Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Superhero Theme Project Part 11: Robin

I generally tend to be a fan of stories in which Batman is a standalone character, but like it or not, anytime you have Batman, sooner or later you have to address Robin. The two go hand in hand. For example, the Batman figurine in the Little One's superfriends collection included a tiny Robin which, due to its minute stature, has gotten lost several times. Somehow, though, he always seems to turn up. This ongoing game of "Where's Robin?" has emphasized the character and, eventually, brought attention to the fact that he did not have a song.

Although I am not the most devoted fan of the character, I inadvertently began looking into Robin when I was investigating Batgirl.  Because they both exist in Batman's universe, they share some conceptual overlap.  There have been many incarnations of the character with attendant variations in their origin stories, but generally Robin is depicted as young and headstrong, with motivations that are usually more serious than Batgirl’s. He is not, however, nearly as grim as Batman.

I still felt a need to pay homage to the already existing music in the franchise. Despite the fact that the movies themselves are some of the worst Batman movies ever made, I delved again into Elliot Goldenthal’s scores for the Joel Shumacher films. I was ready to pull the trigger on the title sequence theme from Batman and Robin.

Aside from being marred by an incongruous percussion break, however, it was, like the majority of Shirley Walker's work, more Batman than Robin, so I discarded it.  Shortly after I adopted Batgirl's theme, however, I discovered Michael Giaccianco’s score to Star Trek: Into Darkness, which I really liked.  In fact, the only thing keeping me from using this piece as Batgirl's theme was the very distinctive Star Trek watermark at the end.

So far, my strict "no editing" rule had remained unbroken, but this one was giving me pause to reconsider when the Steamboy track showed up. Still, in retrospect, I felt a little regret that I did not use it, so I did a bit more scouting around in Giaccicano’s work. His soundtrack for the previous Star Trek reboot also received accolades from reviewers. Like the track from Into Darkness, the track Enterprising Young Men has a youthful exuberance that I thought represented Robin well, but also a slightly dark edge that acknowledges the deeper motivations of the character.

As all this was going on behind the scenes, the Little One's interest in the project was starting to wane. She was still enjoying listening to the music and enthusiastically identifying the heroes that the represented, but she was not initiating as much as she was a few weeks ago. When I introduced Enterprising Young Men as Robin's theme, however, it seemed to reignite the her interest. Not only does she regularly request Robin by name, she gets excited about playing the piece for her mother and other people that might be in the car.  She is also discovered that my phone, when equipped with headphones, can also play superhero music, and Robin is her go-to in this setting.


Additionally, I put the full soundtrack on my list, and it showed up in a robust stack of CDs that I received for my birthday. Although in my eyes it is not as innovative a as Hans Zimmer's recent work on Inception and Man of Steel, as an entire work, Star Trek is very good. Enterprising Young Men is probably the most succinct and cognizant expression of this "new" Star Trek theme, but Giacchino gets quite a bit of convincing mileage out of it over the course of the whole album. The ending credits music is particularly entertaining, as he quite ingeniously mashes this melody up with the distinctive theme from the original series.

By embedding essential characteristics from the old with a fundamentally new premise, Giacciano creates a very smart representation of J.J. Abrams' mission statement of the recent movie reboot.  It comes highly recommended for soundtrack fans.

To go to the final post in the Superhero Theme Project, click HERE.
To back up, click HERE.

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