Posted 03 April 2008 - 12:03 PM
Delorean90, I'm going to respond to some of your comments individually here:
"When you get to the action material, it sets a mood more than it enhances or complements either the actions/visuals or the emotions of the scene. It goes more for the boom boom than it does to capture all of the elements of the action: the excitement, the suspense, the fright, and the gravity. It seems all focused on the gravity of the action, ignoring the rest of it. Sure, it's got energy, but in accompanying the visuals, it actually has an odd clunkiness to it."
You argument seems to assume that Batman Begins is functioning on the level of an action movie. That's not how I see the movie at all. Therefore, to assess the music on the level of how well it functions as action music is, in my opinion, entirely off-base. The reason it seems to be "all focused on the gravity of the action" is because the movie is entirely focused on the gravity of the action. In this movie, the specific function of the score is to inform the audience of that focus; the very fact that it isn't traditional action-movie music serves to tip people off that this is a different type of movie you might have expected when you sat down with your popcorn and your Coke. One might make the argument that if the movie is doing its job correctly, then the music needn't be relied upon as a beacon for the audience; however, the music also functions to immerse us in a specific mood. More on that later.
"The movie itself does not always take itself too seriously. It recognizes the serious elements more than previous incarnations, but there is humor, there is adventure, and on the whole it is properly balanced, top notch film."
Well, for one thing, the fact that there is humor in the movie does not mean the movie isn't taking itself seriously. There's humor in a lot of very serious movies. As I recall, in this movie, those moments tend to be small and brief; they function as release valves, lest the tension becoming overbearing. How should the music reflect that? I don't think it should. My contention is that the music is always reflecting Bruce; and since Bruce is rarely the hinge upon which these humorous moments swing, it would be inappropriate for the music to reflect these scenes. (Your memory for specifics seems better than mine, though, so you might be able to provide some instances of me being wrong about that.)
"There is little in the way of orchestrational depth; a lot of it is very chord-driven, not doing much of anything with the chords. I'm not sure where you're getting this stuff about it digging "deep into the psyche of the character it is supporting." If you are referring to the more emotional, string and piano based sections (which sound more like Howard, and which I like, even if they could have been improved), then I can kind of see where it might approach it."
Well, I don't know crap about music as far as terminology, composition, or theory goes, but I certainly was not referring to the string and piano sections. The driving, propulsive sections were what I was referring to. If you can't see how this music reflects the Bruce Wayne of this movie, I'm not sure what I can do for you. But I'll try. The fact that it seems to sit there, not going anywhere, is reflective of Bruce himself. This is a man who is obsessed with his parents' death. His obsession sits there, not going anywhere; intensifying, if anything. It occasionally swells into something else for a time, representing Bruce's vague romantic inclinations, or depressive nostalgia for warm family memories (many of them centered around Alfred), or muted desire to achieve some sort of greater heroic purpose. This music is a mirror for the character as he is presented in this movie; that varies somewhat from scene to scene, but is mostly single-minded. As I said in an earlier post, I am guessing that the music will develop as the character develops through The Dark Knight and any subsequent sequels that involve all the same creative people.
"But it really doesn't go much of anywhere in the music. I don't understand how ambience is supposed to dig deep into anything. It mostly just sets a mood, one that a lot of times really takes itself far too seriously."
Well, I've always seen abient music as being something designed to enhance a mood, rather than create one. The movie creates the mood; the music backs it up, and occasionally serves to point audience members in the right direction. You're either in the mood the movie creates or you aren't; and if you aren't, then there's a decent chance that you're in some other mood, one based on your idea of what you thought the movie was going to be. Expectation versus reality, in other words (though I admit that any art is open to interpretation, and that there is no "reality" as to what it does or doesn't mean). I distinctly recall that when I saw the movie for the first time, and the music began to swell as Batman responded to Gordon's "I never thanked you" by replying "You'll never have to," I felt extremely moved. Not to tears, but just stirred in some sort of immediate way; urged to some sort of action, though the only action for me to take was to get up and leave. I had the same response when I rewatched the movie on DVD. If it doesn't work that way on some people, that doesn't invalidate it for the people it does work upon. One final point, and I don't mean it rudely: is the mood you refer to above taking itself too seriously, or are you not taking it seriously enough? After all, sometimes it's the audience that's at fault, not the art.
"Take the preparation scenes after he finds the cave, for instance"
I will. You're assuming that these scenes are intended to show the character building. I don't think that's the point at all. I think the point is to show that Bruce has found a way to indulge his obsession, which is why the music seems to not be developing. It's because in these scenes, Bruce himself isn't developing; he's sinking deeper into his obsessions. You may notice that most of the swells toward more conventional hero music accompany Bruce doing something to help other people, rather than doing something to support his obsessions. I think if you try and read the music's functionality based on what it is doing rather than on what it isn't doing, you might find that it's working.
"or the music where Bruce meets Lucius and checks out some of the gear."
I don't remember there being any music during that scene. Do you mean the scene where he gets the Tumbler, or is there another one?
"Instead of enjoying the anticipation and building of the character (which comes through in the story), I feel like I'm playing the N64 Goldeneye game."
Never played it, don't know what you mean. Love me some Bond, though.
"What would be some prime example scenes of where you felt the music really got into the character and supported him and/or the story? "
All of them.
"The question "Why does every superhero movie have to be the same thing?" to me smacks of "John Williams is always the same--just listen to Indiana Jones, or Star Wars, or Superman--it's all the same!"
Hmmm . . . those ARE all the same thing, in a way: heroic musical themes that externalize the heroic qualities of the characters they represent. Elfman's Batman theme is in the same vein. It sounded to me like you were criticizing Batman Begins for not having that kind of musical approach, and in my opinion it would be disastrous for the movie to have that kind of music; Bruce in Batman Begins has not earned that kind of music. If that was not what you were saying, my apologies for a poor reading.
"There are simply certain approaches and methods that work for certain things, and I for one enjoy hearing the different music that comes from certain approaches. It doesn't make it all the same music."
I don't know what any of that means.
"In the score--and in Zimmer's comments--I get a sense of doing different things for the sake of being different, and going too far with it."
It's not for the sake of being different; it's different because the movie itself is different, taking a richer approach to the idea of a disturbed hero than any comic-book movie to date. (The Burton Batman movies have darkness in them, too, but in the first one it's mostly superficial, and in the second one, it seems to mostly be about tortured sexuality, and the music serves to distract people from that, lest it become too overbearing. This makes sense for a movie that is designed to be a subliminal message for the masses.) Batman Begins is about crippling fear resultant to violent tragedy, and the way in which one responds to it; we're being asked to directly confront those themes right alongside Bruce, and the music serves to immerse us in the interior struggle he is going through. I found -- find -- it to be complex, moving, and extremely satisfying. The idea that it "goes too far" is entirely subjective. It went just the right distance for me.