Warner Bros' 1989 film Batman became a career-defining film for several involved from director Tim Burton, star Michael Keaton, and composer Danny Elfman. While speaking on the Premier Guitar podcast Wong Notes (via The Hollywood Reporter), the Oscar nominee reflected with host Cory Wong of Vulfpeck about how he was "reasonably happy" with the mix of his score for his 10th feature but was disappointed with the dub, or how the music was transferred into the film.
"I was terribly unhappy with the dub in Batman," Elfman said. "They did it in the old-school way where you do the score and turn it into the 'professionals' who turn the nobs and dub it in. And dubbing had gotten really wonky in those years. We recorded [multi-channel recording on] three channels…right, center, left…and basically, they took the center channel out of the music completely." The composer explained what was decided was done, so WB decided for additional sound effects. "It didn't have any care put into it," Elfman said. "I've had many scores play in big action scenes that really propelled the scene. And in the end of the [Batman] dub, I realized I could have had the orchestra play anything. I could have scored the film with some percussion, a harmonica, and a banjo because all you hear are some percussion hits in big moments, but you can't really hear what the orchestra is doing. That was my first lesson in how so-called professionals can take a score and the soundtrack to a movie and just do their thing in a very noncommittal way that is easiest for them; plunk it off to the side and just get the dialogue."
Elfman's Continued Influence in Batman and DC
While it wasn't Warner Bros' first foray into the genre, Batman did more to help set the bar for the modern superhero movie grossing $411 million globally at the box office. The Burton franchise has become relevant again in recent years, with DCEU's The Flash marking the return of Keaton in the role for the first time in 30 years with its tentative release in 2022. How his and Ben Affleck's incarnation of the Caped Crusader will co-exist remains a mystery for now. Elfman did return to score several other DC Superhero projects following the 1989 hit with Burton's 1992 sequel Batman Returns, Batman: The Animated Series, and even the John Wesley Shipp-starred short-lived live-action '90s TV series The Flash. He'll score the upcoming Marvel film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.