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Giacchino Heads to Gotham

Marvel film adaptations have proven to be box office gold while the superheroes of DC Comics tend to enter the fray in a much scrappier fashion. One of their iconic characters though The Batman, has had plenty of film appearances and reboots. The latest one finds Robert Pattinson (Tenet, Twilight) assuming the cape and cowl. The current film’s run time is listed at almost three hours so it will win the award for longest superhero movie to date. The release is set for the first weekend in March which has not been a place for studios to place high profile product, but perhaps fans eager to return to the theater will be enticed to experience Matt Reeves’ (Cloverfield, Let Me In, War For/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) noirish take that includes a plethora of villains with The Riddler rising to a new level of psychotic madness to rival the Joker. Along for the ride is his frequent collaborator, Michael Giacchino, who has provided scores for everyone conceivable franchise now turns to move us into a new Batman era. For fans, there are plenty of pun-laced titles to smirk at as well.

In this score, Giacchino creates a tapestry that focuses on orchestral color and emphasizes the gothic qualities of the title character. “Can’t Fight City Halloween” opens the score presentation with a murky and dark orchestral sound. A two-note idea floats above a four-note rhythmic pattern and glissandi start to add a sense of unease as the track urges itself forward. More atmospheric ideas appear with that incessant fate motive knocking underneath as we move into “Mayoral Ducting”. Music for Catwoman starts to insinuate itself into the score as we move into “Crossing the Feline”. Here the Batman motive gets a lighter, catty inverted variant that adds a sense of mystery. An echoey vocalise also makes an appearance as a lyric line against the darkness that adds an ethereal quality. It gets a good exposure in “Moving in for the Gil”. “Funeral and Far Between” has a rather beautiful thematic moment that provides a nice pause from some of the brooding that has preceded it. Later in “Meow and You and Everyone We Know”, Giacchino crafts an almost Barry-like slow thematic style (another variant of this approach appears in “Are You a Kenzie or Can’t-zee?”). As we move into “Collar ID”, the primary 4-note motive becomes an incessant rhythmic ostinato quietly knocking away. It comes to the forefront in “Escaped Crusader” as things begin to finally build towards a climax that disintegrates instead. Our first bona fide action cue comes in “Highway to the Anger Zone” where spurts of energy ramp up tension over various slow builds and pullbacks. This bubbling energy propels things forward fairly well and allows for a bit more subtlety. The hovering darkness takes a more macabre twist as we try “The Great Pumpkin Pie.” As we move into one of the longer two sequences here, “A Bat in the Rafters”, Giacchino comes closest to nodding towards a parallel moment in Elfman’s Batman score. We are far removed though from the more romantic Hollywood style and are now in a more stripped away backdrop of layers of motivic ideas and orchestral color looping about.

Giacchino has crafted thematic threads for the host of primary characters and villains that populate the film and are then served up as character tracks at the end. Along with the 12-minute “Sonata in Darkness” they serve as a sort of final concert suite. These may become listener’s goto tracks to get a taste of what the score has to offer. The Batman focuses more on a modernized noir quality that trods along, pulling us forward with colors that push us into the swirling darkness.

Giacchino’s The Batman has some of the orchestral writing that marked Elfman’s iconic 1980s score.While a big, boisterous theme is not as prevalent, Giacchino instead unifies the score with a motivic component that provides the underlying glue to the soundscapes and textural writing. You may not be humming the new Batman theme, but the four-note motive will certainly have entered your skull by the time you have made it through the score


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