Last week, the trailer debuted for the next Batman ’66 cartoon DVD. Batman Vs. Two-Face is the follow-up to Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders which reunited Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar, reprising their classic roles.
Just so we’re all on the same page here, if you haven’t seen the trailer, here it is.
Overall, this trailer looks great. Having the remaining cast members reunite is fantastic and probably the reason for these cartoons to exist. Two-Face’s introduction into the Batman ’66 universe is an outstanding idea since he was really the only major villain absent from the show at the time. I realize that Harlan Ellison’s unproduced script has been adapted into a comic book featuring Two-Face, but having Adam West and Burt Ward involved in the project takes it to another level.
The big question surrounding this release was after the passing of Adam West, if he had recorded his dialogue already. Shortly after his passing, it was confirmed that West had recorded all his lines for this feature. While that is good news, it also casts a shadow over this movie, in that, this is Adam West’s LAST performance as the caped crusader. On the special features for Return of the Caped Crusaders, some of the voice talent speculate that the Batman ’66 features could be a series unto themselves. Although having Burt Ward and Julie Newmar still with us, it is unlikely that the series will continue without West’s Batman. It does beg the question though, was a third animated feature being developed that we will now never see?
My main issue with this project was William Shatner’s performance. Casting Shatner as Two-Face, the villain who was never on the ’60’s show with the actor could never have guest-starred on the show, was a great move. Aside from his appearance on Futurama, where he played himself, I am not familiar with Shatner’s voice work. I was concerned that West’s last outing as Batman would be scarred by a phoned-in reading by Shatner. After seeing this trailer though, my doubts have been put to rest. Harvey Dent sounds great and feels like Shatner is taking the role seriously.
Once I heard Two-Face’s voice however, I was worried it wasn’t William Shatner. The voice is so rough and different from Shatner’s I worried that they had cast Fred Tatasciore or someone. According to IMDB, Shatner is credited as Harvey Dent and Two-Face. Watching the trailer a couple more times and listening carefully to Two-Face’s lines, there is some Shat in there. I was really impressed by the transformation that he has seemingly been able to undergo for this dual role. Hopefully, there will be an interview with him on the DVD describing his preparation for the role when it is released.
Another nice aspect of Shatner’s casting is that the animators have apparently designed Dent to resemble a period appropriate version of him.
Of course, had Shatner played Two-Face on the ’60’s show, that is what the character would have looked like. It’s a nice touch that shows the thought that is going into this production.
Back in the day, the creators of the Batman show had apparently discussed having Two-Face on the show, but it was determined that the character would be too frightening for children. Apparently, their choice of actor was Clint Eastwood. I’ve always wondered what Eastwood would have done with the character. It seems like a great “what could have been” scenario. Also, it brings up the question of did the producers contact Eastwood for this project? The 87 year old’s voice would probably be perfect for Two-Face today. Whether or not Eastwood was considered, William Shatner is an inspired choice considering the context of the time.
In the trailer itself, there is a weird effect on Two-Face himself. Several shots show Two-Face with his unscarred side in shadow.
These shots don’t appear to be a natural shadow that is covering his face, but more intentionally placed maybe for story reasons. Possibly, Two-Face shows up after Harvey’s accident and is supposed to be an unrelated villain that (shocker!) is in fact Harvey Dent. It seems like an odd choice story wise, because who would be watching this and not already know, or be able to figure it out from the cover, that Harvey Dent is Two-Face? Now, this is all speculation on my part, and I have nothing but intuition to back this up. If this is a twist in the film though, it seems like a poor choice especially considering what the trailer does at the end.
The “post-credits” scene of the trailer features the revelation that Hugo Strange is a villain who is working with Two-Face!!! GASP!!! Why spoil this in the trailer? Everyone will know that Dent and Two-Face are two-and-the-same, but there is a strong possibility that someone watching this may not know that Strange is a villain. Especially since he was never featured on the 60’s Batman show and has a lower profile than most major Bat-villains. Casual viewers are more likely to not know who he is and may be genuinely surprised. If you already have a twist everyone can deduce with Dent, why throw this one away? It’s misguided.
You also can’t convince me that that’s not Dr. Harleen Quinzel in there with Strange.
From her appearance and accent, there’s no question they are setting up Harley Quinn here. Whether or not we see a fully formed Harley in this cartoon or they are setting her up for a later feature remains to be seen.
Batman Vs. Two-Face is set to be released physically in October with digital coming a few weeks earlier. While I can’t find confirmation on their website, it seems that Target will be offering an exclusive steelbook edition. Since I am still a sucker for physical media, and especially steelbooks, that will be the version I seek out. It will be a nice companion to my steelbook Blu-ray for Return of the Caped Crusaders.
With the high bar from the previous entry, Batman Vs. Two-Face has a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, it also has the expectations that come from being the defacto last performance of Adam West. Will this be the greatest Batman ’66 story ever? Probably not. However, it promises to be a good one with the assembled cast and will hopefully be an appropriate sendoff for the Caped Crusader.