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1989 Warner
2010 La-La Land
Album 2 Cover Art
2011 Warner
Album 3 Cover Art
2014 La-La Land
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Composed and Co-Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Shirley Walker

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Produced by:
Steve Bartek

Performed by:
The Sinfonia of London Orchestra

Co-Orchestrated by:
Steve Scott-Smalley
Labels Icon
Warner Brothers Records
(August 8th, 1989)

La-La Land Records
(July 21st, 2010)

Warner Brothers Records
(April 12th, 2011)

La-La Land Records
(December 2nd, 2014)
Availability Icon
The Warner album of 1989 was a regular U.S. release. The collectible "Batcan" release of that same year includes Prince's songs and no score. The 2010 2-CD set from La-La Land was limited to 5,000 copies and was sold through soundtrack specialty outlets for $30.

The 2011 Warner set is a limited edition of 2,000 copies, sold for $500 primarily through the official site of the album. Consult with the separate review of that set for more details about its availability.

The 2014 La-La Land Records set ("The Danny Elfman Batman Collection" with Batman Returns) is limited to 3,000 copies and available primarily through soundtrack specialty outlets for an initial price of $50.
Nominated for a Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you have any affection for vibrant, exciting, and tragic superhero scores, for Danny Elfman's Batman is among the best ever recorded.

Avoid it... if Elfman's famous theme for the character has become too overexposed for your liking, or if you disapprovingly recall some of the passages that reveal the composer's inspiration from others' works.
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WRITTEN 8/29/97, REVISED 8/16/15
Batman: (Danny Elfman) Action movie aficionados have Tim Burton's 1989 vision of Batman to thank for the resurrection of the superhero concept on film, a genre that would flourish with success for almost two decades following Batman's explosive debut. With its outrageous marketing bonanza courtesy of an enthusiastic Warner Brothers, Batman was one of the rare action productions that actually exceeded expectations, predictably replacing serious awards consideration for the kind of eye candy approach that yielded several sequels throughout the next decade. Balancing the carnival atmosphere natural to Burton's zany artistic tendencies, embodied in both Jack Nicholson's extremely expensive Joker and the handful of songs performed by Prince that actually made the final cut of the film, was the director's ability to provide serious, adult comic book-style action and sensuality. Burton had collaborated with composer Danny Elfman for the wildly creative Beetlejuice the previous year, serving notice to film score collectors of the composer's arrival into the mainstream (beyond just the sideshow theatrics of Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Elfman's other stabs at comedy). The highly effective score for Batman, however, would not only shake the producers' initial notion that the film's music could be provided by a series of pop stars that included Michael Jackson, George Michael, and Prince (only the latter would remain), but also introduce the composer to the masses and consolidate a budding group of avid collectors and fans of Elfman's whimsically tragic music that would solidify with Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas in the following four years. In the interim, Elfman and Burton attempted to carry the success of Batman over to a 1992 sequel, and although Batman Returns takes far more chances in the diversity of its score, Elfman proved unable to recapture the same raw sense of action and elegance of performance. While considered more of a "guilty pleasure" by critics at the time, the Batman score has aged remarkably well, outlasting the sequel scores by Elliot Goldenthal and remaining leagues ahead of the music resulting from the continuance of the franchise in the 2000's.

Regardless of the lack of connection in crew, cast, or concept, Elfman's primary theme for the Batman character has proven useful in advertising the franchise long after the composer's exit from it, testifying to the lasting impression that the composer provided for the character on screen. Whereas John Williams is universally recognized as the musical voice of Superman, Elfman has cemented himself, despite the attention-seeking cries of the most ardent in the Hans Zimmer fanbase, as the same for Batman. Perhaps no title theme has had more impact on a superhero as this one, however; its four-note minor key ascent and two-note major key descent is frightfully simplistic and yet it perfectly addresses the duality of the Bruce Wayne character. The theme is often misidentified as only consisting of five notes; even Jeff Bond's notes for the 2010 album release of Batman made this error. The sixth note is the payoff only occasionally afforded the theme, a keen acknowledgement by Elfman that Wayne's existence is defined by a lack of personal completion. The easily recognizable construct of this theme allows Elfman to use fragments of its progression with ease, often producing the suspense before a battle with only the rise of the first two notes. The composer claims that he first thought up the tune on an airplane flight from London back to America and embarrassingly went to the toilet several times so he could hum various portions of the tune into a tape recorder in private. Later, he also acknowledged that some of the inspiration in how the theme was fleshed out came from Bernard Herrmann's opening to Journey to the Center of the Earth, with almost a complete reprise of the Herrmann composition at the outset of Batman. The three-minute opening credits to Batman follow the tradition of the great superhero films of the modern age by providing an overture in which the score introduces itself. Elfman maximizes the effectiveness of his identity for the title character by drawing out the performance of the title theme, repeating the first five notes in heavily dramatic layers before only proceeding to the last, major-key descent as the character's logo is revealed in full on screen. Two such massive and lengthy crescendos highlight Batman, including the opening bars of "Charge of the Batmobile," the seemingly obligatory scene in which Michael Keaton is suiting up for the battle to the death.

When the title theme for Batman is performed by sweeping strings, as in short interludes in "First Confrontation," or in its slightly altered suspense mode, as in "Bat Zone," Elfman presents its elegant alter-ego. The melody is eventually performed by every section of the ensemble, including light percussion and massive organ, before sending the character on to the sequel with rousing ensemble performances in the uplifting "Finale" and the first half of the end titles cue. The legacy of this theme would live on in Elliot Goldenthal's two Batman scores, though the later composer cleverly altered the same minor-to-major key progression to suit his own style. The concept of building a crescendo around the anticipated switch to the major key remained effectively intact. Other themes and motifs exist in Batman, but they are relatively unmemorable or obscure by comparison to the title theme. For the Joker, Elfman chose to utilize a comical, over-the-top waltz that explodes with the introduction of the altered character in "Face-Off" (as everyone's favorite one-armed push-up master Jack Palance receives his share of hot lead) and culminates in a lengthy, robust performance in the climactic "Waltz to the Death" atop the cathedral. Elfman offers very subtle foreshadowing of this theme for Jack Napier's pre-Joker persona in "Jack vs. Eckhardt" (along with some faint noir jazz in "Card Snap"). Elfman also adapts Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" theme for the Joker's more sensitive side, if one could call it that, and faint performances of this theme echo after the Joker's death at the conclusion of the film. A music box effect underlines these performances, providing a humorous side to the character's sickness with a triangle and xylophone-like atmosphere that is interrupted quite rudely by a fragment of the waltz at the end of "Joker's Poem." For his henchmen, Elfman conjures an array of wildly percussive rhythms that accompany their chaotic activities, eventually yielding to Prince's recordings for the balloon parade sequence. The love theme, based in part on the Prince's song "Scandalous" (which the singer co-wrote with John L. Nelson), has pieces of Batman's primary theme built into its construct, a bittersweet and yearning adaptation of the score's main identity into a piano and string performance in "Love Theme" that only exists in small pieces throughout the film (reinforcing the fleeting nature of the affair).

A variant of Elfman's love theme also represents Wayne's lingering affinity towards his dead parents, with one of the score's more poignant moments of reflection existing on cello in "Flowers." Several rhythmic motifs also represent specific locations or concepts. A distant and menacing bass line in "Childhood Remembered" is performed by piano under dissonant brass and choral effects. Far more splashy is the rolling, churning string rhythm that Elfman provides the Axis chemical company, complete with tuba and bass bassoon for additional depth; the style of this rolling rhythm (which quite well represents a manufacturing atmosphere), with its frenetic variations in "First Confrontation," strays the closest that Elfman came to the more colorful comic book style that would prevail in Dick Tracy the following year. In this cue, Elfman also introduces a motif specifically for the Joker's falling, an act that both creates and destroys the character. The far more melodramatic performance of this motif, obviously, occurs in "The Final Confrontation." As impressive as Elfman's themes for Batman may be, the instrumental assignments and their performances are even better. For many years, there was some controversy over the roles that Steve Bartek and Shirley Walker played in the orchestration and conducting of Batman, specifically whether they indeed deserve more credit for the success of the finished version of the score than Elfman himself. Some in the establishment of the composing industry simply did not believe that Elfman, an untrained rocker, was capable of writing a score of this caliber, and just as they had joked that William Ross had written much of Beetlejuice (rather than just conducting it), the same issue arose with Batman. Bartek and others have reminded us, however, that Elfman during this period refused to delegate writing duties and instead insisted upon controlling the sound of the score in totality. As such, Elfman has long been rather annoyed by the speculation that Bartek and Walker contributed more than their documented roles to Batman, despite the acknowledged assistance they provided in shepherding the inexperienced composer's music through challenging recording circumstances. As testimony to Elfman's guiding hand in both scores, Batman is much like Beetlejuice in that its instrumental creativity may be the most memorable aspect of the recording, despite the catchiness of the title theme.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.3 Stars
***** 7,671 5 Stars
**** 3,613 4 Stars
*** 1,789 3 Stars
** 412 2 Stars
* 273 1 Stars
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A Batman What-If: Michael Jackson instead of Prince?
AhN - January 25, 2018, at 8:17 a.m.
1 comment  (990 views)
(Comment Deleted by Poster)   Expand >>
Mitchell Kyler Martin - December 29, 2016, at 8:32 p.m.
2 comments  (1518 views)
Newest: February 5, 2017, at 3:57 p.m. by
Batman Main Title.......   Expand >>
Arne Barnard - August 1, 2013, at 7:39 p.m.
2 comments  (3128 views)
Newest: August 1, 2013, at 8:24 p.m. by
Arne Barnard
Best soundtrack ever
Gabriele Funaro - November 20, 2011, at 12:25 p.m.
1 comment  (2870 views)
Batman Formula
Bruno Costa - December 2, 2010, at 11:35 a.m.
1 comment  (3661 views)
Where's "Beutiful Dreamer"
Marcato - October 23, 2008, at 12:50 p.m.
1 comment  (13866 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1989 Warner Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 54:55
• 1. The Batman Theme (2:38)
• 2. Roof Fight (1:20)
• 3. First Confrontation (4:43)
• 4. Kitchen, Surgery, Face-Off* (3:07)
• 5. Flowers (1:51)
• 6. Clown Attack (1:45)
• 7. Batman to the Rescue (3:56)
• 8. Roasted Dude (1:01)
• 9. Photos/Beautiful Dreamer** (2:27)
• 10. Descent Into Mystery (1:31)
• 11. The Bat Cave (2:35)
• 12. The Joker's Poem (0:56)
• 13. Childhood Remembered (2:43)
• 14. Love Theme* (1:30)
• 15. Charge of the Batmobile (1:41)
• 16. Attack of the Batwing (4:44)
• 17. Up the Cathedral (5:04)
• 18. Waltz to the Death (3:55)
• 19. The Final Confrontation (3:47)
• 20. Finale*/** (1:45)
• 21. Batman Theme Reprise (1:28)
* contains excerpts of "Scandalous" by Prince and John L. Nelson
** contains excerpts of "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Foster
2010/2014 La-La Land Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 145:50
2011 Warner Set Tracks   ▼Total Time: 73:01

Notes Icon
The sparse insert of the 1989 Warner album includes no extra information about the score or film. The 2010 La-La Land album's insert contains an analysis of both, but not as in-depth as expected and erroneous at times. The 2011 Warner set features some notes from Elfman about his choices of music for inclusion on the product. The 2014 La-La Land set's insert includes more detailed notes about both Elfman scores for the franchise.
Copyright © 1997-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Batman are Copyright © 1989, 2010, 2011, 2014, Warner Brothers Records, La-La Land Records, Warner Brothers Records, La-La Land Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/29/97 and last updated 8/16/15.
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