SCORE REVIEW: Batman Forever/Batman and Robin

I talked about composer Elliot Goldenthal at length in “Elliot Goldenthal: A Composing Enigma”, but thought his two favorite scores of mine deserved full reviews. Ignoring the movies they’re both in, these scores feature a unique composing style and interesting selections. Since they’re so similar I decided to talk about both together. Each will have their own final rating and a list of standout tracks. Let’s start with Batman Forever.

Nominated for a Grammy, Goldenthal wrote this score before the film was even shot. His resulting compositions are unlike any Batman themes heard up to that point, and even today stand out. I’ll be using tracks from both the 1995 release and the limited expanded edition release in 2012.

Goldenthal’s “Main Titles” (aka his Batman theme) are a more heroic take with just enough dark elements added in. It’s certainly a departure from the Gothic sound many people are used to. Despite that I think it fits Batman. “Fledermarshmusik” (German for bat march music) is a rousing variant of the main theme.

From there he moves on to such tracks as “The Perils of Gotham”, “Circus Opening/The Flying Graysons/Death Drop”, “Victory”, and “Descent”. All the above show off his bombastic, even flamboyant approach. One specific element that stands out is the horn sections. Goldenthal knows how to make horns shriek in such a way that we’ve hardly heard them as loud or overpowering since.

Tracks such as “Gotham City Boogie”, “Perpetumm Mobile”, “Scuba Fight/Claw Island/Emperor of Madness” and especially “Nygma Variations” showcase a wacky, unique style commonly not found in blockbusters today. Upon first listen they sound like Goldenthal threw random instruments and melodies into a blender, then layered all the elements together. I don’t think they’re unlistenable pieces, you just have to get used to his style.

What stands out for me are the tracks “Mouth to Mouth Nocturne”, “The Pull of Regret”, and “Batterdammerung”. They show Goldenthal’s able to take quiet moments of the film into his score and turn them into dark tracks.

“Mouth to Mouth Nocturne”, a love tune, still has a dark overlay. “The Pull of Regret” is perhaps the darkest track in the score, mixing low bass notes with sorrowful string sections. This style continues in tracks like “Dream Doll”, “Flashback/Signal/Robin’s Lament”, and “Memories Repressed/Love”. “Batterdammerung” provides a wonderful closure using a brass motif rarely heard throughout the score.

Batman Forever has memorable themes and melodies combined with Goldenthal’s signature experimental style. It’s equally listenable on its own and in the movie. Bootlegs are available online although I hope a full re-release will happen sooner than later.

FINAL RATING: 3.8/5

 

While Batman Forever was a drastic change in composing styles from its predecessor, Batman and Robin has comparatively few changes. Goldenthal reused so much material from Forever it’s sometimes hard to tell the scores apart. This score has never received an official release. Only a short “themes” suite has seen the light of day. Hopefully it’ll receive one soon and full bootlegs are available online.

The “Main Title” is exactly like Forever‘s except its slower and has a backing choir towards the end. It’s darker and a little more Burton-esque. I personally enjoy both variations of the theme. Tracks like “A New Villian/Batman Drops In” and “Museum Mayhem” reuse motifs and themes as well (“Gotham City Boogie”), but here even more bombastic and flamboyant. The orchestrations are almost mind-boggling at times.

It isn’t until “The Nature of Family” that our first quiet theme is present. It’s a redo of the melody found in “Memories Repressed/Love” from Forever‘s score and also gets reused in “New Family Arrives” and “MacGregor’s Syndrome”. Not to be outdone is a short theme on “Mine for the Greening/Sad Moments” which is also present at the start of “One More Diamond/The Ball”  and “Escaping from Arkham”. It represents Mr. Freeze’s love for his frozen wife. While brief it captures a little bit of the character from the comics.

Aside from the above mention villain themes aren’t the best. Mr. Freeze’s is just a big brass number, not the most original (another reuse from Forever) but effective. Ivy’s theme is far better, using a solo saxophone and Bane doesn’t really have one. Throughout there’s also uses of guitars, drums, and other Goldenthal experiments. You can hear good representations of this in “One More Diamond/The Ball” and “Night Streets/Dick Saves Barb”.

“Access Allowed/Trust Me Now/Batgirl” and “Ivy’s Garden” give us a more restrained and Gothic sound, mostly keeping Goldenthal’s zany brass out until the end. In terms of what might be called “traditional” Batman music, this gets pretty close. There’s also similar moments in “Mr. Freezes Revenge/Beauty and the Beast”. When the composer goes quiet, it’s both a welcome relief to the ears and a chance for theme variations to make appearances.

More standout tracks include “A Chilling Chase” (an improvement on “Descent”), “Partners Part/Seeing the Light” (yet another Forever reuse), “One More Diamond/The Ball”, and a roughly 16-minute endurance test made up of “Ice Malice”, “Final Confrontation”, and “A Helping Hand”, where Goldenthal’s bombastic nature and orchestrations go full force. “A Helping Hand” includes a surprising amount of darker tones and quiet moments. It’s my favorite out of the three.

Batman and Robin has many changes and improvements over tracks from Batman Forever. It’s also perhaps the more cohesive score out of the two.

FINAL RATING: 3.8/5

I don’t really have a favorite score here. Both are a testament to the work and style of a unique composer. I’d even go as far to say they’re underrated, especially Batman and Robin. Although you might find these off-putting upon first listen, give them a chance.

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One thought on “SCORE REVIEW: Batman Forever/Batman and Robin

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