Music by: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Additional Music by: Ramin Djawadi and Mel Wesson
Many fans complained about the deviation from the original Danny Elfman score in this reboot of the Batman franchise. While Elfman’s score for Batman and Batman Returns was majestic and as proclaimed by Elfman fans, genius, for this reboot, acclaimed composers Hans Zimmer (Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Rock, The Da Vinci Code) and James Newton Howard (King Kong, The Village) collaborate and completely change the music of Batman. Gone are the gothic and (at times) silly Elfman-esque themes. They are replaced by themes which could truly become the voice of the future Batman movies.
I’ve always maintained that music is the actual voice of the film-even masterfully shot scenes require good music to actually lift them up from the mundane. But this score, it left me totally speechless. It not just becomes the voice of the movie, but also of Batman. The tragic yet heroic tone of the music is a welcome departure from the more action oriented writing of Elfman and Elliot Goldenthal (Batman Forever, Batman and Robin). For the first time, someone’s actually gone inside Batman’s head and realized that it ain’t all about the action, instead, it’s more about the character and what drives him than the action (which doesn’t, for a moment take anything away from the fact that the album features some pretty good action cues too).
The album begins with Vespertilio-a percussive piece that uses rhythmic pounds to simulate the effect of a giant bat flapping its wings (or, as a friend pointed out, an approaching storm), which are repeated quite often in the album. Midway through the cue, a two note rising and descending motif takes over. This is the central theme and the best use of it is around the 4-minute mark in Barbestalla, when by mixing it with percussion and a full orchestra, Zimmer and Howard create a sudden and unexpected uplifting theme.
The album also features some cues that could so easily have fit into a horror movie (and thus, blend superbly with Batman Begins‘ central theme of fear). Whispers and dark ambient textures are used well in Artibeus and Tadarida to create an atmosphere of fear.
The action writing makes its first appearance in Myotis, a fast paced track that ends nicely on an emotional note, introducing us to Batman’s main theme. Antrozous is also a pretty decent track, starting out on soft, tension creating track before degenerating into an overdrawn (yet enjoyable at times) cue. It was better represented in the movie, but for some strange reason, the good bits didn’t make it into the album.
Hands down the best track on the album is Molossus. Once it starts, it never quits (often running in my head for a day or two after listening to it!!). The orchestra really rises to Zimmer’s writing to give us the best rendition of the Batman theme in a long long time. Set to coincide with the freeway chase, this track too is better represented in the film (but is awesome on the album too!!).
The emotional and tender writing is undoubtedly Newton Howard. The sweeping treble melodies and the stringy approach create one rising melody after the other. While Zimmer’s basses became the voice of Batman, Howard’s strings became the voice of Bruce Wayne. They not only made us feel for Wayne, but also understand what actually drives him. The alleyway cue (when Wayne’s parents are shot to death) could so easily have resulted in melodramatic writing by a novice (which would most probably have completely put the listener off), but Howard chooses a much more restrained approach to create something really moving. Eptesicus, Corynorhinus, Barbastella and Macrotus feature some of the best tender bits in a long time, and are definitely worth a listen.
To wrap it all up, I’d say that even though a lot of good cues were dropped from the album and some were cut short, and this might not be as much fun as Elfman’s albums, this album is definitely a better piece of writing. While Elfman seldom wrote for Wayne, Zimmer and Howard created stirring cues for him too. And, the action bits are pure genius. More importantly, the score complements Nolan’s vision flawlessly, thus uplifting this movie from the mundane, and into a masterpiece.