Superman Week 2013: William Kotzwinkle’s Superman III novelization (1983)
It’s Day 3 of Superman Week. I convinced CT over at Nerd Lunch and Robert over at To The Escape Hatch to join along. So leap in a single bound over to those wonderful blogs and see what Superman content they are offering up this week.
For Superman Week in 2006 (“celebrating” Superman Returns), I reviewed all of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. So, for the release of this new Superman movie, I thought I’d go back and read the novelizations to two of those same movies. There weren’t novelizations of the first two Reeve Superman movies most likely due to a clause in screenwriter Mario Puzo’s contract that forbade anyone other than him from writing the novelizations. But for whatever reason, Puzo never got around to writing the books. So Warner Books only released novelizations for the second two movies. I looked forward to reading these novelizations because I love the two Superman sequels in a retarded sort of way and I wanted to see if there was any more awesomely insane weirdness in the books.
So, today, let’s take a look at the novelization to Superman III.
Written by William Kotzwinkle, the guy who also wrote the ET novelization. The overall structure of the movie story is intact in the novelization. The biggest difference with the book is that Kotzwinkle adds a sh*t ton of internal dialogue by nearly every character, but mostly Superman/Clark and Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor). Many of the internal monologues are weird and in the case of Superman/Clark, completely against character. A lot of Clark’s internalized conversations are him saying how he could fly someone he doesn’t like to the moon and leave them there. You know, stuff like, “If only you knew I was Superman…” or “If I could, I would <fill in the blank with some super powered vengeance>”. I’m fairly certain these are supposed to setup the evil Superman later in the book, but I wasn’t buying it. It was against everything you think about Clark and Superman.
And as for Gus Gorman. Ugh. I didn’t really like Pryor’s character in the movie. Pryor did good with what he was given, but the character was dumb. This guy who can’t hold a steady job discovers that he’s some idiot savant when it comes to “computers”. What? And it’s even worse in the book. It’s made more clear in the novel that Gus literally has no idea what he’s doing or how he’s doing it. It’s like all of his computer skills are some sort of super power he can only barely control. Pryor makes the character somewhat likeable, but you don’t have that luxury in the novel. And it’s painfully clear that Pryor ad-libbed many of his lines in the movie because in the book, the dialogue for Gus might be some of the worst written crap I’ve ever read. Filled with weird late 70s-early 80s colloquialisms that make no sense. Pryor must have agreed because in the movie, he gets the same information across but in a better way.
As for the villains, the characters of Ross and Vera Webster and Lorelei aren’t much better in this novel than they were in the movie. Their back stories are fleshed out a little. We get that Vera is fiercely protective of her brother and craves his approval in everything she does. There are even a few flashbacks to their childhood. Lorelei, is still mostly one dimensional. A poor man’s Miss Tessmacher. She’s pretty and the book expands a bit more on the fact that Lorelei is actually smarter than everyone thinks she is. But it’s honestly to no further end.
Unfortunately, there’s no extra story to the evil Superman stuff. I was hoping we’d get more scenes, but we really don’t. Although, the book does say that Superman’s suit turns fully black and his eyes glow green. THAT is pretty awesome and I wish the movie would have taken it the whole way.
The book’s climax is essentially the same. Not really much to add. No further explanation about how Gus came up with the Super Computer idea. It’s essentially taken from drawings on napkins to fully realized in the cave. Who developed the AI software the computer runs on? Gus? He acts like he’d never seen the computer before when he walks into the cave after riding the donkey down the mountain. Don’t you think he would have supervised the entire construction? When the computer shoots the “correct” Kryptonite ray at Supes, how does the computer synthesize the .052% of unknown in the chemical makeup? It’s UNKNOWN to humans. Stuff like this needed a better explanation.
I was very disappointed with this book. I love movie novelizations and it’s rare that I don’t actually enjoy one. Especially if I like the movie. I didn’t like this and I can’t recommend it.
If you want a peak into the Superman III movie that could have been, take a glance at this unused Ilya Salkind story treatment. Prepare for appearances by Supergirl, Brainiac and Mr Mxzyptlk. It’s weird, but I think it could have been spectacular.