Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Superhero Media: Batman Vs. Two-Face

I'd be hard pressed to find an actor whose legacy really compares to Adam West, at least outside of Doctor Who alumni, so in a perfect world, his final performance would have been something a bit better than Batman Vs. Two-Face. That's not to say that Batman Vs. Two-Face isn't good, but it never manages the heights of Return of the Caped Crusaders and just comes across a little more flat and not quite as fun. The draw for this animated outing is the casting of William Shatner as a '66 version of both Harvey Dent and Two-Face, which is, of course, absolutely brilliant. Have you seen those images and lists that work around social media with things like "Casting the Avengers in the '90s" or "If Doctor Who was American"? You may have noticed that these images have no real basis in reality, but are just exercises in fan-casting; who is and was cast in various roles is more complex than someone having been around at the time. This isn't the case with Shatner as Two-Face, as during 1966-7, he was using the fame he had garnered from Star Trek to work across television, trying out new roles and shaking the legacy of Kirk. Batman may just have been a good fit. 

The, delightfully bonkers, premise of Batman Vs. Two-Face is that Hugo Strange has invented a device to extract all of the evil from some of Gotham's greatest criminals, something goes awry and District Attorney Harvey Dent is horribly scarred, turning him into Two-Face, the duplicitous duelist! The majority of Two-Face's crime spree plays out in the opening credits, with Harvey Dent's face eventually restored and the plot settling in to a mystery about a series of crimes. Yes, Batman Vs. Two-Face borrows heavily from both The Dark Knight Returns and Hush, but it's such a fun mash-up with the '66 Batman style that any comparison kind of glosses by without mention. I get the feeling that many of the ideas for fun references were used in Return of the Caped Crusaders and not a lot was left for the follow-up. In fact, I get the feeling that there wasn't really an initial intention to make Batman Vs. Two-Face, that, perhaps, Return of the Caped Crusaders was a surprising success and a quick sequel was stamped out to cash in on the wave of empathy resulting from Adam West's death. 

The, kind of, sad thing is, that even though Batman Vs. Two-Face isn't great, it still rates more highly than any live-action Batman film since The Dark Knight. I think, outside of the death of the second greatest Batman we've ever had, that's the tragedy of this film and the current state of the DC films. A blatant, nostalgia-baiting, tie-in to a television programme that went off the air before the 1970s started is a better film than almost every big-budget, Hollywood-produced, live-action DC superhero epic that has come out since a wannabe auteur take on urban blight and objectivism through the lens of Batman. No, I'm not letting that go. But doesn't that sound completely insane to you? I'll admit that I have more Marvel comics on my shelf, but I so have All Star Superman, The Dark Knight Returns, 52, Blue Beetle, Knightfall and countless other DC trades and graphic novels on my shelf, so I was really hoping that I'd have seen Animal Man, Nightwing and/or The Question in a live-action film before I'd seen Scott Lang or Man-Ape. At least I have Warner Premiere putting out entertaining films like this one.

1 comment:

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