Literary Corner

Trash Culture Literary Corner: Batman & Robin, Chapters 14-15

One of the genuinely interesting things that comes from reading a novel or graphic novel adaptation of a film is that sometimes they’ll include scenes left out of the theatrical cut of the film or only included in earlier drafts of the script. In this case, there are more scenes with Julie Madison, a character from the earliest years of Batman’sjuliemadison existence who in the movie, like in the comics, is Bruce’s fiancee. However, there aren’t as many scenes even in the novel as were actually filmed, and it’s been rumored that on the cutting room floor is a scene where Poison Ivy stabbed Julie to death in the Gotham Observatory. Now that would have jarred the tone up!

Unlike her cinematic predecessors – Vicki Vale, Selina Kyle, and Dr. Chase Meridian (God, I will never not hate that stupid name) – Julie really barely qualifies as even a love interest. In fact, even with all her scenes intact, she barely exists in the film’s universe. She’s even more of a non-entity than Commissioner Gordon, if that’s possible. It’s almost like the filmmakers wanted to crack jokes about Bruce’s real love interest in this movie being Dick. It writes itself!

Anyway, we do get at least one allegedly funny scene where Poison Ivy accidentally ends Bruce and Julie’s engagement when she infects him with her pheromone powers.

“Make a choice,” said the starlet, intensely aware of the swarming reporters. “Her or me, Bruce.”
The rich man hesitated – but only for a moment. “Well, um…her.”

Again, while the movie does show Poison Ivy kill people, even if they’re not Julie herself, her effectiveness as a villain does seem limited to ruining Bruce’s relationship with a woman we barely see.

Speaking of broken hearts, next we switch to Robin, who is more full of angst than a ’90s X-Men comic. Featuring only Rogue and Gambit.

why couldn’t Bruce just be happy for him, for godsakes? Why couldn’t he, of all people on earth, understand how good it felt to be loved again – really loved – and to have someone to love in return? […] The wind howled around him, echoing the howling in his heart. How could Bruce be so cruel to him? How?

Okay, now I’m convinced that Michael Jan Friedman is in on the big gay joke too.

Actually, even though for a while it seemed like Michael Jan Friedan was on auto-pilot, this might be another case of the author’s good ideas being constrained by the crappy script he’s adapting.  Whether or not Robin’s tantrum is being brought on by Poison Ivy’s influence, there is a germ of an interesting concept in exploring how Bruce, who obviously has one or two emotional issues, might actually have problems being a paternal figure and offering psychological comfort to even someone who went through a trauma very similar to what he did. Bruce might just assume that bringing Dick Grayson into his mission of justice is all the resolution he needs, which is very much not the case. There’s something to how troubling it is, and yet so natural to the character, that Bruce Wayne’s worldview is so shaped by one horrible event that he would subconsciously assume that anyone who also lost family to criminal violence would be made whole by becoming a vigilante like he did. The implications of that for all young characters who adopt Batman’s legacy, including both Robin and Batgirl, can fuel many stories (all better than this one, of course).

batmanandrobinrobinAt least I think that’s what Michael Jan Friendman is hinting at. Even if he is, it still gets buried under the stupid and forced “love triangle” between Batman, Robin, and Poison Ivy. I mean, someone had to realize at some point that it’s not much of a conflict when everyone knows Robin and Batman are just under Poison Ivy’s influence, right? Trust me, in prose form it’s even more obvious.

What’s not expected is what Alfred planned as his “replacement” in the event of his death. In the movie it comes across as a bizarre, lazy, and deranged deus ex machina. In the book, it…comes across as a bizarre, lazy, and deranged deus ex machina.

“I anticipated a moment might arrive,” said the image, “where I became incapacitated. As a precaution against such a circumstance, i programmed my brain algorithms into the Batcomputer and reated a virtual simulation – the one you see before you.”
Bruce stared for a moment. then he shook his head in admiration of the older man’s genius.

Oh, my elderly butler and father-figure created an AI clone of himself – impressive, but ain’t no thing.

Okay, I can buy the charitable arguments that Batman & Robin was scripted with not only the ’60s television series, but also with the campy Silver Age comics in mind, but I think even in those stories this would have been too much of a plot convenience. And I mean it would have strained suspension of disbelief even right next to that Silver Age saga where Alfred was believed killed by a boulder, secretly brought back to life but accidentally turned into a monster by a scientist, and plotted to destroy Batman and Robin for no reason.batmanandrobinalfredai

It doesn’t help that Alfrednet only exists to help Barbara figure out that Bruce and Dick are Batman and Robin, and help her become Batgirl…say it with me, for no reason. At least in the book that stupid blazing red Batman logo doesn’t glow on her face from the computer screen, showing the worst kept secret in history.

To be fair, in the book Alfrednet also does pretty much everything to get Bruce to figure out that he and Dick have been under the control of Poison Ivy’s pheromones, which…you know what, Batman, you do not get to call yourself the “World’s Greatest Detective” anymore. Bad Batman!


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