19 October 2017 | SylvesterFox007
A Fitting Swan Song for Adam West's Caped Crusader
In the hearts of some, maybe even all, Batman fans, Adam West will always hold a cherished place. I remember as a kid tuning in to a few reruns of the series that had started just under two decades before I was born. For my money, Adam West will always be the best Batman. Despite the campiness around him, West's deadpan delivery was so perfect that he could convey his love for justice with a ridiculous eulogy for an "almost human porpoise" as much as Christian Bale could with an entire "It's not who I am under the mask" monologue.
Perhaps in direct response to that dark and gritty reboot, there's been renewed interest in the 60's series. The comic book series "Batman '66" imagines a continuation of the TV series that includes villains it never got around to, including psychedelic re-imaginings of characters that weren't even introduced until decades later. Last year's animated film "Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders" breathed new life into the concept by bringing in the voice talents of the West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar, with the rest of the familiar characters resurrected through loving imitations by modern impressionists. That movie not only was a pitch-perfect extension of the '66 series, but brilliant satirized just how much darker the portrayal of the "Dark Knight" has become ever since. Earlier this year, we lost our contrasting "Bright Knight" when Adam West passed away, but not before lending his voice to a sequel.
"Batman Vs. Two-Face" doesn't satirize like its predecessor, but fully embraces the original series' campiness, with one concession: the inclusion of a villain considered too dark and gritty for the series at the time. Acccording to legend, Clint Eastwood was all set to take on the role of Two-Face before studio execs thought he'd scare off young viewers and put the kibosh on it. In "Batman Vs. Two-Face", Professor Hugo Strange, another villain who never appeared on the TV series, is working on an "evil extractor" to rehabilitate Gotham's greatest criminals. He's aided by another now- popular villain, one not created until the early 90's, in a cameo role. Strange, naturally, is portrayed with an impersonation of the German mad scientist voice Peter Sellers perfected for "Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." Unfortunately for Strange, his assistant, and Gotham City District Attorney Harvery Dent, Batman's greatest enemies have the ability to raise their evilness on command and, through their combined malevolent cackling, cause the devise to overload, splashing the D.A.'s face with the liquid manifestation of evil and transforming him physically and mentally into Two-Face.
The opening credits montage shows Batman and Robin waging war on Two-Face as if he were just another villain on the bi-weekly roster of the series. When we return to the film proper, Bruce Wayne has found a way to restore Dent's face as well as his law career. But when King Tut and Book Worm, two villains who existed solely in the universe of the TV series, pull off heists with all of the trademarks of Two-Face's plots, Batman and Robin have to try to figure out how Two-Face can co-exist with the seemingly cured Harvey. It's a mystery with a simple solution, but the movie's not about detective work: it's about revisiting a Gotham where the swinging 60's never ended, and where the police force exists only to toggle the Bat Signal on and off, because they wouldn't know how to bring a jaywalker to justice without the intervention of the Dynamic Duo.
Sorry, Clint, but William Shatner should have always been the first choice for Two-Face. Not only was he a familiar face on TV screens of that era, but no one else shared Adam West's love for the dramatic pause the way he does. He makes the menacing villain gel well with the campy universe, his distinctive cadence fits the squeaky-clean prosecutor, while he adds just a little bit of a growl to portray the darker aspects of the character. And there will never, ever be another Adam West. Only he could make a visit to the window of Catwoman's prison cell to share a kiss, read some poetry, and remind her how many months are left until her debt to society is paid seem so endearing.
Youthful ward Dick Grayson's maternal aunt gets giddy at how intimate Bruce and Dick seem, winking and nudging at rumors about the relationship that have persisted since the 60's, but she also gets giddy seeing Bruce and Harvey together, at one point all but pressing their faces together and telling them to start making out. Taking from other popular adaptations of the Two-Face character, Bruce and Harvey are portrayed as being old friends, in spite of the fact that the D.A. never even got a namedrop in the original series. It makes for a sort of love triangle between Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent, and Dick Grayson, and pays off with a sweet little moment of Batman declaring just how rock solid his relationship with the Boy Wonder is.
Always leave 'em wanting more. It's sad for me to think of what might have been. If only someone had the brilliant idea of bringing Adam West and Burt Ward in to revisit the classic series in animated form earlier, we may have been able to witness the two squaring off against Poison Ivy or Scarecrow or Harley Quinn. But, as it is, this is as good of a sendoff as our Bright Knight could ever have asked for.