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The Dark Knight Rises by Hans Zimmer

The Dark Knight Rises

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The Dark Knight Rises (Soundtrack) by Hans Zimmer

The Dark Knight Rises
Composed by Hans Zimmer
Water Tower Music (2012)

Rating: 7/10

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All Dark Things...
Review by The Tracksounds Gang

It began in 2005.  In the darkness, we put a smile on our face in 2008.  Finally, in 2012, all dark things must come to an end as Christopher Nolan's Batman revival rises one last time. Reduced from a dynamic-duo, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, finds composer HANS ZIMMER alone in his batcave to provide the finale's closing notes.  With the new threat of Bane and maneuverings of Catwoman, the stage is set for Batman's last Nolan-directed, Zimmer-inflected, hurrah and the Tracksounds gang rises up to tackle THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.


Once you have finished reading each and every one of these opinions, you have our permission to ... listen.

Edmund says...

"THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a fitting extension of ZIMMER’s sound for the franchise, with some genuinely clever and engaging new material – but like the film, it’s a step down from the previous entry and has some serious flaws to contend with."

HANS ZIMMER’s scores for CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’s rebooted Batman series have gained a level of mainstream popularity earned only by a select few film scores, but it is hard not to wonder whether that is down more to the excellent movies they are tied to – they’ve always been easier to appreciate in context than on album. Unrelenting in their dour mood and relentless lower-register churning, they are simplistic but certainly effective, short on themes and orchestral flourishes but heavy in atmosphere and electronic embellishment. The few recurring motifs that do exist are less than transparent in their application.

If the main character’s musical representation has always left something to be desired, at least THE DARK KNIGHT’s villain, the Joker, received an extremely memorable and iconic (if not entirely pleasant) musical representation. This time around, our villain is Bane – he of the 5.1 surround-sound voice - and once again, he receives a unique motif bordering on sound design. Heard in “Gotham’s Reckoning” (3), it’s a menacing whispered chant that builds to a shout via an asymmetrical, frenzied rhythmic pattern. Much was made of the fact that ZIMMER had his fans record themselves chanting the words “deshi basara” (“rise up”) and mixed the recordings together, but the choir’s impact is fatally diminished on album by a distant mix. Still, it is easily the most impressive and unique new idea on offer.

The other new theme is that for Selina Kyle/Catwoman, heard in “Mind if I Cut In?” (4) It’s a decent but rather basic theme (vaguely reminiscent of ZIMMER’s scores for the SHERLOCK HOLMES franchise), conveying the right “slinky” feeling with its piano figures hovering around the same central note. It’s not a patch on DANNY ELFMAN’s far more dramatic take on the character in BATMAN RETURNS, though – and perhaps this is where JAMES NEWTON HOWARD’s more delicate touch could have come in handy. ZIMMER’s collaborator for the first two films decided not to return for the third, claiming (with some merit) that the “mastermind” behind the scores was always ZIMMER.

The rest of the score alternates between the grinding and pounding action music now familiar to the series (often incorporating Bane’s chants well – and seemingly inserting a portion of STEVE JABLONSKY’s first TRANSFORMERS score in “Imagine the Fire” (13)), more low-key suspense and the conversational thematic development cues. Unfortunately lacking development is the heroic full theme for Batman that was hinted at in BATMAN BEGINS (in the cue “Eptesicus”) and fully fleshed out in THE DARK KNIGHT (in “Like a Dog Chasing Cars” and particularly “A Dark Knight”). Easily the thematic highlight of the series, it receives a subdued performance in “On Thin Ice” (2) and returns to close out the score in “Rise” (15) – but that cue is essentially a truncated rehash of “A Dark Knight”. In fact, significant portions of the score seem to be copied and pasted from the previous two entries, which gives the entire thing a slightly stagnant feel when the new themes aren’t playing.

The final gripe to be had with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is its befuddling album situation. The regular album is a mere 50 minutes long, but it is possible to significantly extend that length by consolidating various bonus cues offered as download exclusives, enhanced CD exclusives, app exclusives and so on. This forced double-dipping encourages illegal downloads, and much of the bonus material could have easily fit onto the single CD. Overall, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a fitting extension of ZIMMER’s sound for the franchise, with some genuinely clever and engaging new material – but like the film, it’s a step down from the previous entry and has some serious flaws to contend with.

Richard's Rating: 6/10



Richard says...

"Simply put, if you struggled to find anything to enjoy in BATMAN BEGINS or THE DARK KNIGHT, RISES is just not for you. "

An eternal darkness has consumed Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, but this is a darkness in which Gotham’s saviour will remain - never to rise from the shadows. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES brings one of Hollywood’s most profitable and critically acclaimed trilogies to a close, signalling the dawn of yet another new frontier for Bruce Wayne’s alter ego. Nolan’s third and final act proved to be a divisive one within the vast fan base, perhaps due to the enormous expectations placed upon it after the exceptional second entry, THE DARK KNIGHT, but few can deny the gratitude owed to Nolan’s trilogy for ushering in an era in which the comic book film is more than just simplistic and vapid fan service. However, it is in the music that the trilogy has proven the most contentious, with fans clamouring for the age of ELFMAN despite the clear tonal shift from the likes of BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS.

Given the franchise’s gritty outlook, it’s perplexing to see many still demanding an explanation as to why composer HANS ZIMMER took the music of Batman in such a different direction to the DANNY ELFMAN scores. Not that it really mattered, as ZIMMER’s score for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES continues very much in the style of the previous two films.

Simply put, if you struggled to find anything to enjoy in BATMAN BEGINS or THE DARK KNIGHT, RISES is just not for you. A perpetual storm of angst rains down upon THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, not subsiding for even a second. As with THE DARK KNIGHT, ZIMMER has taken the opportunity to utilize Batman’s oppressor, in this case Bane, as his prime thematic inspiration, although to a lesser effect than his efforts for The Joker’s theme. Perhaps it is partly down to the character himself, but Bane’s theme lacks the erratic unease of the Joker’s. The chant has substantial gravitas, but fails to fully embody the villain in the way Zimmer may have intended. The cues in which it takes centre stage make for a thrilling listen however - “Gotham’s Reckoning” (3), and “Imagine the Fire” (13) are raucously entertaining, providing wall-to-wall thrills. The chant is noticeable in its absence from “Why Do We Fall” (11), which is an entertaining cue as it is, but fails to ignite in the same way as when combined with the rallying call.

Aggravatingly, much of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES score is clearly missing in action, given the short running time and overabundance of atmosphere-building cues such as “Underground Army” (5), and “Born In Darkness” (6). As a result, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is never given the chance to reach the heights of THE DARK KNIGHT, a fate confounded by yet another infuriating “exclusive track” fiasco.

There’s no doubt that RISES lacks a certain depth of emotion that was previously heard, perhaps due to the absence of JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, but thankfully much of the music is high in quality, with my personal favourite cue being “Rise” (15) - an emotionally draining combination of “Barbastella” and “Lasiurus” from BATMAN BEGINS, and “A Dark Knight” from THE DARK KNIGHT, that is perfectly aligned with the bittersweet finale of the trilogy.

THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, at its inception, was an altogether different comic book origins story, and as a result demanded an altogether different musical approach. ZIMMER’s approach is one that I personally see as largely a success, although I can sympathize with those who perhaps do not. It is with great sadness that I bid the Nolan Batman universe farewell, but I take solace in the knowledge that I can always return to the shadowed streets of Gotham through the notes of HANS ZIMMER.

Richard's Rating: 8/10



Christopher says...

"What Zimmer delivers is, in context, hardly less entertaining, if not even more forceful than its predecessors. "

Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed trilogy comes to a close with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Having faced the mystical League of Shadows, and the maniacal Joker, Batman is now confronted with a seemingly new menace lead by the martially eloquent, masked-man, Bane. Left in the wake of the previous two films are, not only Batman’s foes, but some of his loved-ones and this extends outside of the story itself to the storymakers. Surprisingly and sadly, treading in the wake is also composer James Newton Howard, as Hans Zimmer finishes out the trilogy alone. The departure of Newton Howard told those paying attention that it was likely THE DARK KNIGHT RISES would shed the more lyrical and romantic traits woven into BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

What Zimmer delivers is, in context, hardly less entertaining, if not even more forceful than its predecessors. Where does this force come from exactly? The revelation of a new villainous element, personified in Bane, provides the foundation for this finale. Rather than the one-note, insanity of the Joker, the methodical brutality of Bane and his horde is captured in Zimmer’s 5/4, Bane-theme. On the album it is Introduced in “Gotham’s Reckoning” in as subtle of a manner as Zimmer dared, but in the film, it first appears in “The Fire Rises.” There, it is comingled among a cacophony of percussive and electronic explosions as it plays under the IMAX-shot, early-released, prologue. By the time we reach “Fear Will Find You” we hear the most accelerated and tension-filled performance, even if it is short lived and goes on to play counterpoint to the very familiar, two-note Batman theme.

Speaking of that two-note theme, yes, it, of course, makes several appearances throughout the score. One of the most intriguing is in the track “On Thin Ice” where we hear it played on, what sounds to be, some Zimmer-crafted, high-pitched synthesizer - which creates a strange atmosphere like angels singing while cognisant that a threat looms just on the other side of their wordless song. Still, it’s the grand, brass swell performances that our caped-souls search for in this Batman trilogy. It is in tracks such as “Despair” and “Why Do We Fall?” that we find that satisfaction.

Finally, with the disappearance of James Newton Howard and most all reference to his melodic work, we have, in its stead, Zimmer’s mysteriously playful theme for the enigmatic Catwoman. The theme is essentially relegated to the track “Mind if I Cut In?” on the standard CD release, but is used more often within the film itself. The toyful piano notes and feline-like cello provide much needed contrast to the edginess found in the majority of other tracks..

How much one enjoys THE DARK KNIGHT RISES original score heavily depends on where one experiences the score and their opinion of the movie itself. Aside from the themes mentioned above, this score can feel a bit “noisy” with little to musically cling onto at times; however, in the film it certainly does its job. Those who appreciate the film as a whole will find even the standard soundtrack release mostly satisfying; however, for others, this finale by Zimmer may not measure up to the two that preceded it and find it lacking a certain “jay en ache quoi.”

Christopher's Rating: 6/10


Batman has bailed. The gang has spoken. The absence of James Newton Howard appears to keep the score from matching the emotional balance or rising to the overall quality of the first two scores. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES clearly has moments of brilliance (perhaps fewer than its predecessors), but as presented on the official soundtrack, finds itself mired in a surprising, if not disappointing, amount of mediocrity. 


Rating: 7/10



Track Title Track Time Edmund Richard Chris  Ave Rating
1 A Storm is Coming 0:36  **  ***  ***  ***
2 On Thin Ice 2:54  ***  ***  ****  ***
3 Gotham's Reckoning 4:07  ****  *****  ****  ****
4 Mind If I Cut In? 3:27  ****  ****  ***  ****
5 Underground Army 3:11  ***  ***  **  ***
6 Born in Darkness 1:56  ***  ***  ***  ***
7 The Fire Rises 5:33  ***  ****  ***  ***
8 Nothing Out There 2:51  ***  ***  ***  ***
9 Despair 3:14  ***  ****  ****  ****
10 Fear Will Find You 3:08  ***  ****  ***  ***
11 Why Do We Fail? 2:02  ****  *****  *****  *****
12 Death By Exile 0:23  *  **  **  **
13 Imagine the Fire 7:25  ****  *****  ****  ****
14 Necessary Evil 3:16  ***  ***  ***  ***
15 Rise 7:15  ***  *****  ****  ****
    Final Rating 6/10 8/10 6/10  
  Total Running Time (approx) 51 minutes        


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