How Hans Zimmer Used His Score To Tell The Story Of Batman Begins

If you're familiar with film scores, the name Hans Zimmer should definitely ring a bell. He's been composing film themes since the early 1980s, which has earned him two Oscars, three Golden Globes, three Grammys, a Tony, and an American Music Award. Throughout his career, he has composed music for over 150 films, including "Rain Man," "Driving Miss Daisy," "The Lion King," "Dunkirk," and "Dune." The list is ridiculously long. 

Clearly, the guy knows his way around a score, which he proved once again when he composed for 2005's "Batman Begins." 

A lot of criticism of superhero movies in the last decade or so asks if films about our favorite cape-donning, justice-seeking friends qualify as "cinema." While I think that is probably left up to each viewer to decide, superheroes definitely draw attention and get people talking. 

Every time a new Batman film is released, everyone who still cares about superheroes discusses the latest version of the Batsuit, the Batmobile, and Gotham City. But underneath all that fun stuff, "The Dark Knight" also led audiences to theorize about the psychology of Batman. 

Even an Oscar-winning composer like Hans Zimmer still gets swept up by the seemingly never-ending story and trauma of Bruce Wayne. 

The frozen boy

The murder of Bruce Wayne's parents is the life-changing event that sparks young Bruce's alter ego. Even though we've all seen these poor people die a dozen times, a lot of Batman filmmakers believe we need to see it again, and "Batman Begins" director Christopher Nolan thought so, too. This time, it was accompanied by a Hans Zimmer score.

While the murder of the Waynes is most definitely not the most interesting scene in "Batman Begins," it is the one Zimmer often mentions when discussing the music for the movie. In an interview with Empire Online, Zimmer reveals how the life-defining moment of young Bruce watching his parents die inspired "Barbastella," the piece used in the scene:

"It's only the beginning of a theme ... it's never completed because Bruce Wayne never gets past the point of his parents' murder. If you listen carefully, there's a choirboy at one point, and through electronic trickery — and too much time spent in the studio — his note freezes and goes on for four minutes. We literally froze him in time."

In the scene, the high-pitched, haunting note of the frozen boy begins as we see a young Bruce kneeling in between his parents' bodies in a dirty alley. This is the moment he will never recover from, where a small part of him will always be stuck, so Zimmer allows us to hear the constant trauma through the endless wailing note in a young boy's voice.

But while the wailing cry is always a part of Bruce Wayne, so is Batman, and that guy gets his own theme.

The hero theme

Every superhero has to have theme music. You can't show up and save the world without the power of an orchestra behind you. I mean, you probably could, but it would be boring, and you wouldn't look as cool.

Traditional hero tunes are light, spunky, and capable of filling the listener with reassurance that everything is going to be okay. That isn't what Hans Zimmer wanted the music that accompanied Nolan's Batman to sound like. In a 2008 interview with, the composer shared his ideas of how his Batman theme, "Molossus," is different from the ones that came before it:

"... There's probably a whole bunch of people out there still waiting for us to write that happy superhero tune — the 'Superman Returns' or the old Batman type tune. I just want to say categorically, don't hold your breath. It ain't going to happen, because this is a different world and this is a different Batman."

We all know Bruce Wayne/Batman carries the pain of his parents' murder with him all the time, and Zimmer's scores are there to remind us of the trauma that both haunts and drives him. So, a jaunty, happy little tune wouldn't do the hero justice.

This Batman shows up with sounds that are more imposing than comforting, a pulsing drum, the humming of string instruments, and the flapping of wings. Zimmer's main hero theme blends the sounds of the tortured, traumatized, frozen boy with those of the courageous and powerful vigilante we watch him become. 

Zimmer perfectly arranged the sounds of the "Batman Begins" story through the wails of a heartbroken boy and the drumming of a forceful hero.