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..
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.”
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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