Penguin and the Riddler in an auction for Batman’s secret identity.
Batman vs. Two-Face has the campy fun of the Adam West television series but it also has great nods to the original comics from Batman’s golden age; with giant props and death traps that fill this film’s 72 minute running time to the brim with excitement. As to what the great William Shatner brings to the table…well he manages to readily hold his own against Adam West in giving a nuanced and tragic portrayal of a man tortured by his duality. While all the other villains are camping it up Shatner’s Harvey/Two-Face plays it just as straight as Adam West does his Batman. The two worked very well together and I would have loved to see them in further entries, but alas with the passing of Mister West this will never come to pass and though this is a farewell to character beloved by millions it at least it went out with a BANG, a BOFF and a big KAPOW.