Batman Begins

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

 
" Rather gloomy affair will not be for everyone's taste. "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

A surprising choice was made when both Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard were hired to compose the music for the newest Batman film. Considering both would make excellent choices on themselves for the picture, why together? This is not like John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams working as a pair on for instance Chicken Run, because they both have the same musical background, namely MV. But now two Hollywood A-list composers got together to make the most of it. In context of the film, it worked! But was it noticed?

While the movie became the best Batman film, on terms of the most well acted as well as most exhilarating movie of them all (that was until The Dark Knight was released), you were still wondering about the music itself.

More or less a reason is the absence of a big main theme. Elfman and Batman fanatics who wished a dazzling comic book theme ala Batman himself will feel quickly the lack of A main theme. Honestly, in a way a theme must always be present but if we consider the fact that Batman doesn't exist yet, this is a well supported choice. But, perhaps it should have grown like The Fellowship of the Ring theme, with in the middle of that movie the first presentation and then the constant performances of it. Sadly this doesn't happen, so be ready for it.

Of course, most fans will already be drawn away from the lack of A main theme. What Batman Begins also lacks is a heroic mood, but again the score functions more as the darker angrier voice of Bruce Wayne. He carries so much darkness in himself, that it's again understandable the score doesn't burst out in heroic Elfman measures. Anyway, these are all things that will either be liked or disliked by the fans of the Batman genre, the Danny Elfman Batman fans as well as the fans of the two composers here. Also, while sad but true, Batman Begins lacks a lot of gusto to make it memorable!

But does this now mean that Batman Begins is bad? Well, no and if you accept it for what it is, you might want to consider it worked very well in the movie. I only expected it to bring us more in the end. For instance the opening track "Vespertilio" (mark these names, and try to imagine what scene it accompanies). Here you have a Zimmer style with a moody The Ring atmosphere and a two note motif that stands for Wayne's descent into the darkness. Interestingly, today it will be the only tune people outside the theatre will whistle. More or less this two note motif has become the sound of the Batman movies.

I presume James Newton Howard brings us the more softer material at times. "Eptesicus" is gentle with piano and soft strings, with some variations on the rising two note motif. But it is the classicism of the violin like Gladiator and The Village that makes it noticeable, just like the Zimmer tempo trying to make it a little gothic.

The action sound is noticeable enough and "Myotis" underscores the escape out of the temple. While dark, it uses the trailer music with a rhythmic Zimmer-touch combined with some theme variations that makes the Batman figure rise able. "Barbastella" is brooding Sixth Sense music with the piano and the beat for the cave while the boy vocal seems to come from Zimmer. Apparently both composers worked together extensively.

"Artibeus" is rather boring; clashing sounds, dissonant shrieks and quite forgettable. More mood settles itself in "Tadarida", but here percussion leads to a solo female vocal and a violin eeriness reminiscent of Pearl Harbor. Yet despite all the understandable darkness, this score actually delivers few on real thrills. I'm glad with "Macrotus", a rather touching and good love theme is heard through rising strings and piano (capturing a bit of anger as love in its performance). I think Newton Howard has the most hand in here.

The growing two note motif returns most noticeable in "Antrozous" and in "Nycteris" where we welcome the piano tone again. Luckily for the album and its listeners, "Molossus" breaks the shell and while not terrific, it certainly is the best track of the score. It breaks the tediousness of the music with some heavy rhythm. This is more Zimmer than Howard but then again, how can I know for sure? At least the trailer theme and heroic theme for Batman is present enough.

"Corynorhinus" brings back the piano and string led love theme, later replaced for the rather subdued "Lasiurus". Again this is nothing but moody rising strings. Considering we could have ended with the end credits instead, it makes it a disappointment on itself.

You heard it, Batman Begins is one big giant question mark. Despite its tedious effect and rather bland tone, you still surprise yourself you're humming most of it when listening to the soundtrack. Furthermore it actually works for the movie where the darkness is easy to appreciate. But it doesn't change the fact this as something uninspiring. No big winning theme, no strong gothic allure, just a mood setter that achieves something of a goal; stating effectively enough the rise of a dark figure and the anger inside of him. Batman Begins isn't an album I keep returning to. The movie on the other hand ...

Tracklisting

1. Vespertilio (2.52)
2. Eptesicus (4.20)
3. Myotis (5.46)
4. Barbastella (4.45)
5. Artibeus (4.19)
6. Tadarida (5.05)
7. Macrotus (7.35)
8. Antrozous (3.59)
9. Nycteris (4.25)
10. Molossus (4.49)
11. Corynorhinus (5.03)
12. Lasiurus (7.27)

Total Length: 60.30
(click to rate this score)  
 
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(total of 89 votes - average 3.43/5)

Released by

Warner Sunset 71324 (regular release 2005)

Conducted by

Gavin Greenaway

Orchestrations by

Brad Dechter & Bruce Fowler