This may fly past many fans of the Dark Knight (or possibly even most casual viewers) but it takes some effort to make a movie like this. When producing something entirely new, one can always throw caution to the wind and unleash his/her creativity. However, works such as Adam West’s Batman from the 60s is another story. Being faithful to the source material is a must for most fans especially when it is something that you grew up with. One has to be careful while re-creating a work like this while adding a fresh take on it. Take a few wrong turns and you can end up with a monumental disaster or have the fans claiming ‘Blasphemy !! Blasphemy !!’.
It is one thing to succeed in such an experiment the first time around; but to do so twice with aplomb…Have to hand it to the creators !! Michael Jelenic and James Tucker have once again come up with a great concept; not to mention Rick Morales whose direction has been top notch.
Return of the Caped Crusaders
The first installment in this Adam West Batman homage, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was terrific. It re-captured the classic self-aware campiness of the original series and still managed to add a clever plot with a darker tone. Batman vs. Two-Face manages to retain the best elements of the source material while going for a still darker tone than the first movie. William Shatner as Two-Face is a welcome addition to this series. His dual voice as Harvey Dent and Two-Face is great and adds an extra dimension. Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar once again reprise their roles from the series and are fantastic. On to the plot…
The Premise & Tone
Where both these ‘Homage’ movies really succeed is that they both manage to weave intrigue & mystery into a relatively over the top story line. Personally, I felt that Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was great in the camp and homage departments. What I didn’t see coming though, was the surprise twist. The manner in which they conceal the more serious surprise element while being generous with the cheese factor is what comes through for the movie. Batman vs. Two Face on the other hand goes for a darker tone from the get go.
The film starts off with Professor Hugo Strange giving a private demonstration of his new invention called ‘The Evil Extractor’. He claims that his invention is capable of reforming all criminals and can render the police, batman and all forms of crime fighting obsolete. Among the attendees are Batman, Robin and Harvey Dent. Of course the experiment goes wrong with the ‘Extracted Evil’ overloading the device and the subsequent explosion disfiguring Harvey Dent and creating Two-Face. From here on, follows a very interesting plot that involves two-face being cured of his split personality and then mysteriously re-appearing. (No Spoilers)
What I really like about this movie is their decision to go with a darker tone. The cheese made the first movie unique in that most people have by now become used to seeing a dark gritty batman on screen. Introducing modern audiences to Adam West’s portrayal of the caped crusader in the 60s added a fresh perspective to a formula that has become commonplace today. The last time DC tried to mix self-aware camp with more serious undertones was in Batman: The Brave and The Bold. Despite a lack of promotion, the show combined both these aspects brilliantly. Guess who was involved ? That’s right, Michael Jelenic & James Tucker again !!
Yet, following the same formula twice in a row is usually a recipe for mediocrity. To their credit, the writers managed to keep the movie fresh by changing things up a bit. The introduction of Two-face as a primary antagonist of this movie holds a lot of significance as Two-Face strangely never appeared in the original series. As with the first movie, there are several references to the 60s show throughout with characters such as King Tut & Book Worm making appearances. Other Easter eggs are also thrown in such as an appearance by Harley Quinn. Interestingly enough, her future romance with the Joker is also alluded to.
Batman vs. Two-Face is definitely a worthy successor to Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader despite not being as good as its predecessor. That said, Jelenic and Tucker’s clever writing do complete justice to the source material while staying true to the Dark Knight’s (Bright Knight ?) roots. For all the old-timers, this movie marks the end of an era. Most fans today are now used to serious depictions of the Caped Crusader on the screen but Adam West in a very unique way kick-started Batman’s popularity on Television. As the Bat-Mite explains in Batman: The Brave and The Bold, the dark knight has a rich history and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways with each interpretation being no less than the other.
The Batman from the 60s is often the subject of many jokes today but the very fact that it is still remembered fondly is testament to the iconic & charming Adam West. Going forward, it is hard to see DC producing more content set in this continuity given West’s sad demise. Of course, if rumours are to be believed, Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame was set to make a cameo in this movie. So there may yet be something in the offing although replacing Adam West will be a near impossible task. All said, this movie is a fitting swan song to the man who shot to fame as Batman and ended a glorious career just the same. Rest Well Old Chum aka The Bright Knight aka The Gray Ghost.