It should come as no surprise that a movie that explores the loneliness that Batman must feel in the bat-cave after leaving his adoring public behind — even one involving LEGOs — has a fairly dark orchestral score thanks to composer Lorne Balfe, who argues that The LEGO Batman Movie has just as much emotional depth as any live-action Dark Knight tale. Balfe, who was part of the musical department for The Dark Knight series of films, shared some of his thoughts on writing for this animated incarnation of the hero’s story.
Director Chris McKay didn’t have to employ much persuasion to bring Balfe into his project. “When I first got approached about the film,” explains Balfe, “the first thing that Chris, the director, said to me — what he was trying to make was a film that was a cross between About a Boy, the Hugh Grant film, meets Michael Bay. And as soon as I heard that, I thought, ‘Well, I want to be a part of this.’”
Part of that formula, of course, is the introduction of Robin, whose sense of wonder breaks through the hard shell that Batman has formed around himself, and Balfe was anxious to give the boy wonder is own theme. “Robin was one of the first themes I had written,” Balfe says, “but the thing about Robin is that, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think Robin’s ever really had a theme. The poor guy’s been in it for 70 years, and he’s just been forgotten about!”
Other character themes may strike viewers as different from what they’re used to as well. Balfe had an interesting way, for example, of characterizing the Joker’s theme. “When it came to the concept of the Joker, we always imagine the ultimate super villain,” surmises Balfe. “Obviously he would have a traveling band with him, the same way King Henry VIII would have a lute player following him around… The Joker incorporate sitars and harpsichords and rock guitar.” Quite a combinations of sounds!
The driving beat of much of the score for The LEGO Batman Movie comes, in part, from an interesting source as well. “We were privileged to have Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers drumming on the score, and that brought a whole different dimension to the score,” Balfe praises. “It’s not banging drums; it’s the attitude behind playing them. And he brought the whole opening sequence alive.”
But it’s really the whole soundtrack that just feels larger than life whether it’s the beat or the huge orchestral swells. “You’re dealing with quite an egotistical character: Batman,” Balfe explains. “He just really does think that he is the bee’s knees and that there’s nobody better than him. So you’re constantly wanting to make the sound for him bigger and bigger and bigger.”
The fact that it’s an animated film never really enters the picture, according to Balfe. “Obviously it goes through the history of Batman, but we looked at it really as… not an animation film,” he says. “I don’t think I did any kind of childish writing with regard to what one would associate with animation.”
“That’s the joy of LEGO,” Balfe goes on to say. “When you’re playing with LEGO, you create your own scenes, and then you’re creating your own soundtrack.” While that may be true, in the end, it’s Balfe’s score that really brings The LEGO Batman Movie to life.
The LEGO Batman Movie is in theaters now.