Review Summary: Danny Elfman tangles with the protector of the night to giv us one of the most truly memorable fim scores of all time.
Dark, urban and scary; those are the best ways to describe Tim Burton’s first Batman film. It gives off a certain air of despair and gloom among the industrial-cum-gothic themes that Burton’s Gotham City was built around. Dark, black structures of old clash with modern industrialization, in essence creating the perfect environment for the Batman. It is a place where the Bat can strike from the shadows and deliver fear into the hearts of criminals. Yet there is also the sensitive side to the Batman’s character; the persona of Bruce Wayne in the film as portrayed by Michael Keaton. He displays a full range of emotions, showcasing a man barely able to cope with his double identity. It slowly tears away at his sanity, as he tries to lead a normal life while still being an avenger of the night. A range of themes are delivered from the various actors, from sad anger coming out of the Batman, to grim psychotics from The Joker, to a sense of lust out of the character of Vicki Vale. To deliver a soundtrack that fit his dark, gritty vision, Burton hired renowned composer Danny Elfman to create a soundtrack that encapsulated all of these themes into one cohesive score. Elfman’s soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment, displaying the full range of emotions, themes and tones portrayed throughout the film. It’s a dark reimagining of classic movie scores whilst still being entirely original. And it’s that originality that makes this so wonderful to hear.
The score begins with the instantly recognizable Batman theme, creating a sense of rush and dark urgency. The music speeds along at an odd pace and it really is the most suitable theme for a man dressed up in a bat suit, portraying his grimness and burdened heart through music. It get slows and creepy throughout other songs, leaving an atmosphere of dread and decay. It’s the soundtrack to a troubled man saving an even more troubled city one day at a time. The fantastic compositions Danny Elfman produced here are epic without being up-tempo, violent while being soft, and there’s a sharp contrast of light and dark songs on here. Calming ballads play around gleefully with chaotic numbers. Minor key playing creeps along with relaxed, minimalist piano lines. Danny Elfman’s score bounces around between moods and themes at a schizophrenic pace. The urgent pacing and mix of slow and fast numbers portray the environment of Gotham City in the Batman movie. Low end, slithering piano lines portray the dank gutters of Gotham while the various stringed instruments shows us the higher ends, but still corrupt parts of Gotham. The percussion shows us the developing middle, where Batman lies, deciding if Batman is a hero or a menace to the people he tries to protect. Elfman truly created the perfect soundtrack for a Tim Burton and a Batman film, showing us both Batman’s and Burton’s dark side.
Other themes and motifs are used for other characters as well. The Joker uses a light, almost comedic waltz as theme music and Vicki Vale’s Love Theme music is a soft, emotional ballad. The locations such as the Bat Cave and the Gotham Tower even have theme music too, there’s mostly dark and dreading like the other songs. These happier sounds provide a nice contrast to the themes of urban decay in a dying city. I guess a balance of the elements was necessary to keep this from being “one dimensional.” It shows brightness among a barely thriving community. It shows that there could be hope for the future even times are bad for a Gotham City. Ultimately, light and dark battle each other out for control, but who’s left standing?
Why, it seems it’s the dark of course. The score settles in at the end, saying there may be hope, but the city is still ravaged. A series of themes, motifs, characters and locations are all single handedly captured in music form. Danny Elfman saw this movie and made the perfect soundtrack for it. Nothing can single handedly top his Batman theme, or his skills at composing, gloomy, guttural sounds. If somebody else made this soundtrack, it simply wouldn’t sound right. Danny Elfman and Tim Burton are a tag team made in heaven (or hell). Elfman’s score personifies the dark moodiness of Batman and the Batman franchise as a whole. Quite possibly the perfect score, Batman
is a disc of encapsulating music helping capture the feel of one of the greatest movies of all time. 5/5