Literary Corner

Trash Culture Literary Corner, Batman & Robin Chapter 1

So I have to admit, I was somewhat impressed at how this novelization of Batman & Robin started out.  Sadly, now we’re in the territory of the actual film script, and…

“A copsicle,” [Freeze] observed.

Oh no.

I mean, I know Michael Jan Friedman couldn’t just throw away the dialogue.  But it’s still a little weird seeing the words presented out of the context of the worst superhero movie ever made this side of Albert Pyun. Friedman tries to capture that ’60s Batman feel the series was deliberately aiming for – perhaps, arguably, maybe, stand on your hand and squint your eyes – and to an extent it works, sort of.

Bruce Wayne pondered the trap laid out so cleverly in front of him.

Lobster thermidor.  Wild mushroom risotto.  Juliette of gingered carrots and zucchini.  All tastefully arranged on his plate.  And beside it a perfectly chilled glass of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild ’56.

He turned to Dick Grayson, his ward, who sat around the corner from him at the long, polished dining-room table.  “Cunning,” he said.

Maybe my sympathy for Michael Jan Friendman is getting to me, but I will admit that this is a cute way to kick off the book and maybe to try to align the tone to that of the movie.  Apparently Alfred has this elaborate meal decked out to distract Bruce and Dick from their Batman and Robin duties, in this instance just working on the Bat-vehicles, but…even then, it doesn’t quite make sense.  Wouldn’t this be the type of meal Bruce Wayne would normally eat?  Unless maybe he really does have a fast food addiction…

Well, to be fair, I suppose working as a super-vigilante constantly beating up the mentally ill would cause you to burn off a lot of grease and empty calories.

Anyway, naturally dinner is put in the microwave because of the Bat-signal.  We get the usual introduction to the Batcave, with the rather dark (for this story) detail that the grandfather clock hiding the entrance to the Batcave has to be set to 10:47, the moment Bruce Wayne’s parents were shot.

We even get details about Bruce Wayne metamorphing into Batman.

Though it looked like black rubber, it was actually a suit of lightweight, flexible armor, molded to the contours to his body, including his nipples.

Admittedly, part of the above may not actually be in the book.

Unfortunately, things like this are:

Standing by his side, Robin leaned over the console and chuckled.  “It’s the gear,” he said, with just a hint of irony in his voice.  “Chicks go wild over the gear.”

It’s not as good as watching the movie.  At least with the film you can try to pinpoint the exact microsecond when Chris O’Donnell realizes his tenure as a Hollywood Golden Boy was fading out.

Oh, remember the “Alfred is dying” subplot from Batman & Robin?  Probably not, because it constituted like seven minutes of the whole movie, but luckily to pad out the book we get more of that.

Alfred himself staggered forward, barely able to support himself, and grabbed the edge of the massive computer console. His suffering went on for what seemed like forever. And he remained there, gasping for air, teeth clenched against it, until the pain at last began to subside.

My God, he thought. My God.

Still, he was glad neither Master Bruce nor Master Dick [heh heh hehehehehehehed.] had been present to see his discomfort.  Gathering himself on trembling legs, he took out a handkerchief to remove the sweat that had accumulated on his brow.

I feel like I should stop nitpicking even though nitpicking is the bread and butter of blogs like these.  That said…given that Alfred was putting away a meticulously prepared meal that his only real family ditched when he had his spell, this really does make Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson look like assholes.

Besides stretching out a few subplots, the biggest recourse available to authors of novelizations is giving backstories to bit characters.  In this case, we have the adventures of Clayton Krupzic, the security guard on duty at the Gotham Museum when it gets attacked by Mr. Freeze and his men.  He was a tough farm boy who came to Gotham to work as a cop, but couldn’t get a job because of police department budget cuts (although you’d imagine they would have a high turnover rate given all the cops killed by supervillains).

Like with so many ultra-minor characters who get the backstory treatment in adaptations, he’s not around long.

“Please,” he begged Mr. Freeze.  “Have mercy…”

The figure in the silver suit descended slowly, majestically. He was shimmering, terrifying.  And he seemed to like the idea.

“I’m afraid,” he said, peering into Clayton’s eyes, “that my condition has left me cold to your pleas.”

To be fair, the I get that the whole point of “Clayton Krupzic” is to show that even a  bruiser aspiring to be a cop in Gotham City of all places would be terrified of Mr. Freeze, but I find that somewhat less believable than the whole concept of a walking, talking cryogenically frozen man armed with a freeze ray.

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