Batman (Original Motion Picture Score)

Batman (Original Motion Picture Score)

Danny Elfman’s first scores for Tim Burton, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, had established the former Oingo Boingo leader as a specialist in an akimbo style that many audience members—not to mention several Hollywood execs—would likely describe as “weird.” But his work on Burton’s smash Batman put him in a rarer class. He could still play the freak (“Kitchen, Surgery, Face Off,” “The Joker’s Poem”), but he also seemed to take the prospect of scoring an action movie seriously (“The Batman Theme,” “Attack of the Batwing”). And while there have been dozens of movies in the franchise since, it’s important to remember that most audiences in 1989 would have thought of Batman as your regular American superhero: Violent when necessary, but always in the right. Inspired by graphic novels like The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns, Burton and Elfman instead evoked something more like an antihero: Troubled, vengeful, haunted by an internal dissonance he can’t quite resolve (“Childhood Remembered”). A twisted portrait, no doubt, but one that gave the superhero figure a moral complexity and sense of depth it didn’t quite have before. It’s natural to root for the good guy. But it’s more fun when he’s a little bit bad.

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