The Batman ’89 comic book is bound to bring up a lot of nostalgic moments for plenty of fans, especially with the character that Billy Dee Williams played in the 1989 version of Tim Burton’s Batman. The concept of this character would have looked far different from what Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart were made to wear, since just from this cover alone the character looks absolutely deranged, and perhaps even more unpredictable. But in the Burton version, Williams was more supportive and didn’t really get a whole lot of prominence other than being a talking head that was meant to flesh out the rest of the story. Had he returned in Batman Returns, Burton’s last Batman movie, it feels that the plan might have been to introduce him as Two-Face eventually, but it also feels that Catwoman and the Penguin took up a good chunk of the movie and that another villain in the mix would have been a bit much. But that’s one of those chances that could have been but wasn’t, and the actors who did get to portray Two-Face ended up being what we’ve got.
Between the two my personal favorite was Aaron Eckhart since his version was definitely edgier and not as cartoonish as the character that Tommy Lee Jones was given to play with. It can be said though that Joel Schumacher was going for a very different look than Christopher Nolan was since their versions of Gotham were extremely different and their villains were miles apart as well in terms of tone and appearance. It’s kind of ironic that Jones is well-documented as having been averse to working with his costar, Jim Carrey, because of his approach to the role, since Jones vamped it up quite a bit for his own role and made a mockery of the villain he played, while Eckhart kind of went darker than many might have thought was necessary, yet he did it for a good reason since the tone of Nolan’s Batman trilogy was much darker than anything that had come before.
Thinking about Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face in Burton’s version is kind of interesting since it brings to mind what Billy Dee Williams might have been able to do and what limitations he might have been working with. For one, he’s not the most menacing actor in the world so thinking that he would be as effective as Eckhart feels like it might not be accurate. Burton’s version was still fairly dark, but there was a bit of whimsy to it as well, a quality that combined a bit of dark humor within the drama at times and could alleviate the absolute horror of a situation by easing off the gas just a bit, so to speak. Thinking that Williams would be able to go as dark as Jack Nicholson’s Joker kind of feels like it wouldn’t happen, but it might be that he could have been far smoother than Jones or Eckhart, someone that might have to work on his more aggressive side, but would be suave, calm, and much more composed without having the growling voice that might scare the hell out of everyone. This could have been something that might have given Williams’ character a leg up and also made it possible to remember him just as fondly as people do Nicholson’s Joker.
To be fair, each version of Two-Face belonged in the movies that they were featured in, since Jones’ over-the-top act was perfect for Batman Forever, which was incredibly goofy, while Eckhart’s was dark and foreboding, which fit Nolan’s version just as well. Had Williams been given the chance it’s very likely that he would have been able to do something that would have fit with the movie, since his acting abilities have always been on par with what’s needed, and he’s been someone that could be depended on for years. Obviously that time has come and gone, but the comic series that will be headed to stands in September should bring back the idea of what could have been had the plan been to keep him in the DC universe and present him as one of the more memorable villains in Batman’s long list of enemies.
There’s always a way to imagine how things could have been, how they could be, and how people want them to be. Sometimes the years pass by too quickly, making such a thing impossible to be seen in live-action movies, but the comics don’t fail the fans and aren’t as bound by the passage of time as movies are. Billy Dee Williams likely would have made a great Two-Face in his own way, but at this time we’ll have to settle for the comic book version, which many people will probably see as just fine.
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