I always used to hate movie novelisations as a kid and found them pointless. I’d usually have the film on video and couldn’t understand the point of reading a long, slow, duller version where I had to build the image up in my head.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve had a lot of nostalgia for stuff from my youth and I recently purchased a lot of Batman novelisation audiobooks off eBay (curse you eBay) and transferred them from tape to mp3. Here’s my thoughts:-
Batman (1989) read by Roddy McDowall
At around 90 minutes this is a little shorter than the movie it’s based on. Roddy McDowell is a nice choice given that he played the Bookworm in the 60s series and voiced the Mad Hatter in the animated show. His high pitched, slightly camp voice makes him more suitable for the Joker and Vicki Vale than he does for Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s not an especially dynamic reading and definitely could have been improved. It sounds a lot like McDowall is reading his lines for the first time. Overall, it’s fine but no real surprises or additional scenes.
Batman (1989) novelisation read by Nathan Pierce (unofficial release 2016)
This is an unofficial recording made by a YouTube group called Audiobooks for the Damned who record themselves reading old movie novelisations unabridged. At 5 and a half hours this is very slow compared to the movie. It’s a straight read through of the novelisation by Craig Shaw Gardner. Hilariously it’s unedited and a few times Nathan slips up and swears to himself. Don’t let your kids listen to this. One interesting element is that it includes one of the cut subplots from the film in which the Joker defaces a statue of John T Gotham (the founder of the city) with his own face. If you go looking through some background material on the film you will find that they did build this statue but never shot the unveiling scene.
Batman Returns (1992) read by Michael Murphy
NOTE: No youtube version of this. You’ll have to find the tape.
Spread over 2 tapes this is around 2 and half hour. A little more than the film’s runtime. Michael Murphy plays the role of the mayor in the movie. He’s actually really good and has a much more suitable voice for Bruce Wayne and Batman. Again, no major additions here though there are one or two extra sleazy puns from the Penguin. This is actually really enjoyable and probably the most recommended of all the audiobooks.
Batman Forever (1995) read by René Auberjonois
Again, this uses one of the cast. Auberjonois played the small role of Dr Burton in the film. He’s a decent narrator but like McDowall suits the villains more than the title hero. A few extra lines here and there. Strangely, it begins with a flashback of Edward Nygma being bullied as a kid at school and vowing one day he’ll get his revenge. I’ve always wondered if this was ever part of the script. Overall, a good reading and at 2 and half hours, it’s about the right length. One thing I always liked is that it opens with Danny Elfman’s superior score rather than Elliot Goldenthal’s.
Batman & Robin (1997) An Audio Action Adventure
This one is the odd duck. Rather than have someone narrate the novelisation they chose to do it as a radio play with sound effects. The voice artists, uncredited, are super cheesy and very over the top (not unlike the movie). The recording also boasts “special 3D sound effects” which are really grating. It even drops the Elliot Goldenthal score for some cheesy stock library music. It’s a real dud. The only saving grace is that it’s 35 minutes.
That’s all for now. Expect some more Batman-related stuff in the future.