CD: Batman Forever (1995)

August 13, 2012 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: La-La Land Records/ Released: January 3, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: CD1: 28 tracks / (74:54) + CD2: 28 tracks / (76:35)


Special Notes: 24-page colour booklet with liner notes by John Takis/ Limited to 3500 copies.


Composer: Elliot Goldenthal




Perhaps the best way to regard the last two Batman films which ended the initial quartet of Warner Bros.’ franchise (1989-1997) are as examples of nineties excess – too much money, too much talent, and a decision to augment the hero & villain roster to the point where the last film, Batman & Robin (1997), seemed ready to burst at the seams as two or three separate comic book adventures.

Director Joel Schumacher admitted years later the money proved too irresistible, but he must have been attracted to the giant opportunity to renew the franchise with a glossy new look after the studio had parted ways with Tim Burton and the gothic, morose tone that dominated in particular Batman Returns (1992).

The tongue-in-cheek tone was always present, but Schumacher wanted to make all humour and human behaviour glow in radiant neon, and that stylistic decision also extended to Elliot Goldenthal’s score, which was also criticized as being too over-the-top; it’s a case where the merits of a score were smothered by the flaws of the film to which it was married.

Goldenthal’s career at the time was hot in Hollywood, yet after accepting perhaps too many overtly commercial and creatively flawed scoring assignments, he scaled back his scoring duties, and Batman Forever falls between the heavy thematic style established by Danny Elfman in the first two films, yet blendered with Goldenthal’s own interest in warbly electronics, blaring brass, huge sweeping dynamics, and a slight dourness reminiscent of his masterpiece, Alien 3 (1992).

A cue like “Nygma After Hours” is a perfect example of a kludge, where each of the aforementioned elements were folded together, alongside some big bang jazz and use of the Theremin – a cute nod to the ethereal sci-fi scores of the fifties (if not the Beach Boys). Equally important are the numerous character themes, and his knack for creating striking contrasts, be it with thunderous percussion and eerie dissonant strings, or the ability to go beyond matching cartoon fight scenes by layering in satirical jabs as well as sly references Herrmann (notably the triadic figures at the beginning of the “The Perils of Gotham,” and the midsection of the Psycho theme which starts “Victory” and swerves into brass riffs of the James Bond theme).

La-La Land’s 2-disc set practically doubles the score’s length and expands its thematic and bawdy breadth with unreleased cues. Also included is “Wreckage and Rape” from Alien 3 which apparently made its way into the score after being part of the editor’s temp track. To fans of Alien 3, its inclusion is jarring, but there are a few cues where Goldenthal echoed some of the cue’s gloominess to ensure it would fit more snugly within his massive score (such as sections of “Big Top Bomb”).

Presented in its full form, Batman Forever is marvelous fun, and stands on its own as a representation of the spoofy tone Schumacher and co-writer Akiva Goldsman were aiming for but missed due to a lack of sophistication and some needed subtleties. It might be that without Goldenthal’s score, the film would’ve been a bigger garish mess, but the composer has nothing to be ashamed of: in terms of its fusion of electric jazz and Wagnerian might, Batman Forever is one of the richest comic book scores of the nineties, and it might be a key motivator to starts a small rapprochement between alienated Batman fans and the Schumacher films.

LLL’s CD preserves the scope and grandeur of Goldenthal’s animated score, and John Takis’ lengthy liner notes provide a good overview of the film’s production, and cue breakdowns.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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