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Batman vs. Two-Face



Batman vs. Two-Face
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: October 10th, 2017 - Digital; October 17th, 2017 - Blu-ray, DVD

Synopsis: As the sequel to the 2016 hit animated film Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Batman vs. Two-Face finds Batman and Robin back in classic 1960s action, protecting Gotham City from some of the most nefarious villains in comics history. But when the mutilated master of multiplicity, Two-Face, begins staging a daring crime wave across Gotham, the Caped Crusaders must work double-time to discover his mysterious secret identity before they can halt his evil-doing – all the while combating the likes of Catwoman, Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Bookworm, Hugo Strange and King Tut!

The late Adam West leads the star-studded cast in his final performance as Batman. The beloved actor delivers an inspired turn opposite fellow pop culture icon William Shatner (Star Trek) as the criminally conflicted Harvey Dent/Two-Face. This is only the second production of any kind to feature the two titans of the fanboy realm together. West and Shatner first teamed in the 1963 “Alexander The Great” television series that never made it past the pilot. The cast also boasts two more pop culture icons of the 1960s. Burt Ward is back for more “holy” fun as the Boy Wonder himself, Robin, and Tony Award winner Julie Newmar reprises her role as the fiendish feline, Catwoman. The voice cast includes Jeff Bergman (Joker, Bookworm, Desmond Dumas), Sirena Irwin (Dr. Quinzel), Thomas Lennon (Chief O’Hara), Lee Meriwether (Lucilee Diamond), William Salyers (Penguin), Lynne Marie Stewart (Aunt Harriet), Jim Ward (Hugo Strange, Commissioner Gordon), Steven Weber (Alfred, Two-Face henchmen) and Wally Wingert (Riddler, King Tut).

The core Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders filmmaking team reprises their roles for Batman vs. Two-Face. Rick Morales (LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Cosmic Clash) directs from a script by Michael Jelenic (Teen Titans Go!) and James Tucker (Teen Titans: The Judas Contract). Tucker and Jelenic and also Supervising Producer and Producer, respectively. Sam Register is Executive Producer. Benjamin Melniker and Michael Uslan are Executive Producers.

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Batman vs. Two-Face Feature Review
By James Harvey

With the success of the first 1960's-inspired Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders movie, Warner Bros. Animation returns to the era of the Batusi and excessively labeled objects for another laugh-heavy adventure that is just as enjoyable as the classic live-action Batman television series. Batman vs. Two-Face finds Batman and Robin pitted against the dangerous Two-Face, splashing onto the scene for the first time (sort of), in this straight-up fun flick that fans will definitely dig.

Dubbed "camp noir" by the film's creative team, Batman vs. Two-Face is able to deftly mix atmosphere and comedy, resulting in a rather unique experience that stays true to the roots of the 1960s live-action Batman series while also trying something a little different. Even though it is still riddled with hilarious gags and one-liners, there are some great moments of real heft and drama here, all of it anchored by fantastic performances by Adam West, Burt Ward and William Shatner and an absolutely incredible score by Dynamic Music Partner's Michael McCuistion, Kristopher Carter & Lolita Ritmanis. As enjoyable as Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was, Batman vs. Two-Face easily blows it out of the water.

A major draw to this film is the introduction of Two-Face to the Batman lore. The classic character never appeared on the original 1960s animated series, though the script for an unproduced script featuring Two-Face was adapted into a comic a few years back (review here). This movie doesn’t adapt that script, but instead offers an original spin on the character, one that allows the movie to try a couple different things with the established Batman formula. Like Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Batman vs. Two-Face uses animation to accomplish that, taking the world of Batman to places it couldn’t go in the original live-action series. We get big action beats here, including a tense cold open and some massively elaborate set-pieces. And, while the animation can sometimes come up a little short, and the script glosses over one or two things, that doesn't stop the movie from being a thrilling, fun zinger.

Batman vs. Two-Face definitely doesn’t play out how one would expect, especially in it’s structure. The trailer is actually fairly spoiler free, showing moments mostly from the first part of the movie. Harvey Dent gets turned into Two-Face before the opening credits even roll. From there, following a brief opening credits montage of his crime spree (which also happen to be highly reminiscent of Batman: The Movie), Harvey Dent is fast on the road to recovery and the film's real mystery begins. Trailers tend to break down a film's entire story in the span of a couple minutes, so it was nice to actually be genuinely surprised with how the movie plays out.

Now, as the mystery surrounding Harvey Dent and Two-Face plays out throughout the film, Batman vs. Two-Face also manages to throw the spotlight on a good number of classic villains from the original series and gives time to the Batman/Catwoman romance. Batman and Robin basically continue their battle against the ne'er-do-wells of Gotham while the mystery behind Two-Face looms over them. The film manages to find keenly balance its many subplots, never once feeling overstuffed or padded, with most of them paying off in a satisfying manner (for example, Batman and Robin's partnership gets the focus, leading to a great moment between them in the finale). There's also an indirect comparison between the King Tut and Two-Face made by the creative team that teases a cool reveal in the finale. And speaking of the finale, prepare to be surprised, as it definitely went a way I wasn't expecting. While Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders had a little bit of clunky pace (akin to the original 1960s series, really), Batman vs. Two-Face runs smooth.

Joining the Batman cast for this second animated movie is William Shatner as Harvey Dent and, boy, is he ever fantastic here. His performance hits the right marks for the campy world of Batman, but there's an added layer to his performance (not just because he's also bringing to life Two-Face) that really brings depth to Bruce Wayne's doomed friend. It's a testament to the writing and performance that, given the short run time, Harvey Dent is realized as a fully-fleshed out character. Shatner really shines alongside West, Ward and Newman, giving us a strong core cast of characters. There's not a weak link in the entire cast, and that's no surprise with those four leading the charge behind voice director Wes Gleason.

The script by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker is fun, and it really seems like they realized what didn't work from the first movie and adjusted accordingly. The pacing feels more natural here, actually feeling like a feature-length movie as opposed to multiple episodes stitched together. There are great one-liners beautifully delivered by West, with my favorite moments being him joyfully telling Catwoman she only has "37 reformative months" left in her sentence and absolutely amazing line “The stigma of being the less attractive twin is a heavy burden no one should have to bear.” Amazing. Rick Morales brings a steady hand, slying using similar camera techniques from the old 1960s show while also working in some great noir-esque staging (the scene with Harvey Dent on the phone, for example).

A shout-out must be made for the amazing score work by Dynamic Music Partners. The music here is an incredible mix of light-hearted 1960s fare mixed in with some dark, noir-ish undertones. The score really adds weight to some of the film's more intense moments, particularly the finale, but also wonderfully compliments the many lighter moments of the film. It's amazing how they are able to jump from one tone to the other, but also blend both without it feeling forced or awkward. Every musical choice made feels natural and appropriate. I strongly urge folks to pick up the soundtrack release for Batman vs. Two-Face to really get the full experience of this spectacular score.

Batman vs. Two-Face is also a spectacular send-off for West, as well. He gets some really weighty character moments that he absolutely nails, and then switches so easily to the camp styles we've come to expect from this iteration of the Caped Crusader. One moment he's pining over Catwoman, the next he's shilling out advice to Robin and then he's struggling to get to mystery behind Two-Face. It's a great showcase for West, all topped off with a nice dedication at the end of the movie.

It's worth noting the Blu-ray release of Batman vs. Two-Face includes a short bonus scene focused on Dr. Harleen Quinzel that fans will want to see.

Surpassing the first animated Batman movie in every way, Batman vs. Two-Face is a great film which continues the innate brilliance of the original 1960s Batman series while also sprucing up the formula. Adding some noir-ish trappings to the movie really creates a unique experience, and there's just enough of it sprinkled in that it never overpowers the very deliberate zany tones of the source material. West, Shatner, Ward and Newman anchor a great cast of characters and deliver a very fitting send-off to the Bright Knight. It is a little difficult watching this movie knowing this is Adam West's last performance as Batman, but don't let that dissuade you from enjoying his magnificent work here. It's a fantastic performance by an all-around fantastic human being. A success in nearly every respect, Batman vs. Two-Face is a Must Own.

[ Continue on to the Batman vs. Two-Face Home Entertainment Release Review ]

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