Literary Corner, Uncategorized

Trash Culture Literary Corner: Batman & Robin, Chapters 17-19

“I guess they don’t know what’s good for them,” said Freeze. “Cops on the rocks, anyone?”

Multiply that tenfold, throw in descriptions of cinematic action scenes that really weren’t that good anyway, and you pretty much already know what’s in the last few chapters in Batman & Robin are like.

Fun fact: at some point Patrick Stewart was being considered for the role of Mr. Freeze. Can you imagine him saying lines like…

“Cops are so hot-tempered these days”

Well, okay, actually it’s not that hard to imagine.


Anyway, Batman and Robin of course fight Mr. Freeze’s goons. Michael Jan Friedman sneaks in a line that’s genuinely funny, which of course wasn’t in the original script.

“Boy”, [Robin] thought, as he left the skiers in his wake. “I hope for Freeze’s sake he buys these guys by the dozen.”

They’re too late, though, because Mr. Freeze has already hijacked the observatory’s equipment to flash-freeze the citizens of Gotham City. Compared to being gassed by the Joker, it’s perhaps not as bad, especially because Batman works out that human beings can be defrosted from the effects of Mr. Freeze’s ray, but it has to be done within eleven minutes. How he works that out? Well, the narrative doesn’t know either, but at least it admits that.

Batgirl wasn’t sure how [Batman] knew that. On the other hand she wasn’t about to question anything he said.

Since she didn’t question how her butler uncle created an artificial intelligence clone of his consciousness, why become a skeptic now?

Of course, Batman is right, and Batgirl uses her hacking skills (I swear it’s the only point in the whole book where she’s useful) to use satellites keyed into the observatory to bathe Gotham in enough sunlight to save everyone.

As Batman goes to stop Mr. Freeze from disabling the satellites, Robin and Batgirl are attacked by Bane. So, yes, the villain famous for breaking Batman’s back in one of the most famous stories in the entire franchise’s existence isn’t just reduced to a dialogue-less, character-less lackey, but doesn’t even really fight Batman. And it takes a little over a page for them to defeat him. Do you get why this film generates Chernobyl-esque levels of nerd-rage inducing contamination?


Anyway, in the climactic battle between Mr. Freeze and Batman, we get the crappy one liner to end all crappy one liners:

“We aim to freeze!”

I think that one actually caused me to blackout for a little while.

The God of Plot Convenience intervenes when Batman fights Mr. Freeze to a standstill, allowing him to reveal that Poison Ivy was the one who tried to kill Nora and that Batman had managed to save her. For some reason, Mr. Freeze just happens to have a cure he invented for the early stages of the disease that forced Mr. Freeze to put Nora in suspended animation, which happens to be the same disease that threatens to kill Alfred. Hooray, Dick and Bruce can go back to taking an elderly man for granted in no time!

Unfortunately, Poison Ivy won’t get a happy ending. But, first, we get a bit of a teaser for Batman Triumphant, the sequel that never happened.

The Riddler, the Mad Hatter, Maxie Zeus…all of them thoroughly mad. All of them hollowed out by this place until they were devoid of hope. Only the Scarecrow refrained from shrieking and cursing with the rest of them. But he was the maddest of all.

See, Batman Triumphant was supposed to be the third Batman film directed by Joel Schumacher, with the Scarecrow and Harley Quinn as the villains and even Jack Nicholson reprising the Joker in a scene depicting Batman’s own Scarecrow-induced nightmare (and, yes, proving once and for all that the Tim Burton movies and  the Schumacher movies are in the same continuity, despite how little sense that makes). Despite solemn promises would be tonally darker, Batman & Robin‘s poor box office performance and reputation as a big-budget b-movie doomed Batman Triumphant, the whole Burton-Schumacher series, and superhero movies until the still-booming boom.

By one of those pop culture coincidences only I care about, the Scarecrow was also supposed to be the villain in Tim Burton’s never-made third Batman film. I would say he’s the kiss of death for Batman film franchises if not for Batman Begins. Anyway, having read a script that was at least supposed to have been the latest draft of the Batman Triumphant script, I’m convinced we didn’t miss much, although I am faintly grieved that we all missed out on Jeffrey Goldblum as the Scarecrow.

Back to Poison Ivy, she’s plucking the petals off a flower, playing “he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not”, which is something Poison Ivy, even as she exists in the film’s universe, would never do. Mr. Freeze shows up in Ivy’s cell, after bribing the guards.

“Prepare for a bitter harvest,” Freeze told her, his eyes glinting like daggers. “Winter has come at last.”

Ivy swallowed. This wasn’t he kind of cold embrace she’d had in mind.

So…I guess Batman & Robin followed the quirky series tradition of leaving one of the two featured villains dead after all.

Meanwhile Bruce reflects on his relationship with Alfred, specifically an incident when Bruce was sent to a child psychiatrist after the death of his parents and only Alfred perceived that Bruce had only told the psychiatrist what he expected to hear.

Of course, Alfred had known what was going on. But he hadn’t intervened to protest the boy’s behavior. It was as if he’d sensed that Bruce would need a clean bill of health one day. As if he’d known the boy would need to fade into the background, bland and uninteresting, so someone else could emerge and never be linked to him.

Honestly that’s the kind of thing the book needed more of. Actually, it’s what the script needed a lot more of. Among the many flaws in the movie is that it slaps on a “we’re a family” theme, only without actually doing much to explore Bruce’s relationship with Alfred. Oh well, at least Barbara is around to point out that the Bat-signal comes out, as if to remind everyone of her existence.

My final verdict: I do think Michael Jan Friedman comes out of this looking well enough, but he was given an impossible assignment. Batman & Robin was a bad film from the script up, and the elements that made the movie bearable, even vaguely enjoyableArnold Schwarzenegger’s weirdly earnest performance as Mr. Freeze and Schumacher’s gloriously day-glo Silver Age camp vision of Gotham City, for example—are practically impossible to replicate in prose. You can see where Friedman tried to add background detail and give the narrative some kind of nice thematic wrapping—see Batman use the gymnastic knowledge he got from young, pre-insanity Mr. Freeze to save his life!—but you get the sense he gave up at a certain point…much like many other people who worked to bring us Batman & Robin.





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