BAT­MAN VS TWO-FACE

Wil­liam Shat­ner men­aces the Bright Knight in BAT­MAN VS TWO-FACE, Adam West's fi­nal caped cru­sade. Joseph McCabe heads to Gotham City..

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Holy clash of pop-cul­ture icons! Wil­liam Shat­ner men­aces Gotham as Adam West rides the Bat­mo­bile one last time in this ’60s throw­back.

WHEN AdAM WEST lEFT uS THiS year for that great big Bat­cave in the sky, he left be­hind one last gift for his le­gions of fans. Be­fore his pass­ing, West re­turned to the role that de­fined his ca­reer in two an­i­mated films. The first, Bat­man: Re­turn Of The Caped Cru­saders, was re­leased last year to crit­i­cal ac­claim. Now comes Warner Bros An­i­ma­tion’s fol­low-up, Bat­man Vs Two-Face, show­cas­ing West’s fi­nal screen per­for­mance on Blu-ray.

Again fea­tur­ing Burt Ward as the ev­er­en­thu­si­as­tic Robin and Julie New­mar as the se­duc­tive Cat­woman – and writ­ten and pro­duced by James Tucker and Michael Je­lenic – the film at long last in­tro­duces Two-Face to the world of the 1966 Bat­man TV show. Fit­tingly, the arch-vil­lain is voiced by an­other icon of 1960s tele­vi­sion: Wil­liam Shat­ner.

“We knew we were go­ing to do a Two-Face story once Wil­liam Shat­ner agreed to do it,” Tucker tells SFX at this year’s New York Comic Con. “We knew we weren’t go­ing to adapt the out­line [by Har­lan El­li­son] from the ’66 show that was re­jected. Be­cause it was re­jected.

The only thing we wanted was to have some­thing that would merit Wil­liam Shat­ner’s act­ing. Peo­ple who know ’60s tele­vi­sion know that be­fore Star Trek he was all over it, play­ing re­ally in­ter­est­ing, dam­aged char­ac­ters. So it wasn’t a stretch that we knew that he could play Two-Face. Be­cause he’s played split per­son­al­ity char­ac­ters be­fore, he’s played psy­chotics be­fore, and he does a great job of it. So it was kind of a no-brainer.”

“They recre­ated the past, so to speak, with the first one,” says Burt Ward. “like, ‘let’s get back into it.’ Now, they’ve re­fined it. Now, the an­i­ma­tion is re­ally, re­ally good. The sound, the ex­plo­sions, the ef­fects are cool. The sto­ry­line is very tight. it’s just bet­ter. i have great fight scenes! it was ge­nius to cast Shat­ner. Here you have the two most iconic tele­vi­sion shows in his­tory – Bat­man and Star Trek. There’s noth­ing big­ger. You put them to­gether, with the ac­tors work­ing to­gether… When i heard, i knew it was gonna be huge. i was blown away. They couldn’t have picked any­body on this planet bet­ter than Wil­liam Shat­ner. But they also made the script great. They worked on it. They took our sug­ges­tions, my sug­ges­tions. The peo­ple that put this movie to­gether are Bat­man fans. Ev­ery one of them put their soul into this. it’s a great movie, pe­riod.”

Tucker says that Two-Face’s pres­ence, par­tic­u­larly that of his al­ter ego Har­vey dent, re­sults in high per­sonal stakes for Bat­man.

“This was a unique story, in that in most of the ’66 sto­ries Bat­man didn’t have a con­nec­tion to the vil­lain that was per­sonal… in this case, the crux of their re­la­tion­ship is their friend­ship. So in a way, Adam wasn’t the mo­ti­va­tor of the plot quite as much, be­cause he was the most con­flicted. in the movie, you’ll see that Har­vey dent is his friend. He has to trust him, but he also has to deal with Two-Face. So it was more of an act­ing chal­lenge for Adam, to be more in­ward and more sub­dued in a way. i don’t think he’s over­shad­owed [by Shat­ner]. i just think it brought out an­other side of his Bat­man, that a lot of peo­ple didn’t get to see in the se­ries.” The writer-pro­ducer likens Bat­man Vs

Two-Face to the sto­ries the show told in its first sea­son, be­fore camp took cen­tre-stage in sea­sons two and three.

“The se­ries evolved,” ex­plains Tucker. “So when you watch the first sea­son of ’66, it’s not that bright day-glo look. it’s more of the Bat­man we know, be­cause there are a lot of night-time scenes. There’s death. There’s some se­ri­ous­ness to it. So it’s not as tongue-in-cheek and overtly comedic as the show evolved into. it’s weird, be­cause Re­turn Of The Caped Cru­saders em­braced the campier, broader qual­ity of the se­ries that most peo­ple re­mem­ber it for. in this movie, we go back to the core of the se­ries in sea­son one where it’s a lit­tle straighter. i think it works. it’s kind of like Bat­man mixed with The Un­touch­ables a lit­tle bit. Two-Face has guns, and he’s def­i­nitely try­ing to kill peo­ple. it has a darker tinge, but there’s still hu­mour.”

knight time

A life­long fan of Bat­man comic books and the 1966 TV show, Tucker of­fers an in­sight on Two-Face’s en­dur­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

“in the ’70s, when they started pur­posely lean­ing to­wards darker themes, he was just money on the ta­ble, be­cause he had an in­her­ently darker theme. That had kind of got soft­ened through the years. The du­al­ity just switched to him lik­ing things that had the num­ber two in it. They soft­ened his char­ac­ter a lit­tle bit. We ac­knowl­edge some of that in our movie. He’s a great char­ac­ter. The thing we used that i guess Bat­man: The An­i­mated Se­ries kind of started [on screen] was the friend­ship be­tween Bruce Wayne and Har­vey dent, which re­ally grounds it.”

Re­gard­ing his own love of the Bat­man ’66 uni­verse, Tucker re­marks, “it’s one of those shows that grows with you. Be­cause it works on so many lev­els. it works on the kid level, and then you hit ado­les­cence, teenage years, and the hormones make you lose all sense of hu­mour, and then by col­lege age maybe you’re in­dulging in some al­ter­nate sub­stances, and sud­denly you re­dis­cover the show and go,

‘Wow, i didn’t no­tice all this stuff.’ Then it just kind of ripens with you.

“You can tell that the peo­ple who made that show read the comics that were out at the time,” he adds. “The at­ten­tion to de­tail on that show, and the art di­rec­tion on that show… it was like no other tele­vi­sion show be­fore it, and it in­flu­enced so many shows af­ter it. Even the com­edy in it is very sub­tle. The av­er­age com­edy that was on TV then was very broad, very in your face. Bat­man, par­tic­u­larly in its first sea­son, was very sly and smart. it made it look so easy that peo­ple dis­counted it and turned on it, [but] they en­joyed it at first. it is one of the more lit­eral trans­la­tions of comics. it rein­vig­o­rated Bat­man. So i will al­ways de­fend that show.”

SFX won­ders if there’s a bit­ter­sweet feel­ing that comes with pro­duc­ing Adam West’s fi­nal Bat­man ad­ven­ture…

“To be hon­est, i’m still pro­cess­ing it,” Tucker tells us. “i have a slow re­ac­tion time. So in a year i may be a mess, but right now it’s sur­real. it hasn’t sunk in. i hope he was happy to have done it, and i think he would have been proud at how it turned out.”

Ward shares Tucker’s feel­ings as he con­tin­ues to meet mul­ti­tudes of Bat­fans at con­ven­tions, with West no longer at his side.

“i knew Adam so well, and he al­ways wanted peo­ple to be happy. He didn’t want any­body to be sad. That would be a dis­ser­vice to him… But the only time that it’s re­ally hard on me is when i go out sign­ing au­to­graphs and i’m talk­ing and hav­ing a good time and maybe i look over and see that empty chair. That is tough. That’s tough. They do that as a trib­ute at all of my ap­pear­ances now.

“That’s the only hard time for me,” says Ward. “it’s like, ‘Okay. He’d want me to get back to work,’ and i turn around and con­tinue.”

Bat­man Vs Two-Face is out now. Joseph McCabe is the au­thor of 100 Things Bat­man Fans Should Know & Do Be­fore They Die, on sale now.

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