REVIEW: THE BATMAN BEGINS SOUNDTRACK
Author: Paul J. Wares
BATMAN BEGINS SOUNDTRACK
Tuesday, June 14, 2005: Over the coming weeks I shall attempt to guide you through the plethora of merchandising goodies. I shan’t be covering everything; simply the stuff that I feel is worth buying (unless any license holders wish to send me any products they would like me to review ;) ).
There are certain theme tunes from popular movies that enter into the consciousness of our culture. From Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther score to Brad Fiedel’s Terminator tune and practically anything composed by John Williams (Superman, Jaws, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars. The list goes on and on.)
Danny Elfman’s Batman theme tune also fits into this category. It is iconic and instantly recognisable, much like the Batman himself and it propelled the composer into the big league and the mainstream.
Off the back of Elfman’s wonderful score, Shirley Walker created a wealth of music for the Batman Animated Series of the 1990’s, that while not as iconic, it was certainly as distinctive.
Much like the movie’s that it accompanied, Elliot Goldenthal’s Batman scores were brash and gaudy, but still very distinctive and contained tunes that again were instantly recognisable.
And now Bat fans are faced with a new soundtrack for our favourite hero, but in a lot of ways, it’s not what you’d expect.
James Newton-Howard and Hans Zimmer’s Batman Begins score is a real mixed bag. Please bear in mind that I am reviewing the soundtrack as listened to on the CD that I purchased from my local Virgin Megastore on Monday 13 June. I have yet to see the film and hear how the soundtrack integrates into it. My feeling is that it will complement the movie very well, but as a standalone piece it has it’s failings.
Chief of these is a lack of distinctive theme tune. That’s not to say that the score doesn’t have themes running through it, it does. But those themes never build to the promise of something more. When the themes do build into something with some structure, it sadly sounds like a generic action movie soundtrack and really reminds me of Zimmer’s work on ‘The Rock’ and ‘Crimson Tide’. While still good, it simply doesn’t hold up against the aforementioned composers and their theme tunes.
That’s the negative. There are however some great positives. The score is very atmospheric, at times scary and exciting and at other times moody and melancholy.
It also has shades of the experimental. There are lots of tribal drum beats, that seem to reflect Batman’s animalistic side and there are also some very strange, but cool sound effects that range from voices that appear to be played backwards to the sounds of the flapping of batwings and bat screeches. It was these elements that I liked – A lot!
I do like this soundtrack and I suspect the score will grow on me, particularly after seeing the film, but I also expected something a little more – special.
When I first heard that these two monster composers were coming together for this collaboration I couldn’t have been happier. I imagined something crossed between Newton-Howard’s ‘Signs’ score and Zimmer’s ‘Gladiator’. That would have been pure heaven, but while the promise of that is present, it simply doesn’t deliver to my expectations, simply because the central theme just isn’t strong enough.
There is of course another way to look at this. The whole premise of Batman Begins as a movie is to forget what has come before and offer the audience something new. The score reflects this as if consciously trying to stay far away from anything that sounds like the previous franchise. If that is the intention, it succeeds.
Also the movie is about Batman in his infancy. In the movie Batman is learning by his mistakes and building on his strengths, the score reflects this too, explaining why it never really builds into that true, full on, distinctive tune that I so wanted. If this were the case though, it would have been nice to hear the score reflecting a newfound confidence in the Batman at the end of the CD.
As far as merchandise goes, I think this is a must-buy, but as far as the music itself goes, I give it 7.5/10. Showing lots of promise, but must try harder.
© 2005 by W.E. Ramey and BATMAN ON FILM. All rights reserved. NO PARTS MAY BE REPRINTED WITHOUT CONSENT OF BOF.