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Section Header
Batman Begins
(2005)
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

Label:
Warner Sunset Records

Release Date:
June 14th, 2005

Also See:
Batman
Batman Returns
Batman Forever
Batman & Robin
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight Rises

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)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release, but initially difficult to find in many street stores due to distribution problems. A re-issue in 2010 (with identical contents and cover) was made available for under $10 through Amazon.com's "CDr on demand" service. By then, a new copy of the original factory pressing was valued at $20 or more.

Awards:
  None.









Batman Begins

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Sales Rank: 10522


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Buy it... if you have endless excuses for the viability of Hans Zimmer's simplistic ostinato approach that caused similar brooding atmosphere and masculine propulsion to become the norm for blockbuster scores after their perceived success in this entry.

Avoid it... if you expect a truly Gothic sound for Gotham, a complex variation of melody for Wayne's duality, or any of the heroic stature of Danny Elfman's original classic, all elements unnecessarily avoided by Zimmer for his own convenience.



Zimmer
Howard
Batman Begins: (Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard) After the eventual fizzling of the original Batman franchise in the late 1990's, Warner 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 2005 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 marked a deviation in the approach to the concept. Inspired by Danny Elfman's classic score for the original 1989 entry, the previous films in the franchise had alternated between strictly orchestral and score/song mixtures throughout their history, not succumbing during that time to trends in synthetics. Nolan had been in talks with renown composer Hans Zimmer for an entire year before Zimmer officially replaced Nolan's usual collaborator, David Julyan, on the assignment. Zimmer, however, was hesitant about the score because he was at a point in his career when 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 as a team.

The collaborative effort was just that: collaborative on each and every cue. There isn't a "Zimmer section of the score" or a "Howard theme," as would be the case with their continuation for The Dark Knight a few years later. The two literally sat in rooms across a hall and for 12 weeks ran each piece of new material by each other as they composed. The resulting score is indeed very fluid, although collectors of both Zimmer and Howard's scores will find the finished score's style to point clearly in the direction of Zimmer's body of work. As expected, the score is heavily laden with electronic embellishments and sound effects. "I think this one has more electronics in it than anything else," Zimmer stated at the time of its debut. "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 music for 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 usage of its spirit 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 usually 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 of the franchise's prior methodology out the window. It seems to have been Zimmer who made the fundamental structural and thematic choices about the overarching style and spirit of the score, and although Howard's sensibilities do shine through occasionally (as in the opening half of "Eptesicus"), Batman Begins is saturated with Zimmer's recognizable techniques 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 melodramatic chord progressions together. The Batman theme itself is a rising two-note minor key progression set over a systematic ostinato rhythm of similar two-note alternations by real and electric strings. Perhaps the synthetically-enhanced brass version of the theme at the forefront represents the big bat in the rubber suit while the chopping ostinatos underneath represent the swarm of bats that inspire him, but that's stretching for an intellectual reasoning when one may not exist. The ostinato is utilized often, typically spanning several scene changes, though the title theme itself is only heard a couple of times in full. As a pace-setter, the string ostinatos are sufficient as an agent of propulsion, moving through the film at a steady pace. They certainly inspired Hollywood filmmakers to request them in a plethora of forthcoming projects by other composers, most notably in the Transformers franchise. The sensitive theme for the love interest, as well as scenes with Alfred and the numerous flashbacks to Wayne's childhood, are handled with a soft piano motif (as at the end of "Macrotus"). Several scenes of swooshing, terrifying bat attacks are handled with crazed string chaos. The two heavily electronic techniques in the film come first in the form of a distinct sound effect that Zimmer concocts to represent the flapping wings of Batman's suit at the very beginning and end of the film. The second major 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 is 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 (especially in "Antrozous") as being a poor adaptation of similar sequences in The Rock and other earlier Zimmer action scores.

There is no carryover of musical ideas from the prior films in the franchise, and the foreshadowing of music in The Dark Knight is haphazard (a wayward motif in the latter half of "Mytois" inexplicably becomes the Harvey Dent theme in the second film, for instance). 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 the same era: 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. Viewers even see the "rising building" shot where Batman is silhouetted atop a tall structure. The theme that Zimmer conjures shares the same basic dual-personality superhero 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 the concept's music and did do poorly. 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" reality) and forced the music in a new direction. But, in reality, all he did was create an inferior version of what Elfman and Goldenthal had already done. Some have said that Batman Begins didn't need the gothic, 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 intellectually devoid and only minimally emotionally effective disappointment.

There is no doubt that the quality of Batman Begins as a film ends up floating its own music. The largely atmospheric score is played safely and conservatively, and while it is mixed generously in volume throughout in context, the film gains little from the accompaniment. Ironically, portions of the Zimmer/Howard score play better on album than in the picture, for its simplistic rhythms and progressions are pleasantly masculine at the very least. But "pleasant" and "simplistic" music 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. There is nothing in this score to indicate any heroic actions whatsoever; it could very well have been music to a host of other topics across several genres. Additionally, the recycled string personality from The Thin Red Line ("Lasiurus" borrows not only from this earlier Zimmer work, but it foreshadows The Da Vinci Code) is nice for the melodramatic aspect of the story, but it lacks 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 as cliche a technique as ever, definitely not crazy by any means. The sound effects are likewise tired in their inability to truly enhance the music rather than simply serve as a portion of the movie's greater sound design. More importantly, there is no adequate thematic 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. Narrative flow is practically nonexistent, especially on the inadequately assembled commercial album. 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 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 benchmark. You have to know that the audiences won't ignore it.

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For 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 movie is strong enough to overcome the deficiencies in its music. And what of Howard? His typically sophisticated style of writing doesn't seem to encroach upon the simplicity of Zimmer's overarching vision for the score. If you want to be cynical, you could argue that Zimmer 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 could have sounded like under the sole care of Howard, who likely could have much better musically interpreted the subtleties of Wayne's duality (his isolated material for Dent in The Dark Knight teases this theory). Ardent enthusiasts of Zimmer's vintage works were already questioning some of the composer's output of the 2000's, and Batman Begins only added to the head-scratching mystery of where the composer's methodology went wrong. Instead of adapting himself to Batman, Zimmer tried to force Batman to adapt to his musical comfort zone. In so doing, he began treading dangerously close to outliving his usefulness in the action and fantasy genres. Some of the fault does fall on Nolan, who could (and should) have known that there are brilliant young composers working in this generation who don't have hang-ups about large orchestras, who don't attract 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 commercial Batman Begins album is more than enough, though die-hard fans have long lamented that the missing music does solve some of the narrative flow issues that otherwise plague that pressed CD. After the product went out of print within a few years, Warner re-issued it as an Amazon.com "CDr on Demand" offering, diving up the cost of new copies of the prior issue. 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 remains an enormously wasted opportunity for both Zimmer and Howard, as well as for fans of the franchise. While The Dark Knight has better highlights (courtesy of Howard), it also suffers from a greater quantity of intolerable passages. It is truly unfortunate that this quality franchise didn't receive the services of a primary composer who serves Batman rather than serving himself. **   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Hans Zimmer reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3 (in 87 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.02 (in 262,802 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

For James Newton Howard reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.34 (in 55 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.27 (in 60,240 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 2.94 Stars
Smart Average: 2.94 Stars*
***** 910 
**** 1074 
*** 1655 
** 1302 
* 965 
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   yes .. you are wise!
  bam -- 9/24/13 (11:04 a.m.)
   So Much Emotion
  Brendan Cochran -- 9/22/13 (10:57 a.m.)
   This is an amazing score! It sounds like a ...
  Michael Sorensen -- 8/27/12 (9:09 p.m.)
   Batman Begins Formula
  Bruno Costa -- 12/2/10 (12:51 p.m.)
   Nope.
  Mister Will -- 1/31/10 (12:37 a.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:  


The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. As in many of Amazon.com's "CDr on demand" products, the packaging of the 2010 re-issue smells incredibly foul when new.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Batman Begins are Copyright © 2005, Warner Sunset Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com 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 last updated 9/14/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2005-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.