The Dark Knight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard
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There’s little breathing room on Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s brilliantly conceived soundtrack for The Dark Knight. Just like Heath Ledger’s totally psycho portrayal of The Joker, almost every track is heavy, dense, and claustrophobic. Zimmer is a sucker for industrial music and dark electronics, both of which creep their way into “Agent of Chaos” and the violently rhythmic “Why So Serious?” Even the reflective orchestral offerings are smeared in grim textures and dystopian murk. Definitely file under “uneasy listening.”
Is The Dark Knight An Evolution of A Masterpiece, or Just Another Joker?
1. Why So Serious? In what is obviously the Joker’s main theme, takes a very inverted pass on the now prolific new Batman theme turning into more of a medley a bit of rather haunting viola’s and deep cut bass guitar. The erratic yet formulaic beat seems to breed in the listeners mind as though to suggest that this Joker is every bit as devious and cunning as Batman. Ending with a very moody yet symbolic Uaki-ish rift before breaking back into that haunting guitar medley that seg-ways us into; 2. I’m Not A Hero. A return to formula, yet somethings changed, an underlying sense of Batman’s dread for the rise in criminality seems to overwhelm him. The pitter patter three note undertone that was made famous in Batman Begins returns, but transformed into something much darker and brooding. The hints of the Dark Knights theme from the first film seem to be almost fully formed here. Breaking straight back into it’s old motif, but again, more majestic and heroic then before, but never ever straying into the Spider-Man hero territory, keeping it darker and more menacing. A great homage thing to pick out in this track is the air of Danny Elfmans original Batman score from the track “Decent Into Mystery.” Changing pace at the end, high octane and intimidating and then things fall back into place at the end into what is surely one of the highlights of The Dark Knights score. 3. Harvey Two-Face. Is by a large margin the most heroic and sad notation thus far, indicating from the tone, perhaps a prolific speech by Harvey Dent. Drums, reminiscent of Hans’ The Last Samurai beat to that of a hero waging war, although assumedly in Dent’s case that of a district attorney. The high note of sadness and triumph rings to close out this rather well rounded track. 4. Aggressive expansion. Kicks off into the familiar begins panter, but with a hard edge of finality, perhaps suggesting Batman throwing himself into a difficult situation, or throwing on his suit to take on a lead for a reacting crime. Mysterious tickerings interlude with a family sad piano dither suggesting a scene where Alfred would pick Bruce’s spirits up for the coming storm. Building into a dramatic end with overtones of the jokers theme. 5. Always A Catch. Frightening strings build with pile-drivers unseating your nerves before settling down into mournful yet focused scatter of soft emotive notes. 6. Blood On My Hands. Light horns lead you to a place of obvious thought about some tragedy as the name implies, Harvey Dents’ them crops up here, either showing you a scene of truth or remembrance of something lost or maybe even something gained. 7. A little Push. Tense overpowering orchestral dieout in an unsettling end. It would stand out as the most generic track on the album but, thankfully a slight air of David Julyan’s The Prestige save it from normalness. 8. Like A Dog Chasing Cars. Starting off strong with racing strings backing the track, evolving into what is assuredly a tense moment, one could argue that this would fit the Batpod vs. Joker scene from the trailers as a much more epic version of Molossus from Begins plays; final drums and more heroic overtones before Jokers theme takes it back down. It all comes together nicely making this track a personal favorite. 9. I Am The Batman. More David Julyan inspired work, tensing slightly, and showing touch of emotion. The recurring Joker scraping strings ends the track with a single begins flutter. 10. And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad. Begins flutters, racing strings, and Jokers theme variant featured prominently, with a very rockish dark and bassy key to those with acute hearing. If “Like A Dog Chasing Cars” was The Dark Knights “Molossus” then “And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad” is Jokers “Molossus”. High praise indeed. 11. Agent of Chaos. Akin to the burning of Wayne Manor, bits of Rachel’s piano theme interjected with a very brutal finality of it all. Such as the score stands at this point would make the listener if one where also to assume these tracks are chronological to the movie that the movie will be a very dark and tense ride indeed. Undertones of Joker’s guitar string scrapes and up front and in your face racing deep strings, then finally bringing in a oddly poetic Dark Knight theme and finalizing the track with sad mix of Dent’s and Rachel’s theme. 12. Introduce A Little Anarchy. My, starting off in amazing award winning composer land with a beautifully bombastic mix of Like A Dog Chasing Cars, And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad and then delivering a epic amount of Jokerness to the piece that I could assume is a final battle of some sort. 13. Watch The World Burn. Extraordinarily deep bass lumbering as a somber undertone, light orchestra moving to a plodding Dent’s theme. Perhaps you could extrapolate from the trailers that this is a scene where Dent having worked so hard to save Gothem ultimately, fails. 14. A Dark Knight. The final and longest track of this set. The new Dark Knight theme is the center of attention in this brooding and emotionally epic piece. One could assume that this would be the end credits montage, but if not for the fact that Watch The World Burn was such an epic piece and then Watch The World Burn being it’s ying, wasnt. A Dark Knight’s brilliant old soft electronica swells powerful, epic, slightly bombastic and very dark and haunting mood suggest that this is not a super hero movie but a movie that merely entertains the idea of being a superhero film. In closing, The Dark Knight is one to remember as being more than the sum of its parts, but nothing without the proverbial focal bones to hold it together, such a structure deserves recognition, for the elite but growing orchestrated aficionado this is a masterpiece of both Hans & James’ finest and arguably most prolific work yet. But to the average joker, it’s merely forgettable music backing a summer blockbuster. Maybe we should be asking them “Why So Serious?” TT
An Inspiring Collaboration from Two Great Composers!
After listening to all of the tracks on this soundtrack, I think it surpasses the first one in every way. Zimmer and Howard have created a score that explores the psyche of each of the main characters (Bruce Wayne/Batman, Joker, Harvey Dent/Two-Face), usually shifting from the light to the dark, or in Joker's case, from the twisted to the chaotic. This is not some shallow score that revolves around a single heroic theme like most scores out there (*cough* Danny Elfman *cough*). This is a complex and well-thought out score that perfectly fits the style that Chris Nolan established with the franchise. The thing about superhero films is that most composers just come up with a single catchy theme and loop it throughout the whole film. Composers like Elfman really like to work around a single theme for all the tracks in a superhero film, which gets the job done I guess, but it gets really repetitive and downright cheesy at times. That's why what Zimmer and Howard have done with the first soundtrack for Batman Begins was really quite revolutionary for a comic book film because it didn't revolve around a single heroic theme like virtually every superhero film out there. There were many great pieces of music in that soundtrack, and they all were quite long, requiring some time to devote in order to appreciate them. Unfortunately, most people were only attracted to the action theme, Molossus, because it was fast-paced and exciting, but there were many other good tracks on there. The soundtrack for The Dark Knight goes even further in establishing both composers' different styles, and what we get is something really special. I wish more films would have two different composers working with each other to try to fuse their styles into something that goes beyond the traditional in films like this. I think Zimmer and Howard deserve an Oscar nomination at the very least for what they created in this score. If you choose not to get the complete soundtrack, here's a recommendation of some of the essentials I believe are worth downloading, although A Dark Knight is album only and I think it’s the best track on the album. 1. Why So Serious? - Joker theme composed by Hans Zimmer - Very dark and twisted, like something from Nine Inch Nails. 2. I'm Not a Hero - TDK's answer to Antrozous from the Batman Begins soundtrack. If you loved that track, you'll love this. 3. Harvey Two-Face - Harvey Dent and Two-Face theme composed by James Newton Howard - Very emotional; traces the character's heroic and tragic side. 8. Like a Dog Chasing Cars - If you loved Molossus, you'll love this. - Very big and exciting; most likely played during the Batpod chase in the same way Molossus was played during the Tumbler chase. 12. Introduce a Little Anarchy - Sort of a mix between numbers 2 and 8. Very good and will get you pumped up. 14. A Dark Knight - My favorite track. The progression is amazing, evolving from the dark to the dramatic and heroic flawlessly. - I imagine this will be played during the end credits.
Possibly the Superb Score of the Year...
The score for The Dark Knight is an excellent improvment on its predecessor Batman Begins, which hardly had any sweep or inspiration to it. From "Why So Serious?" to "A Dark Knight", Zimmer and Howard introduce new themes and improve on ones from the first. The first track has a very odd cue that reappears a few more times throughout the score, though not nearly as much as in this track. "I'm Not a Hero" can be subtle at times, but has several beats of action and intensity. Now, Batman Begins lacked one bit of music that would've made it much better to listen to, at least one more track to give 5 stars to, and it's the loud brass of Batman's theme. "Harvey Two-Face" starts out with a very low version of Batman's theme, and around 2:42 in the track, you hear a great and sweeping cue of his theme. "Aggressive Expansion", "Always a Catch", "Blood On My Hands", "I Am the Batman", and "Watch the World Burn" are more dramatic tracks, that have little if any real "umph" in them, but they're still great don't get me wrong. "A Little Push", "Like a Dog Chasing Cars", "Agent of Chaos" and "Introduce a Little Anarchy" are the tracks that sweep and are full of giant action. "Like a Dog Chasing Cars" has about 3 minutes of pure excitement in it and is possibly the best track on here. "A Dark Knight" is a giant piece with various cues, but isn't really the highlight I was expecting. Overall, the only way I can see the Academy overlooking this score is if they have that stupid rule of "music being used in another film makes it not eligible for consideration". Zimmer and Howard have made a score that is twice, if not more, the worth of the material used in Batman Begins. This score is a definite buy; every track is worth a purchase, though that doesn't mean I didn't give some 4 and not 5 stars. "Harvey Two-Face" and "Like a Dog Chasing Cars" are my two superior favorites of this collection. GET THIS SCORE. Here's hoping Nolan and everyone returns for a third...
Born: September 12, 1957 in Frankfurt, Germany
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s
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