Danny Elfman – Darkman

4 out of 5

Label: Waxwork Records

Produced by: Danny Elfman

Composer Danny Elfman has an identifiable sound.  Chorus; soaring horns; building drums; these aren’t, by any means, tools exclusive to Elfman’s work, but the way in which the artist applies them is not only rather tell-tale, but influential – I’m sure I’m not the only one who grew up with Beetlejuice and Batman themes drilled into my head thanks to many, many rewatches, and that’s cast a “this is what these movies sound like” spell over many a Gothic-y Tim Burton flick, and over many superhero films, since.  Danny has found many ways to apply his style to many different movies, but nonetheless – you can generally pick out his music.

Elfman’s Darkman score, coming within a year of Batman, not only has those Elfman tell-tale sounds, it’s also… pretty Batman-like.  Played at a low volume, you’ll catch yourself humming along and diverting into Batman, before realizing that the track has diverted onto its own path.  Combined with Darkman director Sam Raimi’s more classic Hollywood sensibilities, buried ‘neath his zany visuals, there are moments of Darkman that can easily pass by as generic, or as, again, almost lifted from other films.

So turn the volume up.  The inbetween moments still exist somewhat as typical bridges from scene to scene, but there’s plenty of punctuation surrounding those moments, and when they’re in full swing, this is an exciting score.  The similarities to Batman are also, I’d say, purposeful, as the score steps forth with excitingly heroic tones before swooping into darker themes, very befitting of the titular character.  And when we get to the more intense dramatic sequences or battle, it’s maniacal stuff, twisting the lighter, fairly family friendly quirk of Elfman’s work with Burton – like Edward Scissorhands – into something that’s operatic, and off-kilter.  It’s a flick – and a score – that’s able to have its cake and eat it too, going big, superhero sounding while also maintaining an identity cloaked in shadow, a juggling act that’s especially thrilling as we continue to the B-side; the movie nearing its climax.

Waxwork’s frequent use of artist Francesco Francavilla is again well-suited here, as is the artist’s penchant for oranges and blues, as those were part of the original color scheme for the movie.  A fun looking package, and a maybe overlooked addition to Elfman’s early gobsmacking offerings of memorable movie tunes.