How The Batman Theme Recalls Michael Giacchino’s Video Game Soundtracks
If Michael Giacchino's theme for The Batman sounds familiar, that might be because it seemingly pays tribute to some of his great video game soundtracks.
While the release of composer Michael Giacchino’s theme for The Batman has some thinking about the works of fellow caped crusader composers like Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer, those familiar with Giacchino’s career may detect more than a few callbacks to his video game roots in this compelling track.
For those who don’t know, Giacchino began his composing career in the video game industry where he quickly made a name for himself working on the soundtracks for various Disney games. However, it was his work on the PlayStation adaptation of The Lost World: Jurassic Park (one of the first console titles to feature an original live orchestral score) that really set him apart.
The scope and complexity of those scores led to him composing the revolutionary soundtracks for the first Medal of Honor games, which soon caught the attention of J.J. Abrams who asked Giacchino to compose the soundtracks for Alias and Lost. From there, Giacchino would garner widespread acclaim (and more than a few awards) for his work on films such as The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and many other notable recent blockbusters that have greatly benefited from his style.
While some of Giacchino’s greatest film scores obviously paved the way for his Batman theme, you really can hear a little bit of some of Giacchino’s best video game work in that tune. For instance, listen to the soundtrack for the Sega Genesis version of Gargoyles: one of the first gaming soundtracks Giacchino helped compose.
While that’s obviously a fairly simple soundtrack (at least by modern standards), it’s certainly interesting to take a trip back to 1995 and listen to how a young Michael Giacchino helped craft very “Batman-esque” songs using Sega Genesis sounds. Tracks 4, 6, and 7 could almost be inserted into the soundtrack for any great Batman game of that era, and it’s still very easy to appreciate how Giacchino and co-composer Patrick J. Collins’ managed to craft an underlying Gothic theme that they occasionally interrupt with sharp electronic stabs and horn-like sounds. There are a few sections of The Batman theme that capture that same vibe via relatively similar techniques.
Of course, you kind of have to dive into Giacchino’s orchestral video game scores to really start to connect his early work to his later compositions. While The Lost World and Small Soldier‘s PS1 soundtracks (which are both significantly better than the games they are associated with) feature eerie tracks that really tap into the almost horror film-like tones we hear in that theme for The Batman, it’s Giacchino work on the Medal of Honor franchise that not only sent his career in a new direction but can clearly be heard in his latest composition.
In fact, there is so much of the Medal of Honor Frontline score in that new theme for The Batman (particular in the way that the Batman theme builds towards horn interludes that heroically punctuate an otherwise mournful tune) that I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Giacchino returned to that soundtrack for inspiration.
Of course, given The Batman‘s dark tone and the way that theme slowly builds suspense while still feeling strangely triumphant in spots, I’d have to say that the Giacchino video game soundtrack it reminds me of the most would have to be the score for Black: a brilliant and tragically underrated composition that Giacchino worked on with the great Chris Tilton.
While this is all obviously an excuse to inject some truly great video game music into your day and pay tribute to a composer whose work in that field is sometimes too easily forgotten, it is genuinely fascinating to listen to The Batman theme and hear the many ways it not only touches upon some of Giacchino’s earliest work but manages to capture the evolution of Batman’s greatest theme songs as well as the heart of the character.