Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard The Dark Knight Review

Soundtrack. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

The overall sound is much darker and heavier than you'd expect.

Sean Cameron 2008

James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer have rejoined for The Dark Knight, a continuation of their sterling work on the film's predecessor, Batman Begins. Those that paid attention when Batman first attempted a film career with Tim Burton's 1989 effort will know the gothic militant overture by Danny Elfman. The instantly hum-able theme encompassed the franchise becoming an archtypal superhero anthem copied throughout the genre, even by Elfman himself with Spiderman in 2002.

Howard and Zimmer threw out the superhero theme rulebook when they worked on ...Begins in 2005. Wiping the slate clean they created a sound with more depth and a grown-up sensibility not revealing a heroic Batman theme until the last moments of the film. As tempting as it would be to reprise these established tones the pair have practically abandoned their heroic sound. The signature tune, a stirring of fast stings and heavy horns, is still there but only as minimal vignettes. The overall sound is much darker and heavier than you'd expect.

The pairing of Howard and Zimmer and their own musical personalities are still evident. Zimmer tackles the large thumping tunes whilst Howard's stings heighten the emotional punch. Zimmer's strengths are best utilised in action scenes and nothing sounds more suited to a good chase scene than Like A Dog Chasing Cars. Meanwhile the emotion of Howard's solo work is only truly evident in the Harvey Dent tracks, Harvey Two Face and Blood On My Hands, suggesting a less sentimental sequel.

However, there is a third unexpected dynamic to this score, Joker's theme, a twisted unsettling razor-sharp sound make from two simple notes. This can be heard in the album's standout track Why So Serious. It's nine minutes of spine chilling intensity which feels like it will rip out of your speakers and unlike anything you'd expect from the pair. Different variations of the theme are played throughout the score in tracks named after probable Joker lines such as And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad.

The most cinematic and pleasing standalone track would be the last: A Dark Knight - an overture of the full soundtrack with the most evident use of their Bat-theme. As a musical piece in it's own right some tracks work better than others with the aforementioned A Dark Knight standing on its own two feet. But the album is littered with tracks such as I Am The Batman feeling like mere incidental music guiding unseen visuals.

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