Batman: Gotham Knight
Composed by: Robert J. Kral, Kevin Manthei and Christopher Drake
Distributed by: La-La Land Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In early July, 2008, a new animated DVD adding new and exciting tales to the Batman mythos hit the market. Batman: Gotham Knight is a collection of six interlocking stories that take place some time in between Batman Begins and Dark Knight. The six stories show Batman in his very early adventures as Gothamís avenger. The film stars Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, a role he has become famous for since Batman: The Animated Series.
Since each of the six segments were to have their own visual and written style, the executive producer of Batman: Gotham Knight decided it would be an excellent idea to use more than one composer for the music. Thus, Bruce Timm approached Robert J. Kral, Kevin Manthei and Christopher Drake. Robert J. Kral, an Australian composer, had completed work on several small film scores before being approached in 2005 to work on a new television series called Angel. Since then, he has gone on to work on soundtracks for numerous popular television and movie productions including The Dresden Files, Jake 2.0, Miracles and Superman: Doomsday. Kevin Manthei began composing music for film, television and video games in the early 1990s. He has compiled quite an impressive list of work including musical scores created for Milo,Xiaolin Showdown, Johnny Test, Invader Zim and Justice League: New Frontier. Christopher Drake was selected personally to compose music for two animated Hellboy films and eventually, the soundtrack for the Hellboy: The Science of Evil video game. Each of the composers were commissioned to create music for two segments of Batman: Gotham Knight.
It all begins with Have I Got A Story For You in which three skater boys recount their interpretations of a battle between Batman and the Man in Black. Christopher Drake chooses to use the usual Batman theme Ė dark and ominous horns and cymbals Ė that one would find on a typical Batman animated series soundtrack. However, there is a nice twist as Drake pays homage to the rocking attitudes of the skaters at the end of the first track, Main Titles / Intro / Interlude / Punk Skater / Trouble At The Dock.
Kevin Manthei picks up the mantle in Crossfire, a tale in which Major Crimes Unit officers Crispus Allen and Anna Ramirez find themselves trapped in a confrontation between two gangs, The Russian and Sal Maroni. Itís up to Batman to save the day. Mantheiís composition for this segment is noticably different than most Batamn animated series music. He uses a great deal of electronic sound, creating reverb, disjointed noise and repeating loops. He also uses the duduk, an Armenian woodwind instrument to, in his own words, ďrepresent humanity of police officers in a land that lacked humanity.Ē
In Field Test, Lucius Fox creates a device that will electromagnetically deflect small-arms fire. Batmanís field testing of the device during a fight between rival gang members could have disasterous results. Robert J. Kral employs a more orchestral approach when creating the soundtrack for this segment, incorporating the Batman theme with his own original score consisting of horns, woodwinds and strings.
In Darkness Dwells, Batman has another run-in with the Scarecrow and his first encounter with Killer Croc. Christopher Drake returns for this segment, adding arpeggiate synhts and electornically processed percussion to his original themes. The resulting tracks are decidedly spooky and ominous. Killer Croc is represented by loud, fast paced music with a great deal of percussion. As the pace of the music speeds up and the crescendo rises, listeners will get the idea that something very climactic is occuring in this segment.
In Working Through the Pain, wounded from his battle in the segment In Darkness Dwells, Batman must overcome his injuries and get topside. While doing so, he reflects back on lessons learned during a journey to India. Kevin Mantheiís use of the duduk, zourna (a woodwind instrument) and the bansuri (a flute native to India) gives the music an exotic and mystical substance.
Finally, we come to Deadshot, a segment in which Bruce goes up against a deadly assassin to save the life of one of the few men he trusts in Gotham. Robert J. Kral takes on the music in this segment, creating an orchestral theme and employing rising crescendos to punctuate events in each scene.
The final track, the End Credits Suite, is a mixture of music from all six segments. The music is approximately five minutes long and has an epic feel to it not often found in soundtracks created for animated film.
In the end, the producer of Batman: Gotham Knight got exactly what he wanted out of his composers. No two episodes in the six-segment DVD contain similar music. Each segmentís sound is completely different from the other. The soundtrack is perfect for the DVD, though I find that it might not be as enjoyable as a stand alone album as the differing styles can sometimes clash with one another. However, the mixing of such styles in the End Credits Suite was so masterfully done that I canít complain one iota. The producer used an interesting concept to create a new and inventive feel for each episode in the DVD and it worked. Check out the Batman: Gotham Knight Sountrack and discover the uniqueness of the music for yourself.