VOD Review: Batman vs. Two-Face
Because I haven’t used “the bomb” gif in awhile, we look at the sequel to the animated successor to Adam West’s iconic Batman ’66 universe: Batman vs. Two-Face. One was for the funny, is two(face) worth the show?
You would not be wrong to suspect that I’m some giant super-fan of Batman. It seems like every other week I’m reviewing something bat-flavored. The sad thing is, I’m not actually that big a Bat-fan. I liked The Animated Series, Loved 1989 movie, and thought Heath Ledger was brilliant in The Dark Knight. Other than that, I’m kinda just OK with the perpetually traumatized billionaire vigilante. But since DC doesn’t want to pump out a ton of Green Arrow products (my actual favorite DC hero), I’m stuck here swimming in bat-merch. But since I’m not the reviewer this site
pays deserves, but the one that it needs (intermittently, as scheduling allows), I’ll be that man: that man covering Batman. Let’s take a look at the latest animated offering to hit streaming: the retro-infused Batman vs. Two-Face.
Batman vs. Two-Face (2017)
Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) have finally rounded up all of Gotham’s worst criminals. When the dynamic duo accompany Commissioner Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent (William Shatner) to Arkham Asylum, they find that staff psychologist Hugo Strange has a rather reprehensible reform regimen. Strange and his assistant Harleen Quinzel have created a device that will remove the evil from these evil-doers, rehabilitating them whether they want it or not. When the combined nefariousness of Batman’s ne’er-do-well’s overloads the machine, Harvey Dent gets sprayed by a full dose of evil, scarring his face and creating Two-Face, a villain obsessed with dichotomy.
6 months later, Harvey has been apprehended and given a new lease on life thanks to medical procedures bankrolled by billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne. But has the evil truly left Harvey Dent? Or will he turn the other cheek?
Same Bat-schtick, different Bat-time
Bringing back the Batman ’66 television universe in animated form seemed like a no-brainer. You had the voice talent for many of the characters, and animation saves us the horror of 80 year old men in tights. The old series is fondly, if not a bit ironically, remembered. The comic book series that first kicked the old batmobile’s tires was fantastic. Adding in villains that never made it to the series (either due to oversight or them not plain existing when the show ran) adds a new wrinkle to the tried and true Batman ’66 formula. Every thing this series needed to *POW* *Biff* and *WHAMO* the audience is right there in the movie’s utility belt.
But it just doesn’t work.
Nothing in Batman vs. Two-Face is incredibly interesting. Half (get it? Two-Face? I kill me) can be chalked up to how many Bat-ventures we’ve had since the exploits of Adam West and Burt Ward. So much of what happens in Batman vs. Two-Face has been done in Batman: The Animated Series. And that series had a lot more action. It doesn’t hurt that Two-Face is pretty weak as a rogue. He’s just the Joker minus the wicked deviancy. Some of the samey-ness can be expected: EVERY Batman ’66 villain was window dressing applied to generic death traps. They all had the same M.O.
…Is the Essence of Comedy!
And without serious, compelling action, you’re left with comedy. Once again, time has not been kind. Since the campy days of Batman and The Boy Wonder, we’ve had a lot of shows pinch, poke, and downright plunder the nostalgia that Batman vs. Two-Face goes for. The Venture Brothers, Robot Chicken, Family Guy… you know, the gold standard of cultural thievery. Seeing the Batman ’66 Formula™ (fight, get captured, crazy-gadget-based escape, win!) after all this time did surprisingly little for me. The interlude with King Tut should have had me drowning in lake nostalgia, but I couldn’t wait for it to just move on already.
The Blue Boy Scout
That’s not to say that Batman vs. Two-face is completely without merit. Most of the good bits come from West’s Batman. I’m not the biggest fan of Batman (said it twice! get it? Two!), but most of the interpretations I enjoy avoid the grim-dark and focus on Batman as the world’s greatest detective. And while it’s often ludicrous, that’s West’s Batman. The classic bit where Batman pieces two seemingly unrelated bits of trivia together to deduce the criminals next heist is still cute. The fact that you have Burt Ward there to act thunderstruck that the clues were that “obvious” is still a funny punchline.
And the dynamic duo still has that winsome chemistry. Batman is one part mentor and one part Scout-leader to the boy wonder, but above all he’s his best friend. With so many angsty portrayals of Batman and his relationship to the Bat-Family, remembering the days when two old chums ran around in tights making the world a nicer, safer place is refreshing. That refreshing virtuosity is also present in Batman’s relationships with Catwoman and Two-Face. Watching Batman turn into a naïve, love-struck schoolboy around Catwoman (Julie Newmar) was adorable. And while the Joker has become Batman’s de facto nemesis, Batman having a blind spot for Harvey as both a friend and fellow do-gooder makes more sense. Mr. J keeps trying to force a relationship to Bruce; Dent actually has one.
Only Half Bad
I wish I liked Batman vs. Two-Face more; the parts that were good were refreshingly good. It’s just that the overall plot is lacking, and the action is well, boring. The film is a slow burn, getting better as it goes, but those first 20 minutes are a real ask. If you really like Batman, or Adam West’s take on the decidedly-not-dark Knight, you can find value. Everyone else will be scrambling to bury this bomb.