Composers: Christopher Drake, Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, Neil Hefti, Nelson Riddle, Shirley Walker, Hans Zimmer, and James Newton Howard
Label: Silva America
Taken from just about every version of Batman that’s graced the silver or television screen, this soundtrack offers the listener everything great about the Batman: it’s all big, dark, and broody.
Right from the start (because I didn’t look at the track titles), I got a surprise from this album: the first track is the iconic Elfman theme. I haven’t seen the two Tim Burton films in a long time, so I had completely forgotten how epic and fantastic that two minute or so track is. For me, that’s the theme for Batman forever (as in, “for all time” and not the actual movie Batman Forever). It’s dark in that gothic way, of a man watching over his city from up on the rooftops, looking to protect her from all sorts of dark villainy. Hearing it anew reminds me of how much I love Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Batman. Burton may have never picked up a Batman comic in his life, but he had a moment of inspiration when he cast Michael Keaton and set up that gritty, foggy, forever in twilight or overcast light version of the city of Gotham. Elfman wasn’t the first person to compose music for this section of the DCU, but he definitely set themes up you can hear in the tracks from the subsequent movies (with the exception of the two newest movies).
Speaking of the newer movies, this album only has one track from each. Out of the 15 tracks here, 6 of them are from the first Tim Burton movie. It made me wonder if whoever was in charge of putting this album together was like me in favouring that movie as a whole to the newer two or if it was something else a little less fangirly. All the other tracks have something that made me think, “Ah-ha! That’s Batman!” except for the Zimmer tracks, which are also two of only three tracks that get close to the 5 minute mark. It’s not because they’re bad tracks; on the contrary, listening to them, they could be from anything. They don’t feel tied to the movies for me, they made my mind wander to other places where the rest of the album kept it firmly rooted in Gotham.
There are also a few of the more upbeat tracks from the movies, the ones that have that sinister circus feel to them (appropriately, those are the tracks used for the Joker in the first movie). There are even tracks from the campy era of the Caped Crusader! These don’t fit in at all with the other tracks, but how can you have a tribute to Batman and not have a little “na-na-na-na BATMAN” in there at the end?
This is a great album to pick up if you’re a fan of The Dark Knight and his beloved city. It’s a fitting tribute to his legacy on screen. In the end, The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra does a superb job of interpreting the songs but there isn’t anything new here if you already have the original soundtracks for the movies.