The Lego Batman Movie

 

the-lego-batman-score-cover
Lorne Balfe (2017)

 

Why You Should…
If you’re looking to add a fantastic superhero score to your early 2017 collection, with Lorne Balfe entertaining the listener with a powerful, and hilarious parody score containing Batman references from significant musical voices previously associated with the character. 

Why You Shouldn’t…
If the abundance of explosive, yet gratifying muscular percussive rampages serves as a detriment, or if you revere the character’s norm darkness to occupy this gleeful iteration. 


Release Date: 3rd February 2017 (DIGITAL RELEASE)
Composer(s): Lorne Balfe
Length: 60:08 (score)
Recorded By/At:
Label: WaterTower Music

Additional Information:
Orchestrated By: Oscar Senen & Joan Martorell
Conducted By: Johannes Vogel
Produced By: Max Aruj
Mixed By: Stephen Lipson

Despite the clear conclusion that Warner Brother’s most trusted DC Comics legend Batman is their safe choice for onscreen projects, such a film as THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE only cements this notion further, proving that be it in live-action, animation, and even in Lego, The Dark Knight is the one who prevails over his super-heroic peers. This humourous adaptation of the character’s adventures is given a significantly more accessible treatment to general family audiences, written by The Lego Movie helmers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and directed by Chris McKay, using their iteration of the character from the aforementioned film and arching off into an exclusive solo film, with Will Arnett reprising his role as the self-indulgent, glorious and at-all-times super cool variant. The lighter variation in tone allows for a far more substantial range of humour to permeate the film, given the character’s strongly alluring darker roots and brooding imagery, and a less threatening story-line affords the character to exercise his demons in good fun, pondering as to whether it’s finally time to start listening to loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth on the lone man army watching over Gotham gig. Infatuations with Barbara Gordon and an unexpected responsibility in protecting an adorable Robin are served as the Batman must once again confront his greatest enemy, the Joker, in order to save his home. When you consider the intentional decision to parody the character as well as give him a slick re-imagining, the compositional approach by Lorne Balfe is no less than intelligent sufficient, and admirably tongue-in-cheek, perfectly accentuating the proceedings of the superhero.

Part of Balfe’s success with this score is expanding the instrumental palette to address different facets of Batman’s persona. Generally, the character can be familiarly articulated as a lonesome, highly intelligent and devious vigilante with more than required tricks in that resourceful utility belt of his, and a willingness to always work alone so as not to endanger others in his path to defending Gotham from the scum that ruined his childhood and plague the city. This iteration contains all that, and a surprising amount of wit and ultra-cool demeanor with which swinging off rooftops and fighting crime is perpetrated. It’s as silly and charming as a film geared towards a younger audience can be, and Balfe’s score is a significant aspect of its likability. The two halves in which he splits the score are entertaining on their own, but effectively merge together as a coherent listening experience. That first half is for the hyper-actively stylish Batman, with a relentless sense of energy and muscularity to enunciate his coolness and gadget proficiency, anchored by a strong orchestral presence, with insane synthetic rambling and heavyweight percussion rare for the animation medium. Its intensity is outstanding, and the passages of heroism and flair are well conceived by the composer, for the most part tolerable. A handful of listeners, will however, remain unsatisfied with the adventurous density of the action material, due to its proclivity. Fortunately for Balfe, subtlety has never been a concerning factor in his filmography, and there lies a decent section of character-based contemplation and pathos. The second half is where things truly get interesting. In the history of Batman films, it is difficult not to be tempted into comparing different works by multiple composers. Balfe enters the game solo after Neal Hefti, Danny Elfman, Shirley Walker, Elliot Goldenthal, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, and Junkie XL, having contributed to Zimmer’s trilogy of scores in great detail. The evolution of the sound of Batman has always been a restless one, if only for its comedic constructs abandoned for the more brooding and gothic sound, and dominated today by the character’s duality and aggression. Where Balfe distinguishes himself is the stylistic format of his score, with energetic performances from the orchestra, and a perfect blend of synthetics alongside. The only composer spared from the parody-all-of-them-and-get-away-with-it approach is ironically Goldenthal, his two scores overlooked over the years, despite featuring ingenious material. Balfe not only integrates references dating back from Hefti to Zimmer, but also uses his own voice consistently yielding admirable results.

Instrumentation plays a defining role in this score. Brass portions are rowdy and majestic in their performances, and Balfe gives the percussive sections an exhausting marathon. Fast-paced strings are noteworthy, with staccato bursts and flighty swirls constantly making an appearance. The main theme for Batman here is frightfully reminiscent of Walker’s material for Batman: The Animated Series, with the same rhythmic progression and minor-key flash. It’s important to consider that Balfe perhaps is also paying tribute to these composers, so the resultant score is by no means insulting to anyone. Often highlighted by four-note phrases debuting at 5:14 in “Black”, this idea is often brazen in its appearance, and evokes the necessary ominous sound, and Balfe emulates Zimmer’s Bane theme from The Dark Knight Rises using the 5/4 tempo. The secondary theme is for the Joker, characterized by a series of descending notes in vocal distortion to represent the character’s madness. One could safely argue that Balfe is the first composer to capture the Joker fully; where Elfman succeeded in the theatricality and abandoned the malevolent shades of the iconic super-villain, and Zimmer created unnerving tension for his presence, foreshadowing his actions, Balfe ties both together well. This theme is heard first in “Your Greatest Enemy”, and successively features in “Joker Crashes the Party” “Joker Manor”,  often counterpointed with Batman’s to show their never-ending conflict. The third theme is for Robin, a tender idea that contrasts the weight of his mentor by pronounced woodwinds and piano-celeste relationships in “The Arrival of Robin”. By the time it appears in the penultimate “Battle Royale”, Balfe gives the theme string and brass performances, its dexterity suggesting character development and maturity of Robin’s prowess as he aids Batman in saving the city from the Joker. A motif for Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl is also featured, but its most obvious statement comes in “The Bab Signal”, despite being teased several cues earlier. The latter two characters are commonly given softer treatment, to not only show their willingness to display emotion unlike Batman’s stoic exterior, but also to give them depth. A series of undulating string ostinatos give way to a serene statement of Batman’s theme for his crush on her, before her theme triumphantly appears at 1:50, with choral glory and bombast. Secondary motifs are also at play. Perhaps the most ingenious creation in the score is the identity of “The Phantom Zone”, the fictional prison dimension within the Superman realm of DC. Rather than belt out a violently thrilling series of ostinati a la Man of Steel, Balfe uses the choir to chant the titular words out in faux-pas megalomaniacal fashion, lending a genuinely hilarious sense of villainy sustained further in “Batman’s In The Zone”. An idea for the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin is given in “No Seat Belts Required”, with gratifying heroic fanfare and engaging rhythms. And finally, the ultimate parodic reach would be Neal Hefti’s 1966 Batman theme, first quoted on horns in the latter cue at 1:23, before more vivacious performances filled with vocals happen in “Battle Royale” at 1:02. “Lava Attack” contains some tremendously awesome action material, truly cue of the year writing, with “A Long Farewell” offering an appropriate conclusion. The latter key briefly toys with Elfman’s theme on its string rhythms, and in one final Easter egg, a reference to the choral interlude of “Hallelujah” is featured at the end of “No Seat Belts Required”, evoking a wry smile, and don’t miss out on the sly Kraken reference in “The Phantom Zone” from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. The amount of genre-bending versatility in “Chaos in Gotham” is to be admired, for its balance of thematic confluence with hardcore distorted guitar passages and comedic respite. Overall, this is a strong, robust and entertaining score, and perhaps one of the most refreshing ones in recent memory, unashamed in its extroverted energy and heroics. It’s pleasing to see Lorne Balfe finally achieve the mainstream solo recognition he has long deserved, and this score serves as a great catalyst for further effect. Since John Williams‘ score for Superman to present day, DC have always had the best original film scores for their super-heroic ventures, and The Lego Batman Movie continues this trend with superb results.

Rating: *****

Track Listing:
(all music except for where noted written by Lorne Balfe)

CD 1- Songs

1) Who’s The (Bat)Man – Patrick Stump (3:03)
2) Forever – DNCE (3:48)
3) (I Just) Died In Your Arms – Cutting Crew (4:35)
4) Invincible – Kirsten Arian (2:59)
5) One – Harry Nilsson (2:22)
6) Heroes (We Could Be) (Hard Rock Sofa & Skidka Remix) – Alesso Feat. Tove Lo (6:35)
7) Man In The Mirror – Alex Aiono (2:23)
8) Friends Are Family – Oh, Hush! Feat. Will Arnett & Jeff Lewis (3:49)
9) I Found You – Fraser Murray & Lorne Balfe (3:34)
10) Forever – Justin Tranter (3:49)
11) Man In The Mirror – Richard Cheese & Lounge Against The Machine (1:49)
12) Everything Is Awesome – Richard Cheese & Lounge Against The Machine (2:02)

CD 2 – Score

1) Black (7:32)
2) Your Greatest Enemy (2:42)
3) The Arrival Of Robin (2:52)
4) Joker Crashes The Party (1:33)
5) No Seat Belts Required (2:17)
6) To Cage The Joker (1:59)
7) The Phantom Zone (3:37)
8) Open For Business (1:09)
9) Chaos In Gotham (3:20)
10) Lava Attack (7:40)
11) For Your Own Good (1:45)
12) Joker Manor (2:29)
13) Batman’s In The Zone (4:40)
14) The Babs Signal (2:25)
15) Battle Royale (4:54)
16) A Long Farewell (2:49)

Awards:

Nominations:

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