Why Batman vs. Two-Face Took a More Serious Approach

Batman vs. Two-Face, with Adam West and William Shatner, has a slightly more serious tone than its predecessor.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was a loving homage to the Batman TV series of the late 1960s, and it was full of even more self aware humor than the show itself, if that’s possible. So when the time came to reunite the late Adam West with Burt Ward, and to bring in another pop culture icon with William Shatner for Batman vs. Two-Face, the producers wanted to do something slightly different.

Director Rick Morales recalls that the plan from the earliest stages was to do something “like Batman: The Animated Series, but with the Adam West Batman.” While he confessed at the time he wasn’t sure “how that’s going to work” his worries were put to rest once he saw the script. “It is darker, there is a little bit of film noir,” Morales says. “But at the end of the day it is still The Bright Knight.”

“I think this particular one is a little challenging because [Return of the Caped Crusaders] is closer to what you expect and this movie has much more of a noir feel, so you’re putting camp with noir,” writer and producer Michael Jelenic says. “The stakes seem a little more real in this one. Everything is a little more serious, and you get these campy jokes. It’s a fun mix.”

Fans of the original series all recognize that the first season was ever so slightly more serious than season two and three. If anything, the humor got more pronounced but less cutting in the later seasons. And it’s that first season that Batman vs. Two-Face is influenced by.

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“We took our cues from the first season of the series, which was definitely straighter, a lot more darker scenes, more night-time scenes,” producer and writer James Tucker says. “In a way, it’s weird because Return of the Caped Crusaders was definitely more second season and third season in tone. With this one, we want to go back to the more grounded first season, where the camp was there, but it walked a tighter line. And so there was definitely a more noir element to this because Two-Face, that character, by necessity, it has to be a little noir-ish. There’s still the humor, the wink, the tongue-in-cheek quality that the series had even in the first season, so it’s not all that different than the series.”

Surprisingly, the story wasn’t particularly influenced by the treatment for an unproduced Two-Face episode that was written by the legendary Harlan Ellison. “No, I didn’t even look at it,” Jelenick says. “James [Tucker] looks at everything, so I’m sure he looked at it. I think we were trying not to be influenced by that. If anything, we were influenced more by Dick Sprang’s stuff and, you know, some classic Two-Face comics of the era, pre-’66.”

“Well, I skimmed through the book that was produced [DC Comics produced an excellent comic adaptation by Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez of Ellison’s treatment], and I thought Len Wein did a great job with it,” James Tucker admits. “I mean, Len Wein’s work on Batman is very evocative of the ’66 show in its own way. Even though we didn’t literally translate that story, I personally used Len Wein’s writing and the way he treated Batman in the ’70s as a way to merge the darker versions of Batman with some of the campier versions. I did read Batman ’66 scripts just to make sure the words felt true. But the other thing is that they didn’t produce [Ellison’s Two-Face story] for a reason, so I didn’t want to go down that road. And I thought that we could come up with something that was, you know, equally or more true to the series.”

Fans of the Bright Knight shouldn’t expect a big departure, though. “It’s just a little darker and a little more mysterious,” Rick Morales says. “It’s still Adam West Batman, it’s still Burt Ward as Robin.”

Batman vs. Two-Face is available now.

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