Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Returns (1992).
Score first released in print July 10, 2019.
People ask all the time what is my most popular release. Batman tends to be the hottest one. I was surprised to find out from many customers that the sequel is actually more beloved than the original. I contacted Danny in December of 2018 to inquire if he had any material beyond the scores that were used for the Elfman/Burton concert series, for which I was involved in preparing scores. He actually had all the cues and was willing to let me borrow them to engrave. I asked a few others to help with the data entry because this score was so enormous and full of notes. I started in February of 2019 and finished in early June. I admit, I was never terribly enamored of the film, and knew very little of the music from the film, but by the end of putting the book together it has easily become one of my new favorites scores. The hardest part of engraving this score was the sheer amount of music. There were a lot of very noticeable changes made from the handwritten scores that were not accounted for. Therefore, a lot of careful listening was required to make sure that what ended up on the soundtrack and in the film were accurately represented in print. The only bit of music that didn’t make it into the book was a string overlay to the song “Face To Face,” performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees and a short cue for music box that is heard right before the cue “Children’s Hour.” The latter was most likely performed by the composer at his studio for the brief twenty seconds it appears.
Somewhere between gothic opera and candy-coated nightmare is where Batman Returns exists. After the enormous success of 1989’s Batman, Warner Bros. was eager to capitalize on the success and popularity. This led the studio to give an unprecedented amount of creative freedom to director Tim Burton, a filmmaker known for his bold, visually innovative style: a style that often also included peculiar characters with dark motivations or twisted psyches. It’s safe to say that the dark and weird elements of Batman became darker and weirder in Batman Returns, with mixed reactions by audiences and critics. The desire to make a sequel with as much universal appeal as the first may not have been a complete success, but two of the film’s contributions soared above and beyond expectations: Bo Welch’s German expressionist production design and Danny Elfman’s colorful score.
When composer Danny Elfman sat down to make sense out of all this, the order of the day was “opera.” More grand in scope than its predecessor, the composer delivered a classic and beloved score. And whether or not one can call it operatic, it certainly aligns with Burton’s unique vision. Elfman had to delve deep into the psyche of the characters, and what emerged were two new themes: one for the abandoned Penguin and the other for the sinuously sinister, yet conflicted Catwoman. The tone of Penguin’s theme is very somber and sorrowful, lumbering along like the gentle rocking back-and-forth movement of a penguin. The treatment of Catwoman’s theme is, at times, with high strings slyly moving between notes, mimicking a cat’s meow, and other times a gorgeous melody that shows the graceful tragedy of her character. With an unmistakable style for storytelling through music, Elfman weaves the themes from one to another and even combines themes, such as in the main title — wisely setting up the drama that is about to unfold. It is undeniable that Elfman succeeds on many levels and demonstrates that his instincts for an operatic score would match the drama and visuals perfectly.
Where the score for the first film was recorded in London, recording for this score was in Los Angeles. The orchestra needed to wade through a considerably greater amount of music than the original film, about twenty minutes more, and one can hear on the soundtrack how the players are pushed to the extreme. Elfman is very fond of trying new instruments and orchestration. For this score, he added a choir of both female and children’s voices which, along with scintillating celesta passages, aided not only in underscoring the humanity of the characters, but also the Christmas mood present in the film. In addition to a very large ensemble is a huge array of percussion instruments, some of which were even performed and recorded by the composer himself at his studio.
For the first time ever, musicians, music students, conductors – any music lover – can study Batman Returns in this durable, high-quality edition, carefully reproduced and edited from the original handwritten manuscript.
410 pages 9 x 12 Paperbound. Printed in U.S.A.