I cannot believe it’s now 25 years since this blockbuster comic book movie came out. I remember that summer vividly. Everyone had Bat-fever. I was always a comic book nerd and this movie was manna from heaven. The Superman movies were (and mostly still) great but that was Superman. This was Batman! And Tim Burton finally darkened him up and made him and his world more of a bad-ass on screen. Gone were the familiar gray and blue and now he was black. Everything bad-ass had to be black in the late eighties. For some really annoying and odd reason, the (then) L.A. Raiders were a very popular team. I’m from New Jersey and even I had friends who only wore a Raiders jacket because it became a fad—they didn’t even root for them. Same went for the Chicago White Sox, who then changed from mostly white and blue to black and white. It was just the cool thing to do back then to wear a lot of black. But anyway, back to Batman. His costume was now all black and it was a great change for the mysterious and brooding hero. This was the first movie that made me realize the cinematic blockbuster. Sure, I’ve seen Empire, Jedi and E.T. in the theatres but I was too young to understand the business behind movies. Batman made so much money and stayed in the theatres for so long it was phenomenal. I saw it early summer and then again in December. Tell me the last time a movie stayed in theatres over 2 seasons? And to top it off, it was an excellent movie and still very much is. People still have arguments over who was the better Batman, Keaton or Bale and who was the better Joker. It had an awesome score by Danny Elfman and the production design was morbidly beautiful.
Being from New Jersey, the whole shore was littered with Batman t-shirts, toys, posters—Batman was everywhere. Even on the radio thanks to Prince’s now highly dated and bizarre Bat Dance. I always liked Prince. He was odd but in the 80s, who wasn’t? He made great music and even now I appreciate his music more than I did. However, back then, even I thought he was an odd choice for such a subject to write movie music for. I would ask myself: “Prince likes Batman?” Seems that he wouldn’t give a hot shit for comic book superheroes at all. But whether it was the money they threw him or if he did have a penchant for dudes in capes, he wrote a bunch of great tunes for the film. The funnier and wackier thing is, Warner Bros. originally wanted Prince to write music for the Joker and Michael Jackson for the romantic music. How effing awesome would that have been? A Batman soundtrack with Elfman’s score and pop tunes by Prince AND Jacko? If only that would’ve happened—it would’ve been the best soundtrack in the whole galaxy.
My personal favorite from the soundtrack. Funky and cool and one of the few tracks that was used as a montage in the film during the art museum scene, so it stood out more. The actual Batman album by Prince has 9 tracks and I think only 4 or 5 were in the actual film. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the film but I don’t remember them. Or they were so buried in the background that they were barely heard.
Another one that was used for montage reasons when the Joker is throwing money around in the parade. Again, the music is played by the Joker, so I’m assuming he’s a Prince fan. Listening now to these songs, it seems Prince wrote the music with very little ties or inclination to Batman or the Joker at all. The themes fit but I would bet that Prince would’ve wrote these songs with or without being hired to do a Batman soundtrack.
This was the big one. All that was played on the radio and MTV all summer. And the strangest thing is this is a weird mash-up type song. Like a remix to a song or songs that were never released. It’s as if Prince took two songs and mashed them together. It was a nearly 7-minute magnum opus orgy of funk, hard rock and electronica that somehow made it to #1 on the charts. It also had sound clips from the actual film which made it even weirder to be played so much. But that’s just testament to how popular this film was. The video is even more bizarre. Prince is two-sided—one side is Batman and the other the Joker dancing with a bunch of female batmen and jokers. I don’t care what your stance or opinion is of this quirky gem is, it’s going to infect you in some way, shape or form.
Actual video link here since YouTube is a stinkin’ jerk-face.
Batman Theme by Danny Elfman
Nothing can top John William’s Superman theme as the best superhero movie theme but Elfman’s Batman is a very close second. Part march and part fanfare with all the usual Elfman dark themes and motifs scattered throughout. This was the young Elfman, who played quirky and whimsically sinister themes in Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but here he’s playing with bigger toys. But his charm is still there and he was perfectly suited for this type of musical suite for the Dark Knight and ominously cartoony Joker. I have been very disappointed with the latter scores by Elfman who I feel dropped the ball with themes for Spider-Man and the Hulk who, I feel, had very weak and unmemorable main themes. I can’t just blame Elfman though—every superhero movie these days has terrible scores. Man of Steel especially. But in the late 80s and until the late 90s he was a very personal favorite.