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” are a more heroic take at the character, with just enough dark elements added in.
From there he moves on to such tracks as “The Perils of Gotham”, “Circus Opening/The Flying Graysons/Death Drop”, “Victory”, and “Descent”. All of these 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” 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 the quiet and dark moments of the film into his score. “Mouth to Mouth Nocturne”, which is more of 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. “Batterdammerung” provides a wonderful closure, using a brass motif rarely heard throughout the score.
Batman Forever has memorable themes 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 re-release will happen sooner than later.
FINAL RATING: 3.7/5
While Batman Forever was a drastic change in composing styles from its predecessor, Batman and Robin had comparatively few changes. Goldenthal reused so much material from Forever‘s score it’s sometimes hard to tell both scores apart. This score has never received an official release. Hopefully it’ll receive one soon and full bootlegs are available online.
The “Main Title” is almost exactly like Forever‘s, but its slower and has a backing choir towards the end. It’s darker and 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, 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 one of the best original themes written for the score, later reused in “New Family Arrives” and “MacGregor’s Syndrome”. Not to be outdone is a short ending theme on “Mine for the Greening/Sad Moments”, also present at the start of “One More Diamond/The Ball” and “Escaping from Arkham”, representing Mr. Freeze’s love for his frozen wife. It’s brief but 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 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, its both a welcome relief to the ears and a chance for theme variations to make appearances.
More standout tracks include “A Chilling Chase” (a better version of “Descent”), “Partners Part/Seeing the Light”, “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 improvements over tracks from Batman Forever and is the more cohesive score. Forever, on the other hand, has more original content and doesn’t feel like a repeat. Despite that, Batman and Robin is still a more interesting and enjoyable listen.
FINAL RATING: 3.9/5
Both scores are a testament to the work and style of a unique composer. Neither one’s that bad per say. I’d even go as far to say they’re underrated, Batman and Robin especially. Although you might find these off-putting upon first listen, give them a chance.