Movie Wave Home
Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer

Composed by

* *

Album running time

Performed by
led by
conducted by
Electric cello

Additional music

Engineered by
Music Editors
Produced by

Released by
Serial number

Artwork copyright (c) 2005 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Add one A-list composer to another one and get a C-list score  


Driven into the ground by Joel Schumacher's vile pair of films, the Batman franchise has had a rest from cinemas for a few years now, but it was always inevitable that Warner Bros wouldn't be able to resist resurrecting their cash cow; what is surprising is that they made a genuinely surprising choice as director, going with Christopher Nolan, whose short career has already greatly impressed.  In many ways, Nolan is effectively the anti-Schumacher, which I'm sure entered the studio's mind, but I would have thought alarm bells must have been set off somewhere along the way given the unbelievably awful results the last time a superhero film was entrusted to a well-respected "arthouse" director, Ang Lee's Hulk.  Critical reaction has been mixed, with as many people applauding Nolan for making a more "realistic", less colourful film as those criticising him for making a boring one.  Personally I can't much see the point in trying to emphasise realism in a film about a man who dresses up as a Bat in order to fight crime since those who want to see a serious picture will most assuredly not go and see Batman Begins and those who want to see a superhero film will probably be turned off by the approach.  The most successful film director of them all, Steven Spielberg, has managed to find such a massive audience for his summer blockbusters by never trying to pass them off as anything other than lighthearted fare, but at the same time making them so engaging and exciting that they appeal just as much to intelligent filmgoers who want a good time at the cinema but are put off by the usual popcorn junk as they do to more easily-satisfied filmgoers - yet studios seem loathe to make movies like that for some bizarre reason, always tending towards one extreme or the other.

Anyway, one imagines that Nolan's first choice of composer was probably his usual collaborator David Julyan and that Warner Bros. wanted someone more established, so instead the ubiquitous Hans Zimmer got the gig, and as usual one of the first things he did was decide he wasn't going to write the score by himself, but this time instead of turning to the usual underlings he went to his friend and fellow A-lister James Newton Howard for the collaboration (inevitably including some Media Ventures underlings as well - the credited ones are Ramin Djawadi and Mel Wesson).  While they are hardly pairs of composers of similar styles or (dare I suggest) abilities, this is the first time two genuinely top-drawer film composers have collaborated on a score since Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman's The Egyptian over half a century ago, so hearing this score became quite an enticing prospect.  I have to say that I don't understand the seeming obsession with composer collaborations these days - the score is always going to end up being a disparate clash of styles or necessitate the composers watering down their own musical personalities to such an extent that the music ends up being entirely generic.  Batman Begins is towards the former end of that scale, featuring as it does some of the trademarks of both composers, which tend to clash greatly.

While I think Howard is the stronger composer in the traditional sense and the better dramatist as well, his style is far subtler than Zimmer's and so it is the German composer's trademarks which seem to dominate this score, even though in reality they occur no more frequently than his collaborator's.  So strong and pervasive is Zimmer's musical voice that it simply overshadows Howard's gentler contributions to the score, leading to the immediate, unavoidable and frankly completely inevitable conclusion that whatever this score by Zimmer and Howard's merits - or lack thereof - it would have been far stronger if it had been composed by one or the other, instead of both.

Personally, I have to say that the score's merits are largely notable by their absence.  While I would never say that a strong and memorable theme is an essential ingredient in a good film score, I do think one is necessary for a film about a comic-book superhero, and both Danny Elfman and Elliot Goldenthal, who scored the first and second pair of films in this series respectively, came up with blisteringly strong ones, but not only that they created a vast array of other themes between them.  The completely different style of this film meant that approach was always unlikely (and indeed wouldn't have been appropriate for this movie), but the lack of any strong theme means this ends up sounding like a collection of underscore cues from other, better scores by each of the two composers.  I don't know the exact nature of the composers' collaboration, whether they sat down and literally came up with music together, or whether they worked separately on different parts of the film, but it sounds like Zimmer scored the action and Howard the more introspective, character-driven material.

What I will call Zimmer's segments are his traditional style with the orchestra mixed with an array of synths (which makes it sound smaller) to come up with the tried-and-tested Crimson Tide / Pirates of the Caribbean style, and Howard's sound rather like a lot of his Shyamalan music, being quietly elegant and really quite beautiful.  That style is best heard in the gorgeous "Corynorhinus", which rises to epic proportions (but sadly, pretty quickly falls back down to music which is so restrained and quiet it makes no impact whatsoever on album).  I know it's such a facile thing to say, but this score really is like taking (say) The Peacemaker and The Sixth Sense, removing the personalities from them, and putting them together.  There is no sense of this being a coherent film score, nowhere near enough interesting melodic material, and when the music does become more interesting (there are some genuinely impressive dissonant textures from time to time, and when the composers do make a brief focus on definable melody, it works very well) it never stays that way for too long.  The score sounds like Bruckheimer's Batman with the frequent insertion of music which is stylistically diametrically opposed, with the two styles cancelling each other out and making an album that just doesn't work in any shape or form.  What a disappointment.

Buy this CD from by clicking here!


  1. Vespertilio (2:52)
  2. Eptesicus (4:20)
  3. Myotis (5:46)
  4. Barbastella (4:45)
  5. Artibeus (4:19)
  6. Tadarida (5:05)
  7. Macrotus (7:35)
  8. Antrozous (3:59)
  9. Nycteris (4:25)
  10. Molossus (4:49)
  11. Corynorhinus (5:04)
  12. Lasiurus (7:27)