Graphic designer based in Liverpool, UK

The Sound of Batman

The comicbook creation of Batman has had multiple remakes over the years; The camp original TV series of the 60’s, the 1989 film debut Batman (and it’s three sequels), the 1992 animated series and the 2005 reboot Batman Begins (and it’s 2008 sequel). With each remake of the franchise has come with a completely new look and feel and with it, a new sound.

It’s interesting that none of the theme tunes for any of the Batman incarnations would suit any of the others. They are all unique to their own series or film, but each time, they have become well known and easily recognisable. The 1960’s theme tune is easy to distinguish from the 1989 Batman film.

Perhaps most importantly is how the Batman theme has evolved and how it was scrapped altogether with the reboot of the franchise in 2005. In 1989, composer Danny Elfman created one of the most recognisable theme tunes for Batman, which solidified its place in history at the time as the fifth best selling movie of all time.

The theme was remixed but reused with all three of the Batman sequels. It became iconic. It became Batman. So, it was quite a shock to Batman fans everywhere when it was discovered that the theme would not be included in 2005’s Batman Begins. Indeed, Danny Elfman was not invited to produce the soundtrack for the reboot, but instead, the world’s most reknowned composer, Hans Zimmer was.

While the instantly recognisable theme was no longer to be found in the Batman Begins soundtrack. Infact, there isn’t a strong theme at all for the film. In an interview with Hans Zimmer, he explains why and how The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins will have one:

There is a big Batman theme which I was playing with for the last one, but I always felt the character hadn’t earned it yet, so I just want to go and play around, and I now want to go and complete that theme, so that’s part of the idea. I felt I had a good start, and now it would be really nice to develop that world a little further. (Zimmer, H. (2007)

Due to the film’s darker, more realistic nature, perhaps a theme tune was not as neccessary as in other Batman films. As Zimmer describes, in this film, Batman has not progressed to the point where he is a true superhero and as such, is not deserving of a superhero theme. However, what Zimmer manages to get across is a completely new idea to the Batman franchise and one that director Christopher Nolan wanted for the film as well. Although no theme tune is truly present, what is present is the overwhelming sound of bats. Soundtrack reviewer Matt Scheller explains:

The album opens with “Vespertilio”- a very percussive piece that utilizes rhythmic pounds that simulate a giant bat flapping its wings. These bat-flaps are reoccurring throughout the CD. (Scheller M. (June 27th 2005)

The flapping of bat wings is emphasised to the point where it becomes overwhelming and disturbing in some of the tracks found in the score. It’s clear when listening to this soundtrack compared with Danny Elfman’s soundtrack for Batman that this is based more on darkness and fear than strength and determinism as with Elfman’s soundtrack, as Matt Scheller explains:

A central theme of the film is fear. “Artibeus” and “Tadarida” contain moments that sound as though they belong in a horror film- perfect to reflect the theme of fear. Whispers and dark ambient textures are heard as sudden frantic high pitched strings come into play to give audiences an extra jump. These moments of terror are matched against The Scarecrow’s evil doings in the film. (Scheller M. (June 27th 2005)

Batman will always have a place in film, but with the constant reinvention of the character has come regeneration of the music too. With the replacement of the main theme tune and with the upcoming new theme to The Dark Knight, it is clear that Batman is strong enough to stand a complete redesign.