Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 12 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for Action, some mild Language and Suggestive Content
Directed by: Rick Morales
Written by: Michael Jelenic & James Tucker
Voices of: Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, William Shatner, Steven Weber, Jim Ward, Thomas Lennon, Lynne Marie Stewart, Jeff Bergman, Wally Wingert, William Salyers & Sirena Irwin
Last year, DC failed to deliver any great live-action superhero films. BATMAN V SUPERMAN was a disappointing chore, SUICIDE SQUAD was dumb fun (though a lot of people really didn’t like it), and, even, the animated KILLING JOKE suffered from big problems. A pleasant surprise came in the form of BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS. While most Batman stories are brooding, dark and serious, CAPED CRUSADERS was a refreshingly fun return to the campy 60s BATMAN (complete with voices from the original cast). I was excited to discover a sequel recently hit home video, especially as it seems to serve as an appropriate swan song for the late Adam West. BATMAN VS TWO-FACE is a step beneath its predecessor, but remains goofy fun nonetheless.
After an experimental machine (guaranteed to remove all of the evil from Gotham’s supervillains) backfires, district attorney Harvey Dent (voiced by William Shatner) is hideously disfigured and turns into the evil duality-obsessed Two-Face. Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) have seemingly endless fights with Two-Face, but their most recent one has ended with Harvey Dent as a seemingly changed man…complete with his old face back. However, Two-Face somehow seems to still be running rampant in Gotham. Could another villain be trying to terrorize and frame Harvey or might there be something stranger occurring? It’s up to the caped crusaders to save the day before Gotham is turned into a bunch of half-scarred lunatics.
As BATMAN VS TWO-FACE began, it seems to be appropriately hearkening back to the 60s BATMAN series. From the cheesy opening credits to the sheer light-hearted mood, the film is silly entertainment that’s absolutely appropriate for the entire family. The fights are complete with on-screen words (like “Pow!” and “Whack!”) and it’s impossible to take any of this seriously, which is part of the point. However, there are annoying spots where that 60s style seems to be forgotten. A fight without the iconic on-screen words feels drastically out of place and seems to have been missing these funny bits as a massive oversight.
As far as the voice cast is concerned, Adam West and Burt Ward are having a blast in their original roles of superhero and sidekick. Burt Ward is especially hilarious as Robin this time around, while West’s Batman attempts to gets a more dramatic story arc as he tries to salvage his friendship with Harvey Dent. Julie Newmar is fun as Catwoman and Lee Meriwether receives an amusing cameo. RENO 911’s Thomas Lennon is sadly underused in the role of Chief O’Hara, and Steven Weber gets in a few lines as Alfred.
The voice cast’s newest addition is William Shatner in the dual-role of Harvey Dent and the gravely-sounding Two-Face. Shatner’s distinct vocal mannerisms are pretty easy to recognize, though that’s part of why his inclusion as Two-Face is so damn fun. The film also squeezes in lesser villains like Bookworm and King Tut, but doesn’t seem to have nearly as much fun with the Riddler, Joker, and Penguin this time around. Also, the presence of both Dr. Harleen Quinzel and Dr. Hugo Strange feel like afterthoughts.
Though I have praised a lot about BATMAN VS TWO-FACE, this film falls noticeably short in the areas of writing and pacing. The first CAPED CRUSADERS was ridiculously fast paced, constantly upped its silliness, gleefully mocked the more serious incarnations of Batman, and was creative from beginning to end. It was difficult to predict exactly where that film’s plot was heading, which led to it being completely engaging. TWO-FACE’s storyline is far more predictable. There are also stretches where the pacing lags and the movie threatens to overstay its welcome, even though it runs at only 72 minutes in length.
Even though BATMAN VS TWO-FACE is a noticeable step down from its refreshingly wacky predecessor, it contains goofy fun for those enjoy the sillier side of Batman. This film also seems like a good note for Adam West’s final film, because he kept doing what he loved up until his final days (being the “Light Knight” as opposed to the “Dark Knight”). It’s sad that we won’t see any more CAPED CRUSADER animated features (you simply can’t replace Adam West’s voice as Batman), but it’s great that both of these animated renditions of the 60s BATMAN series even exist. If you enjoyed the first CAPED CRUSADERS, you’ll likely enjoy this one too. Just lower your expectations a bit and you’ll have a good time!