Shortly before the weekend, director Matt Reeves revealed the full theme music for The Batman. While he has been heard in thunderous excerpts in recent trailers, the full piece itself from film composer Michael Giacchino is a blast. For as “dark and broodingas people called Robert Pattinson’s next take on the Dark Knight, it’s not as stark as you’d think, exuding a light and a bit of nostalgia that also feels ripped off Batman: The Animated Series. It reminds you that not only is Giacchino one of the best composers we have today, but also how good character-specific musical themes can be when they are allowed to actually exist.
Back when genre fare was relatively new and starting to take off, it seemed like you could easily identify a character theme. Several of them can be attributed to heavyweights like Danny Elfman and John Williams, the latter never seems to miss. Williams has an excellent resume under his belt, from IndianaJones and Superman at jurassic park and even Harry Potter. Alan Silvestri is also in the same sphere, even if he has the impression that his avengers theme is often cut to the knees before it can build its great triumph. It only really hits during the credits of End of Game, because it’s played as a celebration of the original cast and doesn’t fight for notice as the heroes stand in action movie poses. In recent years there have been great compositions of Ramin Djawadi, Bear McCreary, and Nathalie Holt. But overall, the character themes and even the strong musical themes in general seem like an afterthought.
This is especially true in the case of superhero movies. Apart from possibly Captain America and Ant-Man music from their respective composers Henry Jackman and Christopher Beck, Marvel movies don’t really have themes, and Thor and the Guardians instead rely on ’70s and ’80s rock to replace them. And while I don’t turn down a good single from a rock band or pop star once in a while like the Venom 2 song i listened to so many in 2021, these explosive superhero movies can’t just keep rolling on needle drops and hoping fans will render their scenes “epic” in over-edited videos on Twitter and YouTube.
Which doesn’t mean there aren’t good themes today. Ludwig Göransson has done an excellent job in recent years, especially with star wars. The themes to The Mandalorian and Boba Fett’s Book are iconic in their own right, and it deserves props for showing restraint by choosing to let its work speak for itself instead of relying on the franchise’s old music to guide it. Even though it’s hot and cold for people, I really like the theme of Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL for wonder woman, mostly because it’s just Tina Guo going crazy with that electric cello. (Old music of lamentations is, in addition to being a great meme, far more distinct than it should be.) And as has been said many times, Daniel Pemberton killed him for Into the Spider-Verse score, giving us something we’ve never really gotten before in a superhero movie.
For sci-fi and fantasy, the music is just as important as its visuals, even if you don’t fully realize it yet. If you have any other characters and musical themes you’re a fan of, post them in the comments below.
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