Soundtracks of Significance: Batman & Robin
It is one of the most maligned comic book films of all time. Even in the wake of Batman’s more recent triumphant dominance at the box office and on Flickchart (with his newest film being the highest-ranked so far of 2012, even out-ranking The Avengers), the aftertaste left by Joel Schumacher‘s Batman & Robin is still bitter. Only five movies rank higher (lower?) than Batman & Robin on Flickchart’s list of The Worst Superhero Films of All Time; it’s outranked on the global charts by such big budget duds as Hulk, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider and even Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. And while people have defended Batman Forever when it was chosen as one of Flickchart’s Guilty Pleasures, they’ve trashed its sequel at the same time.
Yet, as much as people like to trash Schumacher’s Bat-films, they actually resulted in a pair of pretty great soundtrack albums. While the soundtrack for B&R bears no chart-topping hit like Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” (partially because of the movie’s reputation?), in many ways, it’s the more interesting listen. And on a personal level, it evokes just as many memories.
Beware the Bat-nipples.
The centerpiece of the collection is, of course, the bookend titles “The End is the Beginning is the End” and “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning”, by The Smashing Pumpkins. Like much of the free world, I became a Pumpkins fan with the release of their massive dual-CD title Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (which has recently been re-released), so I was prepared to shell out for the Batman & Robin soundtrack simply because it featured the Smashing Pumpkins name.
It’s not often you hear two versions of the same song on the same album – particularly a soundtrack compilation – but even though “The Beginning…” is basically just a remix of “The End…”, they provide two very different sonic experiences. For a big Pumpkins fan like myself, they are the highlight of this eclectic collection.
Years later, I would find it quite hilarious when the teaser trailer for Watchmen – the highly-anticipated adaptation of “The Greatest Graphic Novel of All Time” – prominently featured “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning”, a song from the soundtrack for “The Worst Comic Book Movie of All Time”.
“It’s so COOL!”
Between the Pumpkins is a collection that skips almost effortlessly from more classic rock fare like “Revolution” by R.E.M. and “Lazy Eye” by The Goo Goo Dolls to much more unusual beats like the funky “Look Into My Eye” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony or the kinetic “House on Fire” by Arkarna. And then crops up the mournful “Foolish Games” by Jewel, while the album’s most Batman-centric title, “Gotham City” by R. Kelly, is a soulful ballad that seems at once completely out of character for the city it is composed for, yet fitting in nicely with the overall collection. (Hey, it’s no more out of character than Method Man’s “The Riddler” representing Jim Carrey‘s character on the Batman Forever soundtrack…)
There is an obviously-included cover of “Poison Ivy”; originally recorded in 1959 by The Coasters – and covered many times since by the likes of such groups as The Rolling Stones, The Hollies and Hanson – here it is provided by ten-time Grammy nominee Me’shell Ndegéocello (a name that, after the mid-’90s, I forgot I would always remember). Provided with slightly altered lyrics and a funky, slithering beat, the song embodies Uma Thurman‘s slinky supervillain well.
“Feast your ears, boys.”
The last half of the album is given some character by the delightfully quirky head trip, “Fun For Me” by Moloko, the utterly strange (in a good way) “The Bug” by Soul Coughing, and the epic ten-and-a-half-minute (!) electronic opus “Moaner” by Underworld.
One serious advantage the B&R soundtrack has over Batman Forever is the inclusion of a sample of Oscar winner Elliot Goldenthal’s score. I think Goldenthal’s work on the Bat-films tends to take a back seat to Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer simply because the films he worked on are considered inferior, but “A Batman Overture” proves that Goldenthal put an equally distinctive stamp on his Bat-music. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. (I suppose the fact that Goldenthal scored Heat, one of my Top 5 movies on Flickchart, makes me have a soft spot for the guy…)
Batman & Robin was released in the summer of 1997. Listening to it now, it conjures memories of my high school graduation. Of sitting in a drive-in theater with my girlfriend, watching the second half of a double feature (at a time when I would have cut B&R itself a lot more slack). It’s almost enough to make me want to try watching the movie again.
In the meantime, I’m still perfectly willing to give the CD a spin every once in a while.
Music From and Inspired by the “Batman & Robin” Motion Picture is available on CD for less than 7 bucks at Amazon.com.