Composed by Christopher Drake, Robert J. Kral and Kevin Manthei
2: Living Shadow/Living Shadow Finale (1:45)
3: Skater Girl / Trouble In the City (0:50)
4: Batmonster Appears/Batmonster Do-Over/Batmonster Finale (2:18)
5: Rooftop Robbery/Robobat (1:44)
6: Have I Got A Story For You Finale (1:35)
8: Inferno (5:48)
10: Trigger A Device/As Good As Your Drive (1:10)
11: A Russian in His Grave/It Works Too Well (3:53)
13: Gordon's Cannibal/Ghost Station (3:00)
14: Epidermolytic Hyperkeratosis (0:43)
15: Killer Croc/Hallucinations/Scarecrow Interrupted (3:19)
16: Escape and End (1:45)
18: Bazaar (0:26)
19: There is Another/Training (2:46)
20: Rejected and Despised (1:30)
21: Painless Fight/I Can't (3:23)
23: Gun Attraction/Park Killing (1:26)
24: Gordon/Batman/The Train (6:14)
25: His Life's Quest (0:56)
While I’m more in favor of Danny Elfman and Shirley Walker’s compositions, there’s no denying that Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard made an impact on super hero music that has continued today with projects such as “The Dark Knight,” “Arkham City” and even rival projects such as Craig Armstrong’s score for “The Incredible Hulk” and the “Captain America: The Firs Avenger” score written by Alan Silvestri.
For “Batman: Gotham Knight,” the influence carried over on the wings of logic and yet the scores crafted for the piece inform the mythos as it’s being interpreted by Nolan’s influence with a wonderful sense of craftsmanship and atmosphere worthy of the dark knight.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at all six scores in chronological order:
“Have I Got a Story for You”
Opening the film with a standard shot through Gotham City that encompasses the entire sprawl of the narrative itself, the “Main Title” already works to build the bedrock of atmosphere with swelling strings that combine elements of suspense, drama and horror as we descend upon the city we’re about to inhabit musically.
By the end of the original film franchise it’s reasonable to assume that Bruce is no longer a young man. Here, however, we’re being given that younger dark knight and it’s evidenced as we shift gears from a musical register that calls forth the past efforts of Danny Elfman and slams us right into the mentality of a more energized, aggressive, youthful, exuberant Batman.
The tone shift also reminds me of the handling of score for “Batman Beyond” with the guitar and synthetic work. I especially LOVE the instrumentation that hits the cue about a minute and twenty eight seconds in; it’s laced with such atmosphere for Gotham City itself and not just Gotham through Batman’s perspective, but through those of the skater kids that weave the story of this first chapter together. Very mood and informed by the locales and visuals in the film.
Another favorite track, probably my favorite in this specific score, is “Skater Girl/Trouble In the City,” which begins with a terrific composition of skittish brass work and the beautiful motif of the plucking strings; all of the whimsy comes to a head with a venomous brass flourish as the Man in Black descends into the streets in his duel with Batman.
The music takes a more deliberate, militaristic tone with “Robobat,” possibility acting as a lyrical representation of the more lumbering nature of that particular incarnation.
Lots of fleeting, tense strings and brass flow in undercurrent for the score and all around it’s a tremendous work from Christopher Drake.
“Crossfire” is, to me, the most reminiscent of the work created by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard for “Batman Begins” in its approach to have a less traditional symphonic score by creating tracks that are created more so out of sound design and effects work.
The two tracks under this banner are commanded by synthesizer work and several sound effect accompaniments such as omnipresent, thrumming strobe flourishes and a lot of layered percussion.
“Inferno” confirms this idea but it’s more methodical. Two and a half minutes in, we’re given some wonderful chorus work as Batman makes himself fully visible to Maroni and the detectives, backlit by flame.
Robert Kral brings up back to symphonic score with his introduction into the collection.
“New Device” is a terrific composition, including such highlights as the wonderful string work that brings about a dynamic sense of pace thirty nine seconds into the track.
As the score goes along, it’s clear that while “Crossfire” represents the sound-angle of Zimmer and Howard’s efforts, “Field Test” best symbolizes what orchestral work was crafted for “Begins.” There’s a touch of sadness and resolve to these cues that echoes the live action film tremendously. Moments in the original score of “Begins,” such as “Prototypes” and “Aftermath” are reincarnated here; it’s somewhat different but the core essence still remains.
There’s a great melody that’s introduced about twenty seconds into “Trigger a Device/As Good as Your Drive” and the tracks is highlighted with wonderful woodwind composition, particularly on oboe and possibly bassoon if my ear serves me right.
“A Russian in his Grave/It Works Too Well” ends the score with some excellent flute work five seconds in and a lot of great percussion to take us out.
“In Darkness Dwells”
My favorite of all the scores on the album, Christopher Drake’s “In Darkness Dwells” opens with a great tactile, aggressive duel of string and brass as we fly over Gotham to find Batman perched on a ledge as the Bat-Signal illuminates the sky.
The material here is atmospheric, distinct and persuasive in its tone and its representation for Batman.
As the chapter takes us underground, the aggression of the score is toned down to a moodier, slower pace and it works in juxtaposition between Batman’s utter dominance in the air above Gotham and the authority of Killer Croc and Scarecrow in the catacombs and ghost stations beneath the city; this idea lends itself to giving the score a true sense of scope in its own right.
The score takes flight out in the open while it’s burdened by the weight of villainy and it’s a clever dichotomy to take musically.
“Gordon’s Cannibal” plunges us into the sewers as Batman begins his search for Cardinal O’Fallon’s abductor. The strings here are meaty and hold a tremendous amount of weight to their presence throughout the cue.
I love the clinical approach taken with “Epidermolytic Hyperkeratosis” as Batman informs Gordon of the medical condition that’s responsible for Croc’s disfigurement; the synthetic harp work and high strings carry a sense of delicate investigation, representing Batman’s detective side to great effect. In fact, the strings here remind me of Batman’s investigation of Phoenix Labs in the opening Animated Series episode “On Leather Wings.”
We get back into the visceral nature of the sound design angle as Batman engages in battle with both Killer Croc and Scarecrow and the material becomes laced with a horror movie sensibility as we finally discover where Dr. Crane’s been operating this whole time since the Narrows.
“Escape/End” takes the score to new heights as Batman’s sense of flight and victory is reestablished with his departure from the sewer with the rescued Cardinal and it’s a great ending; very heroic and bombastic, like an “Indiana Jones” scenario of getting out at the last second.
“Working Through Pain”
Kevin Menthei’s score for “Working Through Pain” is perhaps the most character-driven work in the piece, most notable for its ethereal approach to a more culturally apt profile.
Things get moody real fast as we find Batman back in the sewers, suffering from the injuries he’d endured in “In Darkness Dwells;” very eclectic, very eerie and haunting.
Obviously given the story’s taking place across the globe, specifically in India, nearly all of the tracks are given the added heft of Indian, ethnical instrumentation.
“Bazaar” is the most on the nose with driving drum beats and wiry sitar work that weaves along much like the cobra dueling and mongoose in the market as Bruce Wayne watches on. It might be a bit too obvious with the instruments being used, but it works given that we at the location. As a result, it’s handled as tastefully as possible.
“There is Another/Training” introduces Bruce and the audience to Cassandra as Wayne begins his physical and psychological training under her tutelage and guidance. The Indian/Hindi influenced material here is gorgeous and a welcome sense of refreshment after scores composed nearly entirely of more ‘Batman’ driven material.
The score for the chapter is incredibly reflective, not just on this one flashback, this one instance of training but really on the whole of Bruce’s time spent abroad prior to becoming Batman.
Bruce is based in Gotham City for the other five chapters but here he’s on the other side of the world and the other side of the world is influencing the Menthei’s score.
“Rejected/Despised” is my favorite cue in the “Working through Pain” score as a young Cassandra is cast out of her village by her own family. It’s very emotional and regal in the vein of the traditions of her village and there’s a touch of sadness in her being shunned by those traditions and having a contributing factor be her gender.
“Painless Fight/I Can’t” is a beautiful demonstration of woodwind work, particularly of Indian wooden flute.
It’s a powerful track as far as representation, reminding one of the final confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Even though he’s overpowering these men physically, Bruce’s decision to fight her tormentors casts him in a light of failure. He’s failed Cassandra and the education she was intending for him. Clearly, it evokes the fact that Bruce is only seeking a means to an end for Batman and he’s not there to learn what she truly had to offer. The track ends with a wonderful flourish of sitar reprisal as Cassandra asks Bruce to leave.
The material for Gotham City reflects this as Bruce’s failure echoes to him with the discovery of violence he’s surrounded himself with back home, pulling guns out of the every pile of trash he’s wading in beneath the streets.
The final score of the collection opens with the most obviously emotional track, titled “Parent’s Killed,” as Bruce remembers his parent’s murder. There’s great piano work being used here to tremendous effect. As the track develops, the ‘Deadshot’ motif intrudes on the vulnerability like a representation of his style of assassination intruding on Bruce’s sensitivity towards firearms.
The ‘Deadshot’ theme flies in the face of tenderness with its aggression and it’s an interesting parallel between a man sworn to destroy the gun and a man who lives by the gun.
“Gun Attraction” emphasizes this idea as the music swells in escalation alongside Deadshot’s kill via Ferris wheel and the brass work thirty seconds in, creating a full-blown iteration of the Deadshot theme is wonderful.
There’s beautiful woodwind work that accompanies “Gordon” as the Commissioner takes refuge in the back of a squad car in a convoy while being transported to a safe house for fear of Deadshot’s threat on his life.
The Batman theme takes flight fifteen seconds into the track and swells at key moments such as Batman intercepting Deadshot’s bullet with his gauntlet; the theme reminds me a bit of the theme created by Zimmer and Howard for “The Dark Knight;” it’s supped up and yet minimalist, maybe a bit more heroic than Zimmer and Howard’s.
The aggression of percussion and brass in the score is indicative, of all things, of the ‘Bat Ski-Boat’ from “Batman Returns” with its militaristic edge. Four minutes into the track “Gordon/Batman/The Train” sees the introduction of great synthesizer work highlighting the conflict atop the train as it rockets through a monorail tunnel.
“Deadshot” closes out with a reprise of the theme from “Parent’s Killed” and what’s wonderful about it is the shift in tone. At first, this motif is conducted negatively with a lot of baggage and tragedy as Bruce remembers the worst memory he could ever know. Here, however, it’s given an extension and a rendition that uses the experience with Deadshot to symbolize a more uplifted outlook for Wayne.
It’s not so much that he’s mourning the loss of his parents; he’s using it to motivate himself, to urge himself forward and carry on.
The track ends with a beautiful string motif, closing out the score with a sense of hope and promise as Bruce stares out of the Manor window to see the signal in the sky. It ties the loose ends with a note of punctuation and it’s tremendous.
The “End Credits” concludes with a compilation of previous material into an overture the takes us back, however quickly, to what we’ve just experienced.
The ‘Batman’ theme from “Deadshot” plays us in, followed by recognizable tracks and motifs from “Deadshot,” “In Darkness Dwells,” “Working Through Pain” and finally “Crossfire.”
Like the medium through which it was crafted, the score for “Batman: Gotham Knight” takes its opportunities to bend and reflect Batman through a varying number of different musical techniques and realizations that hadn’t been attempted previously.
It’s a wonderful addition to the Batman regime of soundtracks and scores and certainly worth a listen or two.
Robert J. Kral