Glisten Effect
Editorial Reviews
Scoreboard Forum
Viewer Ratings
     1. Boss Baby: Family Business
    2. The Tomorrow War
   3. Luca
  4. F9: The Fast Saga
 5. The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
6. A Quiet Place: Part II
         1. Alice in Wonderland
        2. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
       3. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
      4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
     5. Justice League
    6. Gladiator
   7. Harry Potter: Sorcerer's Stone
  8. Spider-Man
 9. How to Train Your Dragon
10. Alice Through the Looking Glass
Home Page
Batman Returns
Album Cover Art
1992 Warner
2010 La-La Land
Album 2 Cover Art
2011 Warner
Album 3 Cover Art
2014 La-La Land
Album 4 Cover Art
Composed and Co-Produced by:

Conducted by:
Jonathan Sheffer

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Produced by:
Steve Bartek

Co-Orchestrated by:
Mark McKenzie

Song Performed by:
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Labels Icon
Warner Brothers Records
(June 23rd, 1992)

La-La Land Records
(November 30th, 2010)

Warner Brothers Records
(April 12th, 2011)

La-La Land Records
(December 2nd, 2014)
Availability Icon
The Warner album of 1992 was a regular U.S. release. The 2010 2-CD set from La-La Land was limited to 3,500 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) is limited to 3,000 copies and available primarily through soundtrack specialty outlets for an initial price of $50.
Also See Icon

Decorative Nonsense
(inverts site colors)

   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you prefer your Batman score to better reflect the morbidly tragic sensibilities of Danny Elfman's dominant style in his early career works.

Avoid it... if you expect the same heroic power and resonance of the vastly superior orchestral performances, recording, and mixing you heard in the production of the music for Batman.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 9/24/96, REVISED 8/16/15
Batman Returns: (Danny Elfman) Few audiences could have expected director Tim Burton to produce a success of the magnitude of the first Batman film in 1989. Grossing many hundreds of millions of dollars on a budget a tenth the size, Warner Brothers did not hesitate to encourage Burton to follow up with a sequel three years later. While Warner had kept the director on a tight leash for the original film, its success afforded Burton substantially more artistic control over his 1992 sequel. As such, the plot took on more of the style of the original comics, replacing the serious edge of the first film with a spirit of fantasy closer to Beetlejuice than Batman. The entire aesthetic of Batman Returns twisted the concept deep into the realm of the director's own psyche, rejecting some of the timeless classicism of the initial entry in favor of a world so dark and cold that the entire movie had to be shot in refrigerated sets. Expanding the number of villains to two allowed Warner to crank up the merchandising machine even further, pushing the franchise with a ferocity that would remain intact for two additional direct sequels. And yet, even with Burton behind the camera, Michael Keaton in front of it, and Danny Elfman's famous title theme over the speakers, the film failed to live up to expectations outside of viewers already devoted to the style that Burton and Elfman had perpetuated in several films at the time. For these fans of the Burton sense of gloom and the Elfman sound of tragedy, Batman Returns has interestingly remained the favorite of the first two films in the franchise. Mainstream audiences and critics eventually lost interest in the movie, though, in part due to is morbidly strained, sinister and sensual atmosphere, and almost unrecognizably bleak vision of Gotham. Batman Returns is typically only mentioned as an afterthought when the far more revered Batman is qualified as the best superhero music ever recorded for cinema, and if that's truly the case, then the sequel was destined to disappoint. Elfman's score for Batman Returns divides listeners along the identical lines of the film, testimony for how well the two artists' talents intermingled at the time. Outside of the composer and director's most dedicated followers, the score for Batman Returns is like the character of the Penguin, tragically alluring and immensely complex, but ultimately cold and heartless.

As intelligent as Elfman's evolution of music becomes in this score, and as closely it resembles the composer's personal style rather than his emulation of others, Batman Returns is simply not as linear and powerful as Batman, and when you throw in some intangible problems with performance, mixing, and recording, Batman Returns suffers by comparison. It is an incredibly frustrating score, perhaps one of the most immensely disappointing entries of the digital age, in part because of all of the aspects of the endeavor that Elfman got right. The same triumphant title theme returns, and the winter setting would seem to have lent itself well to the Christmas-like innocence of his writing current to the time. The technical acuity of the thematic development for the villains and Elfman's increasing use of unusual instrumental tones are both outstanding in this continuation. These elements, along with his maturing skills at writing for an orchestral ensemble and a broader role for a chorus in Batman Returns, promised to result in one of the best sequel scores since the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. Instead, Elfman takes two steps forward and four steps back, reverting to a less powerful style of action scoring more similar to Scrooged and Pee-wee's Big Adventure than that he had established in Batman. The first backwards step in Batman Returns is Elfman's total abandonment of the classically rich orchestral constructs of the original, allowing the primary theme and the presence of its hero to be dominated by the musical personas of the two villains. As such, the score lacks conviction for the title character. The wild ambience that had been restricted to the Joker in the first score now permeates the entirety of this score, with some of the weight of the action shed by the use of a lighter chorus, less conventional motifs, more bizarre orchestration, and less linear rhythms. In essence, the spirit of Batman Returns returns to that of Beetlejuice, which is understandable given Burton's (and Elfman's) broad creative control over the sequel. But that diverse and depressing spirit detracts from the power of the original score's approach to Gotham and therefore reduces its effectiveness by comparison. An argument could be made that Elfman was simply trying to juggle too many thematic and instrumental identities, too, a byproduct of a fragmented script.

The chorus used in Batman was one of mature, deep, adult tones, assisting in identifying Gotham City as a serious, gloomy, religious, and spiritual kind of haven for the contrasts of good and evil. Compare that resonance to Elfman's "la-la" style chorus, carried over most prominently from the aforementioned Scrooged and Nightbreed, and that gothic image is deflated. A more forceful choir with an enhanced male bass would have been just as welcomed in the title theme performances, continuing the established Gotham spirit and still capturing the holiday season. Another step backwards is the Penguin's thematic representation, for which Elfman never seemingly decides if he should apply the brush of operatic lyricism or one of cartoonish tragedy. Unfortunately, he tried to use both, composing cartoonish themes for the character's circus antics and then suggesting them in a classically melodramatic fashion. In a few cases, this combination works, especially in the opening introduction to the character's origins. From there, however, the score suffers from a personality crisis that the original never had to contend with. Technically, the character is treated to two separate themes, one appealing to viewers' heartstrings in the tragic mode while the other stomping about with a sour, temperamental personality, evidence of Elfman's perhaps misappropriated attachment (and therefore attention) to the character. The Catwoman theme, on the other hand, is purely ingenious in its employment of high-pitched strings to represent a cat's "meow" calls and finicky personality. The violins in such whining, high ranges are often tough on the ears, but that's the entire idea behind mimicking a cat's voice. The transformation cues are fascinating in their layering and Elfman keenly uses the repeating two-note rise or fall of the violins as a motif to represent the character well throughout the score (and even the costume party song). Only in the finale of the film, from Selina Kyle's electrocution through the very end (at which point she is seen perched like Batman on a rooftop), does her theme truly mix in the middle tonal ranges with the surrounding underscore. One of the rather obscure delights of Batman Returns is Elfman's mingling of the themes for Batman and Catwoman in the score, avoiding any specific love theme for the two and rather creating a tense, unfinished ambience by overlapping their themes (which conveniently begin with the same three notes in the minor mode).

Ratings Icon
Average: 3.28 Stars
***** 1,705 5 Stars
**** 978 4 Stars
*** 1,837 3 Stars
** 1,176 2 Stars
* 685 1 Stars
  (View results for all titles)

Comments Icon
Read All Start New Thread Search Comments
(Comment Deleted by Poster)   Expand >>
Mitchell Kyler Martin - December 29, 2016, at 8:32 p.m.
2 comments  (937 views)
Newest: February 5, 2017, at 4:03 p.m. by
Analysis and Appreciation
Ed Chang - May 12, 2016, at 12:09 p.m.
1 comment  (843 views)
2 stars? Joking,right?   Expand >>
Bernardo - July 15, 2011, at 8:40 a.m.
2 comments  (2620 views)
Newest: March 12, 2017, at 5:45 a.m. by
Batman Returns Formula
Bruno Costa - December 2, 2010, at 11:39 a.m.
1 comment  (2219 views)
Right on points in the review...Bad star-rating
IndianaSchwartz - November 16, 2008, at 9:28 a.m.
1 comment  (2746 views)
"B" for the BEST Superhero Score Ever
Jouko Yli-Kiikka - October 21, 2008, at 8:44 a.m.
1 comment  (2498 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1992 Warner Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 69:58
• 1. Birth of a Penguin (2:27)
• 2. Opening Titles (3:09)
• 3. To the Present (0:57)
• 4. The Lair (4:49)
• 5. Selina Kyle (1:11)
• 6. Selina Transforms (4:16)
• 7. The Cemetary (2:54)
• 8. Cat Suite (5:41)
• 9. Batman vs. The Circus (2:34)
• 10. The Rise... (1:41)
• 11. ...and Fall from Grace (4:08)
• 12. Sore Spots (2:15)
• 13. Rooftops (4:19)
• 14. Wild Ride (3:34)
• 15. The Children's Hour (1:47)
• 16. The Final Confrontation (5:12)
• 17. Penguin Army (4:54)
• 18. Selina's Electrocution (2:40)
• 19. The Finale (2:19)
• 20. End Credits (4:44)
• 21. Face to Face - performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees (4:17)
(track titles on the packaging are incomplete. The ones offered by Filmtracks here expand upon those on the packaging for more accuracy.)
2010/2014 La-La Land Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 139:35
2011 Warner Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 77:55

Notes Icon
The insert of the 1992 Warner album includes no extra information about the score or film. The original pressing lacked track listings, too, forcing Warner to include them on a sticker on the outside of the shrink wrap. The 2010 La-La Land album's insert contains an analysis of both the score and film. 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 © 1996-2021, 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 Returns are Copyright © 1992, 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 9/24/96 and last updated 8/16/15.
Reviews Preload Scoreboard decoration Ratings Preload Composers Preload Awards Preload Home Preload Search Preload