Michael Giacchino’s score for The Batman is an incredible experience from start to finish.
It perfectly balances a dark, quietly morose Bruce Wayne theme with the unrelenting, unstoppable force that is the Dark Knight’s, counterpoints with both a romantic, blues-esque piece for Catwoman and a loudly malevolent theme for Riddler and then expertly captures the moody, noir-like tone of Gotham City to boot, all in one two hour soundtrack album.
Well, hasn’t this score been a long time coming. It was early 2020 that we first heard some of Michael Giacchino’s newly composed notes for the iconic caped crusader (from the infamous “Camera Test” Batsuit reveal video posted online by director Matt Reeves) and ever since then it’s been a long wait indeed to hear what the composer fully had in store for The Batman. Now though, the wait is finally over. As per usual with Giacchino, the score is centred on several primary themes, so it is with those that we’ll begin. The Batman is up first, and as you may have already guessed, it’s Giacchino’s main theme for the legendary Dark Knight. The theme is made up of four notes, and we’ve heard it briefly before in the aforementioned “Camera Test” video, but in this nearly seven minute suite the composer delves into great, expansive detail with it, to some truly fantastic results overall.
The Batman motif itself is fairly simple but at the same time quite memorable, sticking in your head pretty much immediately as the four notes introduce themselves right at the start of the track. The theme only sticks around for thirty seconds at the start however before a lighter, more hopeful side to the music then starts to emerge, presumably for Batman’s alter ego; Bruce Wayne. Here the orchestra swells and becomes much louder, more exhilarated and almost triumphant for a few short, much more hopeful minutes. This musical optimism doesn’t last forever though, with darkness starting to seep back in as the Batman motif from earlier returns. In terms of structure it then starts to repeat on a continual basis, gradually becoming even louder and more foreboding with brass and strings rising until reaching a near deafening, dramatic crescendo right towards the end of the cue. All-in, it is an unusually simple main theme from Giacchino, but in my opinion a highly effective one. The way it gradually builds this idea of a rising, unstoppable musical force with the increasingly grandiose orchestra over the course of the cue makes for a very dramatic listen, and is very fitting indeed for the character of the Batman.
Next up is The Riddler, where Giacchino thematically introduces us to the calculating villain of the film. The motif is made up of six notes, and is a cold, ominous and pretty unnerving piece of music overall. Quiet strings and foreboding vocals open the track, repeating the villainous theme in a similar manner to that of Batman’s (playing over and over while gradually building instrumentation) until the orchestra then practically explodes at the two minute mark, elevating Riddler’s new theme to incredibly malevolent levels with deafeningly dramatic brass taking centre stage. This only lasts for a minute or so however before the music then calms back down, reigning the Riddler back into quieter, more creepy territory before the track then simply fades to black. Overall it’s certainly a memorable introduction for the infamous villain, and a great counterpoint motif for Batman to boot.
To close out this trifecta of main themes we then get one for Catwoman, and it’s here I have to say that Giacchino really, truly sold me on this score. Gentle, melancholic strings open the piece, with a very blues-esque, slow jazz-like piano starting to play, with the music overall evoking a particularly noir-like, kind of femme fatale-style motif for Selina Kyle (which in all fairness is fitting indeed). Matt Reeves’ movie certainly seems like it’s heading down the noir-style detective road for Batman, and this piece pretty much entirely confirms that awesome fact, to some truly spellbinding musical results. Overall, The Batman and The Riddler certainly caught my ear on first listen, but it’s got to be said – it was the music for Catwoman that truly won me over here, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the album yet.
The actual score of the film begins with Can’t Fight City Halloween (with Giacchino bringing his punny a-game as per usual) and right off the bat (haha) the composer sets a decidedly sinister tone, with high-pitched, worrisome strings and gradual, rising brass notes. As the four minute cue progresses, percussion then slowly starts to build in the background until a loud crescendo is reached, and the four note Batman motif enters the fray. With additional, more ominous brass notes and what sounds like church bells also playing in the distance, I must say the first cue has already completely nailed the noir-like, classic Gotham City-esque tone, marking an incredible start to the score proper. It isn’t long as well before other thematic elements start to crop back up, with the creepily sinister motif for The Riddler fading into play on malevolent vocals and high-pitched, horror-like strings in the subsequent Mayoral Ducting. Batman then makes a short, investigatory appearance on light piano towards the end of the piece, before then seguing straight into It’s Raining Vengeance – the album’s first action piece. The caped crusader’s motif features pretty heavily throughout this one, with ominous percussion, loudly horror-like strings and the established church bells and brass setting a particularly frightening tone. Overall, this track is Batman from the perspective of the criminals he hunts, and it sounds absolutely terrifying as a result.
Don’t Be Voyeur With Me continues with a similarly unnerving tone to start off with, playing a few ominous notes from the Batman theme until it then gets counterpointed with sleek, almost seductive-sounding strings as presumably a certain cat-like character makes her first appearance. Crossing The Feline then continues in this vein, with Batman’s theme playing in lightly curious, percussion-based form for much of the two minute cue alongside some rather playful piano notes. Gannika Girl then starts to hint at Catwoman’s actual theme, playing a few gentle notes on quiet strings before cold, dramatic vocals then enter the fray as Riddler’s motif makes a typically malevolent appearance a few seconds later. The now rather creepy, unnerving mood is rthen etained in the subsequent Moving In For The Gil, with high-pitched strings and vocals elevating the tone to horror-like and at points downright terrifying levels, particularly in the cue’s first half. Funeral And Far Between then takes a step back into more melancholic territory, with the gentler motif for Bruce Wayne making a slow, almost mournful but also slightly hopeful appearance on gentle strings and piano notes. This gentleness doesn’t last for long however before Collar ID brings back the ominous, with rumbling percussion and tense strings evoking the Riddler without even using his theme.
Action begins again in Escaped Crusader (I see what you did there, Michael); tense, rather worrisome drum beats open the piece, with slow strings emphasizing the already haunting tone before additional, dramatic strings and bursts of brass kick off a ferocious pace, and the full orchestra then rises to meet a particularly emphatic crescendo just as the track closes out. Penguin Of Guilt hints toward the titular gangster with moody, sinister strings and light percussion before Batman’s theme then slowly starts to emerge, building right up into Highway To The Anger Zone; the next action setpiece. A dramatic crash of percussion starts things off, with rapid, horror-like strings and additional, increasingly in-your-face drums starting to build until Batman’s theme bursts into the fray on particularly imposing brass. From here on the action takes a frantic and quite frightening turn, as the music once again takes the viewpoint of terrified criminals being hunted by the Bat for five ferociously lengthy, edge-of-your-seat minutes. World’s Worst Translator then reigns the orchestra back in, with Riddler’s creepy motif setting a now typically unnerving mood on strings for much of its three minute runtime. Riddles, Riddles Everywhere then continues in a similar manner, with tense strings occupying centre stage together with some quite worrisome brass notes.
Meow And You And Everyone We Know (yes, that’s the actual title) opens tensely, with nervous strings and moody brass occupying the first minute or so until a gentle melancholy settles over the music. Slowly but surely Catwoman’s theme then starts to emerge, with a few notes dotted here and there until the first full rendition of the motif plays on gently romantic strings right up until the cue comes to an end. Hints toward Bruce Wayne’s sub-theme then start to play in For All Your Pennyworth, with solemn strings taking the forefront for much of the track’s two and a half minutes. Malevolence however starts to creep back into the score with Are You A Kenzie Or A Can’t-zie, as strings and low brass settle into a gentle but also rather unnerving ambience for much of the track. Things do pick up in the back half however as Batman’s theme powers into the fray for an explosive rendition on loudly imposing brass and percussion. This elevated mood then continues into the rather tense An Im-purr-fect Murder, with the Dark Knight’s motif playing quite worrisomely on fast-paced strings in the opening minute before then becoming much louder and angrier as the track goes on with the orchestra reaching a dramatically strings-based crescendo at cue’s end. The Great Pumpkin Pie then returns to the moody ambience from earlier for the majority of its runtime, before both Batman and Riddler’s themes then quietly re-emerge and even intertwine in the subsequent, unnerving and rather atmospheric setpiece Hoarding School.
The pace starts to quicken in A Flood Of Terrors, as Batman’s theme starts to gain confidence again on slow, rising strings. The orchestra slowly builds behind the motif as the track continues, with an emphatic crescendo being briefly reached just before Riddler’s theme then interjects and the music falls back into creepy, ominous darkness for the final two minutes. With the pieces in place and the stage set though, the finale of the score then begins with A Bat In The Rafters, Pt. 1; loud, crashing brass opens the piece with Riddler’s theme held villainously, ceremoniously high. This then continues in a playful, almost victorious manner for the entirety of the four minute setpiece, with the orchestra out in full malevolent force complete with incredibly emphatic, in-your-face brass and the established high pitched, horror-like strings. The caped crusader however then starts to regain the upper hand in A Bat In The Rafters, Pt. 2, with the titular character’s repeating theme held powerfully high on propulsive brass and increasingly frenetic percussion.
The main theme disappears for a short while in the back half, as the action descends into orchestral frenzy for a minute or two before Catwoman’s theme then interjects with a quietly gentle interlude, making way for Batman’s theme to step quietly back into the fray just before the track ends. The Bat’s True Calling then hints toward building up into Bruce Wayne’s theme at the start before coming to a very sudden stop, with gentle, melancholic strings taking up the musical forefront for the remainder of the piece. All’s Well That Ends Farewell however picks up where the start of the previous cue left off, with Bruce’s motif finally receiving a full and rather hopeful rendition on quietly triumphant strings. With the album rapidly drawing to a close the composer then has one final treat in store for us; Sonata In Darkness. It’s a lengthy and primarily piano-based piece, focusing on both the Batman and Bruce Wayne themes as well as Catwoman’s in a serene, gentle manner, all-in giving a quietly hopeful and well-earned finish to the already pretty brilliant score.
Overall, I honestly think the world of Michael Giacchino’s score for The Batman. From each and every one of the exquisitely-crafted, memorable main themes to the highly enjoyable, crisp orchestral sound that encapsulates them, this album simply blows my mind. The compositional style is of course an absolute highlight, as it pretty much perfectly captures the noir-like, dark, gritty nature of Gotham City and the Batman himself, and I love the way that the action setpieces in particular really evoke this feeling of utter, relentless dread from the perspective of the criminals as they are hunted by the Dark Knight. The main theme goes a long way toward emphasizing this as well, with the way it builds its four notes continually and dramatically really showing just how much of an unstoppable force Batman is as a character. Catwoman’s gentler, more romantic motif then acts as a great foil and counterpoint to this, helping to bring out the more hopeful, optimistic Bruce Wayne side to the main character’s score (see Sonata In Darkness for a beautifully composed demonstration of this). Riddler then of course evokes a spine-chilling, edge-of-your-seat unnerving tone whenever he appears, and the way it plays almost triumphantly in part one of A Bat In The Rafters is simply, brilliantly sublime. All-in, I must say it’s a monumentally superb effort from Michael Giacchino, and I can scarcely wait to hear what he comes up with next.
Standout Cues: 26. The Batman, 28. Catwoman
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