I don’t say that lightly. I’m slow to change my top choice and the man had first class competition from Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal and Hans Zimmer. In my series of reviews on the solo Batman scores there will be other categories like best Batman theme and most heart-pumping track to be crowned.
However, THE BATMAN: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK takes the ultimate prize.
It’s the most cohesive score of the lot. In the same way Greig Fraser made the film murky yet with vibrant reds and golds as director of photography, Giacchino gave every scene this eerie yet aggressive, often victorious tone.
Fitting for a movie where Batman has to solve sadistic clues and traps on his way to defeating Riddler.
We see the full power of THE BATMAN‘s music right up front. “Can’t Fight City Halloween” is my favorite track. It perfectly sets-up Batman’s reputation as this growing urban legend waging a one man war on crime.
The opening beats are like sidewalk steps on a windy night. The strings, brass and horns wailing voices in the distance. As the drums escalate, we see more crime in Gotham City then suddenly shift to slow chimes ringing in the Batman theme. All this culminates in the sound being turned up to 11 and you hear the orchestra blasting out the words, “THE BATMAN!” over and over in musical form.
It’s grounded as director Matt Reeves intended right down to the pavement. Add in Robert Pattinson’s monologue, the shots of criminals fearing the shadows, the helicopters and Bat-signal shining in the sky and Reeves bests his predecessors at introducing the character. Hands down.
The beauty of Giacchino’s music is that Batman’s theme is more adaptable. It’s only a few notes but played with more of a variety of instruments than previous ones. When surveilling suspects by motorcycle it’s a heavy piano. The rafter fight with the Riddler’s followers sounds like the brass and percussion players are on steroids. The emotional climax at the convention center has a chimes/bell tower sound take the lead as Batman is reborn as a figure of hope.
I have to highlight some of the hilarious names Giacchino chose for his tracks: “It’s Raining Vengeance,” “Escaped Crusader,” “Collar ID” (ouch) and “Highway to the Anger Zone.” The only one that’s in bad pun territory is “Are You a Kenzie or a Can’t-zie.” They all demonstrate the smooth dark humor in THE BATMAN and are just as grin inspiring as the “thumb…drive” line.
Giacchino was announced as the composer for THE BATMAN in October 2019. If you haven’t seen the video of Reeves getting down on one knee at London’s Royal Albert Hall and proposing to Giacchino that he score the movie, please give it a watch. It’s absolutely adorable.
Giacchino had already distinguished himself with ROGUE ONE, JURASSIC WORLD, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, THE INCREDIBLES, STAR TREK and Reeves’ previous films. Yet I was a little apprehensive since he had repeated himself a bit with his DOCTOR STRANGE score. I remember watching that film’s credits and suddenly heard a hint of the STAR TREK theme.
Those concerns completely evaporated when Reeves released Pattinson’s costume test video in February 2020 complete with a sample of the new score. It clearly was its own thing, maybe drawing some inspiration from Reeves’ love of CHINATOWN and TAXI DRIVER.
I could go on and on about this album. It’s refreshing to have supplemental music for each character along with the stunning “Sonata in Darkness,” a 12-minute piano rendition of the score worthy of a solo record (a 45 single release, please Warner Bros?).
The music for Selina Kyle is just as adaptable (see what I did there?) as Batman’s. Giacchino goes full noir with a little light jazz giving her the ultimate femme fatale feel. Gotham City itself gets represented as the “Funeral and Far Between” track sounds like the city is in mourning for the better days of the past.
The only theme that could’ve been improved was Paul Dano’s Riddler music, which becomes repetitive to the point on getting on your nerves like a record skipping. It’s obviously the “Ave Maria” echoing his tragic backstory as an orphan. While the supplemental material helps Batman and Catwoman, I wish some of the faster-paced moments from The Riddler’s character piece were included in the movie just for variety.
Of course, all that could be intentional as the villain is supposed to get on your nerves.
Beyond that, there’s really nothing to complain about. If I really, really had to try it would’ve been nice if Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” was included on the album. But I’m sure rights issues always get in the way of that.
In the final analysis, THE BATMAN score succeeded because it was allowed to chart new territory. The BOF crew have said Batman and Spider-Man are Teflon on the big screen and for good reason. Both had Elfman, Zimmer and Giacchino as a composer and none of them had a hand tied behind their back readapting work from the 70s, 80s or early 2000s. Superman fans should take note. – James Armstrong