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Section Header
Batman Begins
Composed and Produced by:
Hans Zimmer
James Newton Howard

Additional Music by:
Ramin Djawadi
Mel Wesson

Conducted by:
Gavin Greenaway

Orchestrated by:
Brad Dechter
Bruce Fowler

Warner Sunset Records

Release Date:
June 14th, 2005

Also See:
Batman Returns
Batman Forever
Batman & Robin

Audio Clips:
1. Vespertilio (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

2. Eptesicus (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

8. Antrozous (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

12. Lasiurus (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release, but initially difficult to find in many street stores due to distribution problems.


Batman Begins

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Buy it... if you enjoyed the simplistic, rhythmic propulsion of deep strings (real and synthesized) heard throughout the film.

Avoid it... if you expect a truly Gothic sound for Gotham, a complex variation of theme for Wayne's duality, or any of the heroic structure of Danny Elfman's classic original.

Batman Begins: (Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard) After the eventual fizzling of the original Batman franchise in the late 1990's, Warner has handed one of its most prized characters to director Christopher Nolan in hopes of resurrecting the once dominant box office champ. Taking the Bruce Wayne character back to its origins, Nolan's Batman Begins reveals the beginnings of Bob Kane's character for DC Comics and further explains Bruce Wayne's childhood trauma and formation of the Batman character twenty years later. With surprisingly consistent critical praise and a widely talented cast of performers, Batman Begins is easily the best film in the franchise since the classic original directed by Tim Burton. Much has been said about how the Batman Begins entry is different from all those before it in its more realistic style of art direction and color usage, but the prequel film interestingly ties directly to the original Batman in many ways near its conclusion. Despite Nolan's attempts to create a distinguishing atmosphere throughout his work, Batman Begins treads very closely to Burton's darkly rendered, ironclad vision of Gotham and its character by the climactic battle between Batman and the film's two sets of collaborating villains. Always of upmost importance in any superhero film, the original score for Batman Begins would mark a return to the straight underscored approach (the films had alternated between strictly orchestral and score/song mixtures throughout their history). Nolan had been in talks with renown composer Hans Zimmer for an entire year before Zimmer officially replaced Nolan's usual collaborator, David Julyan. Zimmer, however, was hesitant about the score because he was at a point in his career where large orchestral works didn't interest him. He had always wanted to collaborate with his good friend and fellow first-rate composer, James Newton Howard, and after a dozen years of talking about the prospect of working together, the two signed on to compose Batman Begins together.

The collaborative effort was just that: collaborative on each and every cue. There isn't a "Zimmer section of the the score" or a "Howard theme"... the two literally sat in rooms across a hall and for 12 weeks ran each piece of new material by each other as they went. The resulting score is indeed very fluid, although collectors of both Zimmer and Howard's scores will find the finished score's style to fall heavily in the direction of Zimmer's body of work. As expected, the score is heavily laden with electronics and sound effects. As Zimmer recently stated to IGN, "I think this one has more electronics in it than anything else... I didn't want to do straight orchestra because Batman, he's not a straight character. I mean where do you get those wonderful toys from and the technology? So I thought I could embrace a bit more technology in this one... there isn't a straight orchestral note on this score." The orchestral ensemble of about 90 players from various London groups has the usual Zimmer emphasis on cellos and other lower-range instruments, and he utilizes his electronics to further sink the score into the realm of brooding darkness. Zimmer enjoys a chaotic scoring environment, a "completely anarchistic way of working," as he says, and this label applies more than ever to the two hours and twenty minutes of recorded time on the Batman Begins project. The most fanatic followers of the Batman franchise are obviously most curious about the musical connections between this score and the related ventures of Danny Elfman and Elliot Goldenthal. Elfman's original is considered one of the most poignant superhero scores in the history of Hollywood, and some of his fans even prefer the more varied thematic and instrumental approach Elfman took in Batman Returns. Elliot Goldenthal, for his two sequels, slightly altered Elfman's theme, but maintained its usage throughout the next two sequels. Both Elfman and Goldenthal were carefully considerate of subthemes for the often paired villains in each film, creating a structured environment for their themes that often led to creative and occasionally brilliant interpretations of those themes. Both knew when to bang the gong, ring the bells, and let rip with some heroic brass.

Zimmer and Howard throw all those ideas out the window. It seems to have been Zimmer who made the structural and thematic choices about the overarching style and spirit of the score, and although Howard's sensibilities do shine through occasionally, Batman Begins is saturated with Zimmerisms from top to bottom. The themes for Batman and his love interest are both extremely simplistic in Zimmer's typical methodology for stringing a few neo-classical chord progressions together and calling them good to go. The Batman theme itself is a rising two-note minor key progression set over a systematic rhythm of similar two-note alternations by real and electric strings. Perhaps the synth brass version of the theme at the forefront represents the big bat in the rubber suit while the chopping alternations underneath represent the swarm of bats that inspire him. The rhythm is utilized often, typically spanning several scene changes, and the title theme itself is only heard a couple of times in full. As a pace-setter, the rhythmic undertones of Zimmer's strings are sufficient as an agent of propulsion, moving through the film at a steady pace. The sensitive themes for the love interest, as well as scenes with Alfred and the numerous flashbacks to Wayne's childhood are handled with a soft piano sub-theme. Several scenes of swooshing, terrifying bat attacks are handled with crazed string chaos. The two heavily electronic uses in the film come first in the form of a distinct sound effect that Zimmer concocts to perhaps represent the flapping wings of Batman's suit, both at the very beginning and end of the film. The second use of electronics at the forefront comes in Zimmer's only action motif for Batman Begins, heard three times and most prominently during Wayne's explosive escape from The League of Shadows at the start and during the monorail battle at the end of the film. Neither of these electronic ideas are very creative; the thumping sound at the outset of the film is uninteresting and any basic Zimmer collector will be able to recognize the action music as being a poor adaptation of similar sequences in The Rock and other early Zimmer action scores.

There is no carryover of musical ideas from prior films. Regarding the musical history of the franchise, Zimmer states something that would seem to make sense when taken for face value: "Why would I want to do a sequel to something? That's a boring thing to do. We went for dark and brooding. I think probably one of the things is that we're a lot darker than any of the stuff that's gone before. I was working on a Chris Nolan movie and ultimately you serve the film in front of you. I don't think you need to be relevant to the history that it comes from, in a way. That's what the guys pay me for: invent!" He continues by saying: "Nobody ever mentions the Elliot Goldenthal scores. And of course I'm not mentioning any of that either, because quite honestly I didn't go and look at the old Batman movies again..." The above statements are fascinating, because Zimmer exposes a critical component in his methodology that plagues his score for Batman Begins and others of recent times: laziness. Whether he likes it or not (and the same can be applied to Nolan), Batman Begins finishes in almost identical fashion to Burton's two films, with surprisingly similar treatments of scene, character, and action. we even get to see the "rising building" shot where Batman is silhouetted atop a tall building. The theme that Zimmer conjures shares the same basic dual-personality super-hero idea of alternating between major and minor keys. And whether Zimmer realizes it or not, he didn't invent the concept of brooding in the Batman franchise; Elfman clearly did. The problem with Zimmer's lack of attentiveness to the franchise is the simple fact that he attempted to reinvent the wheel for Batman's music. He chose not to pay attention to the music that fans of the series already have ingrained in their memories --another "whether you like it or not"-- and tried to take the music in a new direction. In reality, all he did was create an inferior version of what Elfman and Goldenthal had already done. Some people have said that Batman Begins didn't need the gothically heroic approach of scoring. Zimmer claims that wasn't his goal, either. But the film demanded it by the end, and Zimmer's inability to write to those needs (and refusal to study the success of those who came before) ultimately makes Batman Begins a disappointing score.

There is no doubt that the quality of Batman Begins as a film ends up floating its own music. The score is played safely, conservatively, and while it is mixed generously in volume throughout the film, the film gains little from it. Ironically, the Zimmer/Howard score plays better on album than in the picture, for its simplistic rhythms and progressions are pleasant at the very least. But "pleasant" and "simplistic" is not what Bruce Wayne needs. "I wasn't really writing about a big, oversized, heroic character," Zimmer argues. "I was trying to write about a slightly psychologically damaged character. And I'm always better with those." Unfortunately for Zimmer, he fails on two levels in that statement; first, Batman indeed forces himself into becoming a heroic character. He's a superhero. A twisted one, of course. But he certainly demands more than a two-note motif to represent him and much more than recycled music from The Rock to accompany him into battle. Now was the time to add a gong or some chimes or bells to that ensemble. Additionally, the recycled string adagios from The Thin Red Line are nice for the "people" aspect of the story, but they lack the ability to truly define the trauma in Wayne's life. Not everyone's struggles can be defined by an adagio. Zimmer is proud of the cue in which a choir boy is suddenly frozen mid-theme during a flashback ("I did this crazy thing with this choir boy..."), and yet this usage is a cliche as ever... Definitely not crazy by any means. The sound effects earlier in that cue are likewise tired. There is no adequate sub-theme development for the pseudo-noble League of Shadows, nor the delightfully horrifying Scarecrow character. Gotham's glistening beauty at the start of the film receives no prominent major key variation of anything that comes after its societal downfall and Batman's arrival. Simply put, Zimmer claims that doing his research would make for a "boring" score. Instead, this attitude not only stinks of laziness, but also of a touch of arrogance. When another composer has hit the nail on the head before you, even in slightly different circumstances, there's no excuse for completely ignoring that success. You have to know that the audiences won't ignore it.

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For Hans Zimmer, Batman Begins represents a terribly frustrating failure to perform up to expectations. His music services the film with only a lightly painted canvas, and luckily the film is strong enough to overcome the deficiencies in its music. And what of Howard? The typically sophisticated work of Howard doesn't seem to encroach upon the simplicity of Zimmer's overarching vision of the score. If you want to be cynical, you could argue that Zimmer has traded in his hoard of lesser-known ghostwriters for one top-notch ghostwriter, and even this didn't save the score. Fans would be justified to wonder what Batman Begins would have sounded like under the sole care of Howard, who likely could have much better musically interpreted the subtleties of Wayne's duality. With many of Zimmer's ardent fans already questioning some of the composer's output these days, Batman Begins will only add to the head-scratching. Instead of adapting himself to Batman, Zimmer tried to force Batman to adapt to his musical comfort zone. If Zimmer can't extend beyond this comfort zone for a big-name title soon, then he is coming dangerously close to outliving his usefulness in the action/fantasy genre. Some of the fault does fall on Nolan, who could have (and should have) known that there are brilliant young composers working today who don't have hangups about large orchestras, who don't work in a chaotic scoring environment, who don't rely on the talents of other composers, and who have already proven themselves to be masters of handling major/minor key creativity and complex variations of theme. Who else would have been fascinated to hear what the likes of Brian Tyler or John Ottman could have done with this fantastic film? The hour of music presented on the Batman Begins album is more than satisfying, for the missing music really doesn't differ from that which was pressed. The Latin track titles are cute, but irritating in that they don't indicate for casual fans what parts of the film they are derived from. Overall, Batman Begins is an enormously wasted opportunity for both Zimmer and Howard, as well as for fans of the franchise. If the franchise continues, we can only hope for a new composer who serves Batman rather than serving himself.

    Score as Heard in Film: **
    Score as Heard on Album: ***
    Overall: **

Bias Check:For Hans Zimmer reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.17 (in 72 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.17 (in 230,661 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

For James Newton Howard reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.41 (in 41 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 51,749 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.93 Stars
Smart Average: 2.94 Stars*
***** 783 
**** 978 
*** 1545 
** 1156 
* 879 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
  Mister Will -- 1/31/10 (12:37 a.m.)
   What the hell is going on with this review,...
  mike -- 1/29/10 (3:26 p.m.)
   Re: Molossus
  Alans Zimvestri -- 7/28/09 (10:49 p.m.)
   Re: Hans Zimmer saved my sex life!
  Alans Zimvestri -- 7/28/09 (10:43 p.m.)
   A Bat-score worth the film
  Jouko Yli-Kiikka -- 8/4/08 (1:17 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 60:26

• 1. Vespertilio (2:52)
• 2. Eptesicus (4:20)
• 3. Myotis (5:46)
• 4. Barbastella (4:45)
• 5. Artibeus (4:19)
• 6. Tadarida (5:05)
• 7. Marcrotus (7:35)
• 8. Antrozous (3:59)
• 9. Nycteris (4:25)
• 10. Molossus (4:49)
• 11. Corynorhinus (5:04)
• 12. Lasiurus (7:27)

 Notes and Quotes:  

  All artwork and sound clips from Batman Begins are Copyright © 2005, Warner Sunset Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/24/05 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2005-2010, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.