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The Batman Is Reviving One Of Burton's Best Dark Knight Tricks

The Batman composer Michael Giacchino is set to restore Gotham City's identity by crafting a score that harkens back to the Gothic-infused grandeur championed by Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. Matt Reeves is in the director’s chair for the upcoming film, with Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl as the Dark Knight. While little has been revealed about The Batman (a situation set to change at next month’s DC FanDome), it has been confirmed that the story will focus on the second year of Bruce Wayne’s vigilante mission, facing down Paul Dano’s Riddler. In honor of Batman day, Giacchino revealed (via Instagram) a snippet of his Batman theme.

When Tim Burton directed Batman in 1989, he strived to make Gotham a character in its own right, mixing Gothic architecture with Art Deco, to create a unique cinematic metropolis. Danny Elfman was then brought on board to create the music. He came up with the main Batman theme after visiting the set and being inspired by the visuals and tone of what was being filmed on the backlots of Pinewood Studios. The resulting marriage of visuals and sound created a living, breathing city full of personality. Conversely, while Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is lauded as a highpoint of the superhero genre, a fundamental consequence in the decision to ground Batman in the real world was to strip out Gotham’s identity as a character. In Christopher Nolan’s movies, Gotham is largely indistinguishable from any other metropolitan city (especially in the latter two films).

Related: The Batman Risks Repeating Previous Movies' Gotham Mistake

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard crafted exemplary scores for the Dark Knight trilogy that would define the soundscape of action cinema for the next decade. However, the focus was on the dual personality of Bruce Wayne/Batman rather than the environment, with the Gothic quality of Elfman’s sound giving way to a mixture of orchestral and electronic music. The concept of Batman though is not limited to just the hero, but also about Gotham as a place. Giving the city a sense of personality is essential in conveying the never-ending struggle that Batman has in trying to salvage its soul. The short 28 seconds of Giacchino’s score revealed at the weekend recaptures the sound and feel of the Burton Batman movies. Giacchino uses a four-note motif with heavy brass, which, while different in composition to Elfman’s classic 5 note theme, nevertheless paints an instant image of a city overrun with corruption and crime.

Beyond the visuals, often the fastest way to establish a character for a place is by the soundtrack. The musical score is regularly one of the most valuable aspects of a film's production. It has the ability to change the tone of a particular scene using just a few notes (as aptly demonstrated earlier this year when comparing Junkie XL’s score with Danny Elfman’s one for the two different versions of Justice League). Michael Giacchino is no stranger to superhero fare, having scored 4 MCU movies (Doctor StrangeSpider-man: HomecomingSpider-man: Far From Home, and the upcoming Spider-man: No Way Home), as well as both The Incredibles films. His talents are therefore well suited to capturing the sound of a Batman film, as showcased in the short clip from the scoring stage.

Being a frequent collaborator with Matt Reeves, Giacchino has been given total freedom in composing the music. The main theme was actually written prior to filming (much earlier in the process than usual). It may therefore be the case that the music in The Batman inspires Matt Reeves when creating the visuals of Gotham City, flipping the way Danny Elfman was inspired by Tim Burton back in 1989.

Next: Why Robin Can’t Be In Matt Reeves’ The Batman

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