Album Review: Hans Zimmer – The Dark Knight Rises OST
Originally published on The Boar online: http://theboar.org/music/2012/aug/23/dark-knight-rises-ost/
There are no two ways about it, really: The Dark Knight Rises is the biggest film of the year. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has finally come to a triumphant close, and credit is due for all involved after ending the franchise in such spectacular style. Of course, two of the biggest contributors to the series have been Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, whose orchestral scores for the trilogy have not only served and complemented the films, but have also enriched them: they are as much a part of the Batman universe as the characters themselves. A case in point: the two-note Batman cue has become as iconic as the man himself.
For the soundtrack to the final instalment in the franchise, full compositional duties were left to Zimmer, with Howard moving on to other projects. Across the fifteen tracks arranged here, the central concerns of the film’s narrative shine through: on nearly every track one can discern the push-and-pull of dread and hope, of menace and valour. After a brief and ominous opening piece, the glacial strings of On Thin Ice establish a wintry, haunting atmosphere heavily laden with the sense of approaching doom. Even if you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises, you’ll be able to pick out moments of despair, of grief, and of triumph. Shorter, more restrained segments such as Born In Darkness and Death By Exile add further tension amid the more explosive action cues, with the jagged meters and twisty structures of tracks such as The Fire Rises sounding as chaotic and malevolent as the scenes they accompany within the film.
Zimmer has also kept continuity in mind, with signatures of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight incorporated into the mix here as well. The sense of continuity these moments bring is suitable, given that the trilogy has indeed come full circle, though the momentum falters slightly in the middle of the record, as one begins to wish that Zimmer would occasionally change tack a little more often (as he does on the throbbing synthesisers of Underground Army, a superbly unsettling track which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Cliff Martinez’s soundtrack for last year’s Drive). Still, the familiar cues and themes are interwoven with enough new flourishes and tweaks that the whole still manages to engage and excite for the most part. What is arguably the strongest collision of old and new scores arrives in the form of Why Do We Fall? – an electrifying track which colours a pivotal moment for Bruce Wayne.
Imagine The Fire and Rise are the two biggest – and longest – suites on the soundtrack. Both are suitably thunderous, heart-in-mouth compositions set to the film’s climactic final trials and battles. Both are brilliant, although the most impressive moments are found in the songs in which Zimmer gets to try new tricks. Mind If I Cut In? is sparse, slinky, and playfully ambiguous: the perfect theme for Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle. But the real highlight is the theme constructed for Tom Hardy’s chilling terrorist behemoth, Bane – a four-minute piece entitled Gotham’s Reckoning. The murky, urgent horns that open the track are soon joined by a spine-chilling brass motif, which recalls the signature arrangement from Jaws as it resurfaces repeatedly throughout the song, always dripping with menace. Bursts of percussion crackle like thunderclouds, before the tension explodes in a deliberate, upwards surge of strings, horns, brass and crashing drums. It’s horribly claustrophobic, and completely genius: the perfect sound for one of the big screen’s most intimidating villains.
Several of the songs on offer do lack the emotional wallop of their parent scenes: without Michael Caine’s watery eyes, Nothing Out There doesn’t quite tug at the heartstrings as well as it does during the film (although to be perfectly honest, that’s no big shock). However, criticising a soundtrack for providing a different experience to its film feels inappropriate. The soundtrack was made to accompany the film, and within that context, it works wonders. What we have here is a product which plays it part within the film perfectly, and which, when considered as a standalone article, is also an engaging, heart-racing creation in its own right. A must-have for Batfans and Zimmer buffs alike.
“Boy, you are in for a show tonight, son…”