Music Composed by Elliot Goldenthal
Following a stream of film scoring masterpieces that began with 1992's ALIEN3 and continued with such varied projects as DEMOLITION MAN, COBB, and INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, Elliot Goldenthal received an even more daunting commission from director Joel Schumacher, who approached him to fill the rather large shoes of Danny Elfman's two prior BATMAN scores, the former a compositionally simple, yet utterly exhilarating action opus, and the latter a masterpiece of subtlety and tragedy. Goldenthal, easily the most formidable player in the otherwise dismal world of young film composers, produced an eclectic, yet exceptional score for BATMAN FOREVER, containing both infinite listening satisfaction and astounding musical depth. Compositionally, the score measures up to be a masterstroke, with Goldenthal presenting a seamless amalgam of brilliant Wagnerian pastiche, riotous jazz, and stimulating modernism. Yet astoundingly, all of this revolves around a single four-note motif that provides the foundation for at least five different themes, ranging from Batman's kinetic fanfare to neurotic, film-noirish cacophony to underscore Jim Carrey's antics.
Originally, director Schumacher petitioned Goldenthal to reuse Elfman's simple action theme from the previous two outings, but the steadfast composer convinced Schumacher that the dark, Gothic tones would clash horribly with both the new, capricious vision of Gotham City and Goldenthal's unique brand of music. Luckily, the director remitted, and the composer thus penned this pinnacle of modern film scoring. In terms of orchestration, he noted that complex late 20th century techniques would most likely soar over the heads of a fickle public, so the most innovative approaches were limited to a combination of a typical Romantic orchestral complement and a host of retro jazz instruments, including the unearthly tones of a small choir, a nostalgic 1960's Moog synthesizer, and the ever-trustworthy theremin, Hollywood's traditional harbinger of the unknown, sampled most notably on the album in "Nygma Variations." Though Goldenthal prefers to work without a separate orchestrator, most of his film projects have required him to seek the assistance of veteran orchestrator Robert Elhai, with BATMAN FOREVER employing a team of several additional professionals due to the limited time to prepare the music for recording.
BATMAN FOREVER's complete score runs in excess of 130 minutes, with several sections omitted from the film. In condensing the mammoth work to 45 minutes for Atlantic's rather generous release (following the cost of the song compilation, they had originally tried to force Goldenthal into a 30-minute album), the composer retains most of the highlights of the score, and the album plays as a magnificent listening experience. The timid need not apply, since Goldenthal actually crafts FOREVER as a hilarious parody of traditional comic-book film scoring stipulations (witness the uproarious cue titles), underscoring not necessarily the actions on screen, but rather his OPINIONS of the actions. Since much of the film revolves around a laughable script and anachronistic, surreal set designs, Goldenthal's music retains a certain bizarre splendor whose purposefully over-the-top, satirical action cues and seemingly incongruous subtle commentaries on the dire state of summer blockbusters present a perverse, yet ingenious and compelling cinema of ironies. Thus, opinions of this score have remained sharply divided ever since its 1995 premiere, and most proponents of Elfman's BATMAN scores have turned their heads in disgust, while collectors of Goldenthal, fans of the satirical, and adventurous collectors willing to overlook the commentary and simply indulge in a collection of electrifying action cues have responded in the affirmative. In any case BATMAN FOREVER's score sealed Elliot Goldenthal's place in the film music pantheon as the most innovative and fresh voice in modern film scoring.
Track by Track Analysis
1. Main Titles / Fanfare (1:50)
Goldenthal's score begins with an ominous descent into darkness with quiet, unstable scales in the celli and contrabasses, coupled with a rather routine descending motif for the black tone colors of the woodwinds, echoing Elfman's approach to the first film. However, the first glimpses of Goldenthal's Batman theme soon appear in a massive string orchestration, surging violently between the deceptively simple undulations of the melody. This continues to build, leading to a thematic horn fanfare that presents an interesting foil to the main four-note motif that hovers throughout every theme of the score. Finally, the composer unleashes the full fury of his fanfare with a breathtaking brass presentation, climaxing in the fateful introduction of the score's main four-note motif that also serves as the last four notes of Batman's theme. As if to herald this important development in the score, Goldenthal accompanies this motif with pipe organ and raucous French horn trills that peal from the utmost registers of the instruments' tone colors. The second part of the cue showcases a series of clanging percussion sound effects, leading to a gargantuan brass fanfare with subtle echoes of the main motif. In the end Goldenthal's Wagnerian Batman theme eclipses Elfman's rather tepid lift from Herrmann's Journey to the Center of the Earth in orchestrational ferocity, addictiveness of melody line, and skill of composition.
2. Perpetuum Mobile (:54)
Segueing into a completely altered tone of music, "Perpetuum Mobile" briefly introduces Goldenthal's main action motif, a hilarious lampoon of the over-the-top villain scoring found in the original BATMAN television series. Adding to this parody, the composer includes a nostalgic 1960's synth walking bass-line, as well as insane outbursts of diminished chords from the brass and frantic violin glissandi. Yet even in the midst of this satire, the composer adds thematic complexity by deriving the refrain of this theme from his four note motif.
3. The Perils of Gotham (3:01)
Another of Goldenthal's virtuoso action cues, this crescendoing monstrosity introduces and develops several important motifs. Beginning with celestial arpeggios from the strings and piano, Goldenthal soon interpolates Batman's theme in a series of wild, impressionistic brass fanfares. Soon, however, the tone becomes sinister with the introduction of an embryonic version of the Peril Motif, which this cue reveals to be a variation on the dark bassoon motif that opened the album. Accompanying this is an early permutation of Two-Face's theme, the first of the villains' thematic material. Although the fact only becomes apparent after repeated listenings, Goldenthal ingeniously bases this theme again on the four note theme, now mutated into nearly a waltz. The rest of the cue houses frenetic variations on the diabolical Peril Motif, blending it with an offshoot of the 5/8 ostinato from the first movement of Holst's THE PLANETS. At the track's climax, Goldenthal unleashes a seething orchestral paroxysm that blends this motif with fortissimo double-tongued trumpet flutterings, insane woodwind shrieks, and his favorite 20th-century tone color - pitch bending horns. The music finally subsides with an ominous recapitulation of Batman's theme in strings.
4. Chase Noir (1:45)
The first of Goldenthal's shadowy love music, this introduces a seductive tango for Nicole Kidman's character following a sleazy muted jazz trumpet introduction. Continuing the score's ingenuity, this theme finds its roots in Batman's theme, and consequently the four-note main motif as well. In terms of orchestration, this obsessive dance is performed on piano, with an evocative Mahlerian violin counterpoint. With a reprise of the uncertain trumpet introduction, the music finally fades into blackness.
5. Fledermausmarschmusik (1:15)
As hinted by its hilarious German title (Bat March Music), this cue presents a straightforward march of Batman's theme with a fortissimo introduction. The cue opens with a pulsing Wagnerian ostinato for strings, utilizing all of the master's timeless clichés such as diminished chords and rapid, operatic descending violin scales. At the climax, Batman's fanfare suddenly appears, now mutated into its native march form with pounding snare drum, brilliant brass fanfares, and wild horn and woodwind flourishes. The final few seconds serve as an introduction to the next cue with a brief introduction of the Riddler's theme, which is the first straightforward interpolation of the four-note motif in the album.
6. Nygma Variations (An Ode to Science) (6:02)
Comprised of several cues, this demented fantasia presents a series of variations on the Riddler's thematic material, each becoming progressively more disturbing. Goldenthal composed two extremely simple motivic calling cards for the character - the descending four-note motif that became the main theme of the score, used in every character theme, as well as a two-note recoiling chromatic brass figure. A pulsing, capricious low brass and string ostinato forms the opening, on top of which Goldenthal places vague versions of the character's motif for violin, synth, and piano, which segue into the next cue, a slow, lackadaisical version of the motif for theremin and violin. Suddenly, however, a cue of wacky action music highlighting a demented Russian rhythm seizes the orchestra, containing insane riffs of the four-note theme for jazzy brass and saxophones, climaxing in the recoiling second theme. Next, an impressionistic variation of the theme begins in meandering bassoons and bass clarinets, with the melody played on pizzicato strings, promptly eclipsed by a huge brass trill that foreshadows some of the jazz music from Titus. This next cue plays almost like a frantic concerto for synthesized organ, highlighting both themes, including an absolutely manic trilled version of the four-note motif. Following this is a disturbing atonal violin concerto of the motif, interpolating the tango for Nicole Kidman's character against an unstable synthesizer bed, with the violin soon unleashing all manner of atonal pizzicato effects. Another impressionistic orchestral caprice on the theme follows, tossing the theme into the music at the most unexpected intervals, such as sudden bursts of impromptu brass fanfares and woodwind shrieks, climaxing in an ingenious homage to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. As this bassoon and violin duet (ingeniously interpolating the four-note motif) continues to crescendo violently, Goldenthal finally unleashes the finale of the cue - easily the most frenzied music of the score. It begins with rapid arpeggios in pipe organ, as well as grandiose brass fanfares. Finally, the four-note motif enters in all its glory, presented by theremin, roaring solo soprano, organ, baritone saxophone, and percussion, with the arpeggios continued violently by saxophones and strings. Thus, this centerpiece of the score contains Goldenthal's most manic material, mutating two seemingly simple motivs into a compositionally complex monstrosity that will easily disturb as many people as it will thrill.
7. Victory (2:37)
Returning to a more conventional atmosphere, "Victory" showcases more of the composer's massive Wagnerian brass writing, beginning with an appropriately apocalyptic arrangement of Two-Face's calamitous theme and the subsequent Peril Motif. Containing a more tragic atmosphere than any of the previous tracks, "Victory" promptly introduces Batman's fanfare, only to be buried in a maelstrom of crashing string scales and brass glissandi. The bleak trumpet fanfare presented here will eventually serve as the climax of Goldenthal's action writing, receiving its final statement in track 17. A world-breaking dissonant brass tone cluster promptly engulfs the orchestra, and the composer develops it for a seemingly eternal 20 seconds, although Batman's fanfare finally surfaces from the darkness. After a perilous series of brass and pipe organ diminished chords (the traditional Wagnerian harbinger of terror), Goldenthal introduces his Victory motif - a seemingly simple, yet exciting and moving descending brass arpeggio that serves as a brilliant parody of Richard Strauss' opening to Also Sprach Zarathustra, which will eventually close the album.
8. Descent (1:07)
The first half of this cue begins with a pulsating march rhythm for percussion and pitch-bending horns that Goldenthal soon covers in busy electronics that serve as an exhilarating surge of alternate tone color, surrounding a majestic proclamation of Batman's fanfare for a brass chorale. After a brief return to the march rhythm, Goldenthal's orchestral time bomb suddenly detonates with an extravagant straightforward variant of the fanfare with its native brass flourishes and glissandi.
9. The Pull of Regret (2:50)
The first in a short suite of Goldenthal's morose, tragic music from the score, this opens with a new, four-note development of the Peril Motif that will come to fruition throughout the catastrophic final cues of the score. The composer forms the majority of this cue from a series of sustained string lines against a bed of exotic, menacing synthesizers. In the final section of the piece, the orchestra becomes tonally unstable, venturing back to the dynamically tranquil but compositionally terrifying atonal pastorale of parts of Alien3 with screeching string clusters in the instruments' highest registers and ominously meandering melodies in flutes, clarinets, and bassoons. A desolate effect for a small choir eventually becomes the foundation of a noble recapitulation of Batman's fanfare, again foreshadowing the finale of the score. As if to signify the cue's portentous nature, Goldenthal ends the cue with subtle hints of devilish tritones in harp.
10. Mouth to Mouth Nocturne (2:14)
The most uneasy of BATMAN FOREVER's love music, "Mouth to Mouth Nocturne" features a hopelessly tragic Mahlerian string theme that features unstable turns on the harmonic minor scale, as well as the most subtle thematic device of the score - Goldenthal includes the Riddler's four-note motif in the refrain of the theme. In the remainder of the cue, Goldenthal melds the threatening orchestral atmosphere with interpolations of Batman's fanfare.
11. Gotham City Boogie (2:02)
Reprising the sarcastic, entertaining action theme of Perpetuum Mobile, "Gotham City Boogie" expands the orchestration to a larger orchestral complement, adds a collection of dense, complex, uneasy orchestration, and ends the riotous proceedings with a welcome fortissimo interpolation of the Batman theme amidst the chaos of ferocious string glissandi and brass outbursts. Near the coda, the orchestra seemingly ends abruptly with a chaotic, dissonant brass plunge, finally resolved with a series of violent, outrageous trumpet trills at the top of the instruments' registers - a fitting end to the wild orchestral orgy of excess.
12. Under the Top (5:42)
The brutal turning point of BATMAN FOREVER's score, this torrential symphony of psychic horror melds most of the themes heard thus far into a livid tumult of death and depravity, focusing heavily on the newly-reformed four-note Peril Motif. Surprisingly, the cue begins with a Stravinskyesque exciting festival tone, including large pounding bass drums and a capricious, glissandoing horn fanfare. Although the festival atmosphere continues briefly with busy, lilting string figures, Goldenthal soon interpolates Batman's theme in a mystical arrangement, as well as hints of the dark "Mouth to Mouth Nocturne." After a nearly religious theme for violins that conjures images of Medieval nobility, the horns unleash an unstable victory fanfare, soon engulfed by roaring low brass and a sickening circus organ. As this symbol of dementia and slaughter continues its unstoppable chords, a chopping, murderous variant of Two-Face's theme suddenly bursts forth from a string quartet, and Goldenthal presents the theme in several different arrangements, usually with whooping horns accompanied by manic glissandi from the organ. As this inexorable harbinger of death reaches its climax, the orchestra finally releases the newly reformed Peril Motif in a lengthy arrangement for screaming brass chorales and unimaginably tragic strings. Finally, the cellos present a deathly coda with hints of the motif and the "Mouth to Mouth Nocturne."
13. Mr. E's Dance Card (Rhumba, Foxtrot, Waltz, & Tango) (3:21)
One of the most entertaining tracks, this presents a stimulating danse macabre on the Riddler's four-note motif. Beginning with a scandalous rhumba for saxophones and castanets that ironically (and ingeniously) presents The Riddler's theme in an abridged three-note form that plays as a subtle homage to Jerry Goldsmith's IN LIKE FLINT score, the orchestra next segues into an agitated foxtrot, again cunningly based upon the main theme, including the Russian rhythm that becomes most noticeable in the character's action music. The final two dances serve as exotic concertos for violin, beginning with a sarcastic "tear-inducing" waltz, and segueing into a seductive, bizarre tango incorporating the obsessive love theme, which in turn includes both Batman's theme and the four-note motif. The most surreal passage on the album, the passionate tango subsides into dark rumblings from the contrabasses, tubas, and trombones.
14. Two-Face Three Step (2:20)
Continuing the sardonic dance motif, Goldenthal now presents Two-Face's theme in a grandiose, morbid waltz. Beginning with horrific brass fanfares and a reprise of the ostinato from Holst's Mars, as well as a subtle inclusion of the main four-note motif, the rhythm finally quiets into a formal waltz featuring a pronounced mixed-meter tuba line (perhaps a nod to the finale of THE RITE OF SPRING?), violin solos, incongruous triangle tones, and a joyful ascending motif. One of the most entertaining facets of this cue is its rhythm - although the composer pens the piece as a straightforward waltz, he constantly alters the time signature, adding or subtracting a beat seemingly at random, possibly to underscore the unstable nature of the film. The theme's inclusion of the four-note motif becomes extremely noticeable in several sections of the gruesome waltz.
15. Chase Blanc (1:23)
The final remnants of Goldenthal's love music, this begins with a large brass fanfare of Batman's theme, soon engulfed by dark strains from the deepest registers of the strings and brass.
16. Spank Me! Overture (2:46)
One of the score's largest action spectacles, this dark overture opens with a shrieking brass presentation of the Peril Motif, soon dissolving into a pulse-pounding action cue. The Riddler's comedy music from Enigma Variations returns, including the recoiling two-note refrain, huge Russian rhythms, glissandoing saxophones, and whooping orchestral interpolations of the four-note motif. Soon, this manic interplay dissolves into a desperate action music passage incorporating the Peril Motif, as well as a final, passionate presentation of Two-Face's theme, now including pitchbending horns. An intense snare drum cadence serves as the cue's finale.
17. Holy Rusted Metal (1:51)
The climax of BATMAN FOREVER, "Rusted Metal" begins with frenzied double-tongued flutterings for trumpet and a dismal display of the Peril Motif, and finally introduces a climactic fanfare of Batman's theme following an outcry of random, cacophonous horns. Now, however, Goldenthal supplants the fanfare with a seemingly new leitmotif intoned by the brass - an arching, splendor-laden fanfare that finds its foundation in a short section of track seven. A majestic proclamation of Batman's fanfare serves as the track's postlude, incorporating the howling pitchbending horns in an arrangement foreshadowed by "The Pull of Regret."
18. Batterdammerung (1:21)
For the score's resolution, Goldenthal briefly returns to the horrific diminished brass chords and pipe organ from "Victory" (actually a subtle variation on both the Peril Motif and the main four-note theme), although the composer finally displaces it with his magnificent Straussian victory fanfare and a final nostalgic, victorious statement of Batman's theme.
Batman Forever, easily one of Elliot Goldenthal's most ingenious scores, serves as an impeccably developed Gothic symphony that skillfully blends adrenaline-filled, virtuoso action music with wild social commentary, forming an immensely entertaining album that collectors of Goldenthal, as well as lovers of clever, complex orchestral developments will find to be a worthwhile, lasting purchase.