Batman The Animated Series truly reinvented Saturday morning cartoons. Inspired
by Tim Burton's 1989 Batman, the show took as dark a perspective on the idea of a
millionaire playboy putting on tights to fight crime. Shirley Walker who conducted
and co-orchestrated Danny Elfman's original score, and it was clearly the influence
of that score that helped the new series make its mark. Walker couldn't possibly
score each episode herself, and so drafted a team of very talented composers.
They continued when the show segued into being Batman & Robin, when it metamorphosed
into The Adventures of Superman, when it experimented as the Batman / Superman Adventures,
and then fought for their jobs when it was reinvented as Batman Beyond.
With this last incarnation, the powers that be at Warner Bros. decided they wanted a
different sound for a futuristic look. It was down to Walker's team to prove they
deserved their old jobs by supplying demos of rock and electronica. Last year's
album (Rhino R2 75925) shows why they got the job. It showcased the work of Walker,
Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuiston, and Kristopher Carter. The first piece that
grabbed everyone's attention both on screen and on album was Carter's hard-as-nails
"Main Title". Since McCuiston got to score the second animated feature
Sub Zero (after Walker did Mask of the Phantasm), it's fair and natural that
Carter should get to adapt his theme for this latest movie.
"Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Main Title)" is therefore his biggest
showcase. A terrific fusion of the series' trademark guitar grunge with orchestral backing,
this is a far more engaging rendition of the lengthy theme. It'll be a make or break
beginning for new listeners. This style either appeals or repels. Writing on behalf of the
former, the album is a fascinatingly eclectic approach to film scoring. Part Dust Brothers
(Fight Club), part John Williams, it never settles on one or the other long enough to
accuse of being derivative.
After the loud and energetic start, you reach a touching interlude orchestral interlude
in "Terry Relieved Of Duty", then the noise of an industrial drill in
"Nightclub Fight" before intense action writing for "Terry Rescues Bruce".
Brassy heroics dominate "A Trap For Tim" before a wry comedy moment with wah-wah
horns looking at the "Joker Family Album". Every so often the theme crops up
buried beneath more prominent samples as in "Joker Meets His End (Again)",
but the best is saved to last for the "End Title".
Intense and furiously fast, this is 40 minutes that love it or loathe it; you won't be
able to ignore it!