And so it begins…
For the Nolan Batman trilogy’s film scores, I want to do my best to go track by track. I may have more to say about one track than others, but I’ll try to keep it all as balanced as I can. I’m typing these as I listen through (after listening through a couple other times today).
The opening track of Batman Begins is ominous and eerie, making you almost feel uncomfortable due to the heavy bass undertones and seeming lack of direction. The theme attributed to the character of Batman (an ascending minor third) is first hinted at in this track, though it’s more of an echo or passing Doppler-esque sound at first before building up to a more confident sound. The underlying string part is intense and brings forth a sense of anticipation that is fitting of the opening of the film; is this Batman? When will he become Batman? HOW will he become Batman? These are all questions that come to mind when I listen to this track.
This track is filled with what I’d assume is the work of Mr. Newton Howard, due to the lyrical, haunting string melody. In fact, strings are clearly the focus in this track, with a few interjecting piano solos. It is a very emotional, remorseful bit of music, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it lined up with the flashback to Bruce’s parents’ deaths – though this is hard to ascertain due to the lack of proper track titles. It hints at one of the main bits of the action theme that we hear later in the score, which is interesting because it sort of shows how Bruce must mature into the persona of Batman before tackling the responsibilities – and consequences – head on.
Opening with a strong melody from the low basses, the first two minutes of this track are largely atmospheric before we jump fully into the main action theme – our first glimpse into what Bruce Wayne has become. The rhythm of the main action theme is what contains the appeal, I think; with stresses on every other beat before a strong “3 4 1”, it’s simple and easy to latch on to. The track closes with a return to strong emotion, with a hint of despair.
A hauntingly beautiful vocal solo opens this track before being joined by a string orchestra that continues the theme. This dominates the first half before entering into what I could best describe as an anticipation; it’s nothing super action-y until the last 45 seconds or so. During this ending, we hear the minor third Batman theme in all its glory for the very first time, and, my, it is a wonderful moment. HE IS BATMAN.
I think that this track is intended to serve as a sort of “Scarecrow Theme”, or at least one of his attacks, with lots of agitated strings, frightening electronics, and what sounded like it could possibly have been whispers. The drums sound tribal and primeval, and the whole track kind of terrifies me…I swear I can hear people moving around in the shadows. It’s cool to see how the composers of a film can manipulate the people who watch the film with tracks like this that make them quake in their seats and – who knows? – maybe pee their pants a bit.
This track features more of the creepy whispers, and I think I even heard a few evil laughs, but I may be hearing things. More terrifying things. Lots of scary sounds. SCARECROW. And now, about 3 minutes in, we’re back to a non-scary string theme that sounds desperate. More vocals. This stuff gets heavy; it’s almost like you can feel the implications of Wayne assuming the role of Batman weighing on his shoulders; it’s a sobering feeling.
With this track, we return to the normal sort of emotional music that we heard earlier. A little past a minute into it, we’re introduced to a beautiful string melody that grows louder and louder until the brass joins in; it becomes this huge moment where we’re just flooded with emotion…and then it’s gone. Bass undertones take over, making the atmosphere of it all more brooding. We hear more hints to the Scarecrow’s music before we return to themes previously introduced in “Eptesicus” and “Barbastella”, perhaps implying that the ghosts of Bruce’s past have returned to haunt him. Appropriate since the Scarecrow’s toxin brings out your worst fears realized.
Uh-oh…another Scarecrow track. But Batman is here to fight back in a big way this time, as made apparent by the return of the action theme heard earlier in the score, but this time it is more intense, and we heard more of the Batman theme. It’s a really cool moment to hear Batman’s themes take over the intimidating Scarecrow themes. What makes this track so epic, aside from the simple rhythm that I referred to earlier, is the underlying rhythm section heard in the percussion. It drives the momentum of the action farther and farther forward.
Electronics play a large part in this track, from everything from the underlying rhythm to the first bit of the theme, though they’ve also been used frequently throughout the score. This track sits still, but I wouldn’t say it stagnates; it’s just a lapse in action. It might be Batman preparing things, like equipment, but I’m not sure. It features a lot of anticipation, much like “Barbastella”. The last 30 seconds get really emotional again, leading me to believe that it might be the theme for the relationship between Bruce and Rachel.
ACTION ACTION ACTION. That’s the summary of this track. This is where Zimmer excels. We hear the main action theme that’s been thrown in a couple of times previously, but it’s more massive than it has been. The scale of it is huge, as is the scale of the crime that Batman is trying to stop; everything is aggressive, the Batman theme is thrown in several times, and it’s a nonstop ride from start to finish.
Pure emotion from start to finish, this track is the conclusion of the film, featuring the interaction between Bruce and Rachel at the ruins of Wayne Manor. Much of this is stuff we’ve already heard, but it’s all the more potent due to the fact that, at this point, Rachel knows Bruce’s secret and tells him that she can’t be with him until he no longer needs Batman. It’s a heartbreaking moment, and you can hear it in the music. The last minute and a half or so ends with the return of the Batman theme, which is really cool, and it also includes the melodic bit of the action theme that we heard at the very beginning.
I sort of cheated with this one by looking it up (I’ve included the link at the bottom of this post): this track is played when Ra’s al Ghul teaches Bruce about criminals and when he looks over Gotham after taking out Falcone. Though not unimpressive, much of this track is just basic string stuff, featuring a very pretty melody filled with consequence. It ends literally exactly the way it started in the first track, which is pretty awesome, if I may say so.
This album succeeds because it focuses more on the human interactions of Batman rather than on the kicking-people’s-butts side of him, which could have easily been done with someone like Zimmer on board. However, everything is done very smartly…and it doesn’t hurt that there’s an awesome action theme to represent the kicking-people’s-butts side of Batman as well. This Zimmer/Newton Howard collaboration has its flaws, but the two of them move in the same new direction that Nolan does, which is refreshing and makes this a soundtrack worth purchasing. My biggest complaint is the lack of track titles that identify the music with a scene in the film, though I’m not cutting down the rating due to this. If you’re just looking for one track, though, go for “Molossus”.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
- “Vespertilio” (2:52)
- “Eptesicus” (4:20)
- “Myotis” (5:46)
- “Barbastella” (4:45)
- “Artibeus” (4:20)
- “Tadarida” (5:06)
- “Macrotus” (7:36)
- “Antrozous” (3:59)
- “Nycteris” (4:26)
- “Molossus” (4:49)
- “Corynorhinus” (5:04)
- “Lasiurus” (7:27)
Total Length: app. 61 min.
If you’re interested, this link at Soundtrack.net tells you where each of these tracks can be heard in the film!
P.S. – Read my review of the film here!