For all the flack it tends to generate, Joel Schumacher’s “Batman” films are quite the progenitor of how comic book adaptations were perceived for the longest time.
Films like Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies, Tim Story’s “Fantastic Four” pictures, Mark Steven Johnson’s “Daredevil” and Jonathan Hensleigh’s “The Punisher” are very much current renditions of a lot of the techniques utilized first and foremost by “Batman Forever.”
Not so much in story or aesthetic (though that IS quite arguable given the balancing between comic book camp and melodrama) but really in the marketing aspects, the devices, etc.
Chief among those would easily have to be the concept of incorporating several popular recording artists and bands of the day together in a compilation soundtrack.
Now, of course, earlier films had done this already, such as “The Crow” (1994), but “Batman Forever” was different in that its selection of tracks and talent was a bit more diverse.
Everything from Rock to R&B to Alternative, Country and Rap somehow found their way into Schumacher’s Gotham City…and this was clearly an inspiration for the idea of having “Music from and inspired by” albums to compliment your comic book movie.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at the tracks:
“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” – U2
The flagship action theme of the picture, U2’s track is far and away the best on the album. It’s powerful, slightly dark but overall upbeat and bombastic…definitely a head nodder with a beat that you can quickly get into. The Edge’s guitar riffs are just excellent and Bono and the Edge’s lyrics (“You a headache in a suitcase”) are zany and kinetic, keeping right in line with the style of the film.
“One Time Too Many” – PJ Harvey
Meant to touch upon the seedy Gotham underground, shown mostly when Dick Grayson takes the Batmobile for a joy ride, PJ Harvey’s rasp works wonders in creating a gritty, atmospheric rock joint…overall, very cool!
“Where are You Now?” – Brandy
Brandy’s mellow smoothness for “Where are You Now?” is extremely well versed…a little R&B, a little pop it’s a very bubbly selection for the soundtrack and it works just as “One Time Too Many” does in displaying several facets of Gotham City.
“Kiss from a Rose” – Seal
The second lead track for the film, Seal single-handedly provides one of the most romantic songs that’s been written probably for the last…well, for the last 20 years I’d say. It identifies beautifully with Batman’s emotional dilemma in the film, being caught up in a romance with Chase Meridian during his psychological reckoning (“There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea…you became the light on the dark side of me…”) and it’s clear that Chase’s presence is the “Kiss from a Rose” on the “grave” of Batman’s haunted life of crime fighting.
“The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” – Massive Attack feat. Tracy Thorn
Several of the tracks from here on out are more “inspired by” the film…with a few exceptions…and they work incredibly well in highlighting the nightlife and living of Joel’s Gotham City…the urban sprawl, the penthouse high-rises and back alleys. “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” is a very bizarre and mellow lounge-lizard track and it’s one of my favorites on the album, especially with its instrumentation and underscoring. Tracy Thorn’s sultry vocals are also quite pleasant.
“Nobody Lives Without Love” – Eddi Reader
With an airy beat and electronic instrumentation, Eddi Reader’s calming track paints a beautiful portrait of the romantic themes in the movie…giving hope to a lonely character like Batman with its title message. I love its lyrics (“You can try to lock your hearts away…but love will come back for you someday”) and the almost happenstance presence of a lone trumpet, while bizarre at first, seems to act as the fleeting call to arms that Batman inevitably has to answer to despite the track’s claims.
“Tell Me Now” – Mazzy Star
In a true blue-grass daze, “Tell Me Now” injects the first distinctly different sound on the album (the first two tracks are more rock while tracks three through six have a more R&B, mellow undercurrent running through them). Alternative rock band Mazzy Star gives the track somewhat of a country twang and it’s certainly the slowest-paced song on the soundtrack…which is good since the next collection of songs up the tempo.
“Smash It Up” – The Offspring
The track that appears at the opening of Dick Grayson’s Batmobile joy ride through Gotham, The Offspring offers a slam-bang track that you can’t help but head-bang to once in awhile. One of the interesting things is that its lyrics seem to potentially be a message about the transitioning from former helmer Tim Burton’s gothic and somber take to Joel Schumacher’s upbeat, energetic vision (“We’ve been crying now for much too long…and now we’re gonna dance to a different song…”). A distinct note HAS to be guitarist Dexter Hollands’ riffs, both mellow and intense…great stuff!
“There is a Light” – Nick Cave
A trippy alternative head banger, “There is a Light” is a great addition to the soundtrack with the concrete-heavy vocals of Nick Cave. Clearly this is an anthem to Two-Face as its title touches upon the first scene in the film where Dent awaits Batman’s arrival at the Bank, looking on at the Bat-Signal hanging over Gotham. Cave’s vocals even go back and forth between an almost angelic, choral finish and a gritty snarl representative of Two-Face’s dichotomy. One of my favorite aspects of the track is also the oddly uncomfortable yet intriguingly awesome use of an organ.
“The Riddler” – Method Man
A full on ode to the Prince of Puzzles, rap dark horse Method Man’s mid-tempo joint seems like a great comical foil for Jim Carrey’s interpretation of Edward Nygma. It’s a bit darker in its representation of the Riddler than the film ultimately is (“if we speakin’ homicide, not a problem…you wanna talk genocide, not a problem…) but the lyrics are just too cool to not get into (“Bat get trapped in the middle of the Riddler!”).
“The Passenger” – Michael Hutchence
Delivered by late former INXS front man Michael Hutchence, “The Passenger” might be my secret favorite on the album just after U2’s track. While U2’s opener is the high-profiler favorite, real Batman and music fans that’ll listen to the soundtrack in its entirety will be instantly charmed by the tone and atmospheric edge of this one. It’s beat, like Batman himself, is dark…driving…mental. Airy yet steely, Hutchence’s vocals give the lyrics a great mysterioso quality which I just love.
“Crossing the River” – The Devlins
If “Nobody Lives Without Love” is Chase Meridian’s side of the story, “Crossing the River” is clearly Batman’s approach to his new cinematic romance. The lyrics, just like Reader’s track, speak volumes (“You had the longing…of a broken heart…shined your light in a room…that was frozen dark…”) and the melody, created through light percussion and acoustic guitar, is tremendously nice and fresh.
“8” – Sunny Day Real Estate
An alternative rock anthem…mostly just to symbolize the sense of flight and adventure in the picture…American emo/indie band Sunny Day Real Estate’s “8” is great jam, noted most for its kick ass percussion at the hands of drummer William Goldsmith.
“Bad Days” – The Flaming Lips
While the Riddler got his theme in the form of a rap, his former nerdy Wayne Enterprises employee self gets his own theme courtesy of the Flaming Lips. Certainly one of the more quirky tracks and, frankly, maybe not the best note to end the album on (THAT would be “The Passenger” in my opinion), the lyrics are comically off balance (“And you hate your boss at your job…but in your dreams you can blow his head off. In your dreams, show no mercy”). I love how it symbolizes somewhat of a comforting rally theme to psychotic wage slaves…and approaching it that way makes the song that much more hilarious.
The “Batman Forever” soundtrack is among my favorites from comic book films, right up there with 2003’s “Daredevil.” Its selection of artists seems very much like a snapshot in time for 1995 (U2 and Seal notwithstanding) and it has a charming quality of ambiance in its tracks that seem to meld quite nicely with Schumacher’s movie…that is to say that it honestly feels that several of these tracks could be blasting out of some boom box in an apartment or a car stereo cruising through the film’s neon-soaked Gotham streets…which helps to symbiotically give both the film and the album a sense of life.
“Batman Forever”: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1995)
Executive Produced by … Jolene Cherry, Gary LeMel and Joel Schumacher
Project Supervised by … Leslie Reed
1: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me – U2 (4:46)
2: One Time Too Many – PJ Harvey (2:52)
3: Where Are You Now? – Brandy (3:57)
4: Kiss from a Rose – Seal (3:38)
5: The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game – Massive Attack feat. Tracy Thorn (4:06)
6: Nobody Lives Without Love – Eddi Reader (5:05)
7: Tell Me Now – Mazzy Star (4:15)
8: Smash It Up – The Offspring (3:26)
9: There Is a Light – Nick Cave (4:23)
10: The Riddler – Method Man (3:30)
11: The Passenger – Michael Hutchence (4:37)
12: Crossing the River – The Devlins (4:45)
13: 8 – Sunny Day Real Estate (5:27)
14: Bad Days – The Flaming Lips (4:39)
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