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Soundtrack Review: The LEGO Batman Movie

The LEGO Batman Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack loves its Batman by upping the dramatic camp and delivering it in a black cowl.

Review by Matt Cummings

The LEGO Batman Movie was a hilarious tribute to the 75-year history of The Dark Knight, offering up heavy meta to every incarnation including the infamous Bat Nipple. While it's not as good as the fantastic The LEGO Movie, there's so much going on here that you need multiple viewings just to get all the jokes and to appreciate Actor Will Arnett's performance. An important component to my elevation of the film as one of the best of early 2017, The LEGO Batman Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is also full of terrific tips-of-the-hat to previous Batman movies, blending heavy orchestrations, guitar rock, electronic drums, and interesting sound effects into a must-buy.

Billionaire Bruce Wayne and his doppelganger Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) revel in the life each has created for himself. For the Caped Crusader, it's once again capturing the notorious Joker (Zach Galifianakis), all while Gotham City celebrates Batman's greatness. For Wayne, life is about parties and acquisitions until he meets the new chief of police Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), who suggests that Batman's protection of the city is actually causing its destruction. While Wayne plots the acquisition of Gordon, he accidentally adopts Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), whose golly-gee-wiz attitude eventually sees him discovering the Batcave, much to Wayne's dismay. But trouble looms as The Joker gathers a squad of baddies from Arkham in the hopes of ridding Gotham of its hero, while proving to Batman that he actually needs The Joker in order to exist. The results will see Batman face tough realities about what he does and whether it might be time to forge new friendships in order to protect the city he loves.

LEGO Batman is a score/soundtrack with music composed by Lorne Balfe (The Penguins of Madagascar, Terminator Genisys). Its 28 tracks are a mix of orchestral score music and rock tracks, featuring all 12 of the song used in the film, from campy and classy (The Cutting Crew's I Just Died in Your Arms and Harry Nilsson's One) to the poppy/dancy (Forever by DNCE and Invincible by Kirsten Arian). One of my favorites here is lounge genius Richard Cheese's Man in the Mirror, who dresses up current hits with his Vegas vocal styling. It was a hilarious addition in the film, and it seems like Cheese and LEGO should collaborate as often as possible.

Once you're past these and other vocal tracks, it's on to Composer Balfe's wide open score. Mixing in violins, sound effects, and electronic drums, it's like listening to a grown-up version of his Penguins score, which I adored for its comic tip-of-the-hat to James Bond. Things get started with Black with deep horns and a Hans Zimmer choir. Of course, Balfe is deep in comic reflection here, bringing in every element of Director Christopher Nolan's gritty crime trilogy as well as Danny Elfman's dark camp. Things remain dark through most of the tracks, reminding us that transformative scores like these are easily pluggable into most action films. That might be a problem for some who claim that such ease of movement actually lessens its effectiveness but it's clear the score is strong enough to be in most action films.

Not everything here is so melancholy, as tracks like The Arrival of Robin are quite pretty, a little quirky, and help provide sonic breaks from all the bashing and brawling. But then it's soon back to the big set pieces Balfe is really great at creating. This score would have been just fine had it been made by anyone, but Balfe is great at mocking the subgenre that's made Zimmer, Brian Tyler, Blake Neely, and even Fernando Velasquez so well known. Listening to tracks No Seat Belts Required do such a great job of blending that Penguins comedy with the darker aspect of The Dark Knight reminds you there is plenty of room for this kind of self-reverential humor in today's scores. Check out additional tracks like Chaos in Gotham which shows just how diverse Balfe is kicking it here without laying on that cheese. A Long Farewell takes a bit of Hercules, a midge of The Flash, and amps up the absolute cool of big score sounds.

We thought 2016 was a pretty special year in terms of scores, but 2017 has already gifted us with some great soundtrack music, including The LEGO Batman Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Balfe is in his element here, reveling in the world of Batman by bringing his comedic musical genius to an emerging genre that will hopefully see him eventually return to score another Penguins movie (if that one ever gets made). The album features an entire set of vocal performances including all of Will Arnett's Batman-voiced tracks. I'm sure many of these will find their way into phone playlist, because they're just so much fun to take in. That's what LEGO movies bring, why we're entering a really great period for that subgenre, and why I can't recommend this soundtrack enough.

The LEGO Batman Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available now digitally, with a vinyl release happening on May 19, 2017.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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