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Trash Culture Literary Corner, Batman & Robin Chapter 2-3

I know that writers of book adaptations have to wrap up well before the movie is sent to theaters, with sometimes the author not even working from the final draft of the script.  So I have to both chuckle and wince at the thought of how Michael Jan Freedman reacted when he tore open his draft of the script and was greeted by such gems as:

“You’re not sending me to the cooler,” he said.

If you thought lines like that fell as flat as year-old soda coming from the lips of an actor with a heavy Austrian accent, imagine just seeing them on the naked page.  Somehow it makes the characters’ actions even more inexplicable.  It’s like everyone in Gotham City is suffering from a particularly pitiful version of Tourette’s.  

Clenching his teeth, Freeze turned his cryonic weapon on his adversary.  “Bat on ice, anyone?”  

mrfreeze

Truly a villain motivated by grief and revenge.

Part of the chapter is told from Mr. Freeze’s POV, but the narration sticks to a just-the-facts account of the obligatory fight scene.  There’s only a little bit suggesting Freeze’s loneliness:

Batman went for Freeze.  Robin was right behind him.  How dramatic, thought Freeze.  How inspiring.  His own outlook tended to be more down to earth.  More succinct.  

To be fair, that still does more with Freeze’s modern reinvention as a tragic villain than the movie’s script ever does.  It really does get at, let’s say, one slight quibble with the film and the way it approached the source material.  It wanted to acknowledge modern versions of the characters, but at the same time it was trying to homage the campy ’60s TV show and the Silver Age style it was built on.  The problem emerged when it tried to have a Mr. Freeze who acted along the same lines as a bald Vincent Price throwing egg bombs and sneering lines like, “Egg-celent” at the exact same time it would present a Mr. Freeze with largely the same tragic backstory as the updated animated series incarnation.  You can’t blame the author by not delving into this Freeze’s mindset.  To reconcile the two radically different versions of his character, he’d have to have the worst case of Multiple Personality Disorder this side of a soap opera.

Anyway, like in the movie, Mr. Freeze steals a gem from the museum and makes a big budget escape in a rocket.  When Batman manages to catch it, Freeze handglides away, leaving Batman stuck in a rocket that threatens to hit the city, culminating in the rather infamous “wind-surfing on two metal doors” scene from the film.  

At least the author tucks in a nice little reference to the cliffhangers from the ’60s series:

But would it be enough?  Would they reach the villain in time to get the museum’s diamond back? Batman gritted his teeth, knowing there was only one acceptable answer to the question.

Batman does succeed – almost – but Robin, always the useful human shield, gets between Batman and a blast from Freeze’s gun.  Naturally Batman chooses to save Robin, which earns him Freeze’s scorn.

“Your emotions make you weak,” he said.  “Weak and vulnerable.  That’s why this day is mine.”

You almost want Batman to reply, “Okay – everyone who went into crime just to cure their dying wife, raise their hand.”

Overall the chapters are not a bad translation of the action scenes in the movie.  Too bad the action scenes themselves are overcooked and tedious.  On the character front, we see a little bit of the tension in Batman and Robin’s partnership, one of the movie’s own big themes, but little else, despite giving us the POVs of both Batman and Freeze. Maybe we’ll see more of an attempt to patchwork the movie’s problems with character development when we get to meet the next half of Batman & Robin‘s villainous duo…

 

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