Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"The Dark Knight" - Complete Original Motion Picture Score (Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, 2008)


Composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

Co-Composed by Lorne Balfe
Orchestrated by Bruce Fowler, Jeff Atmajian, Brad Dechter, Elizabeth Finch, Kevin Kaska, Randy Kerber, Suzette Moriarty and Walter Fowler

Conducted by Matt Dunkley, Gavin Greenaway and Bruce Fowler
Ambient Design by Mel Wesson
Performed by The Sinfonia of London Orchestra

Produced by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Co-Produced by Lorne Balfe and Alex Gibson

Track Listing:

Disc 1:

1: Logo (0:59)
2: Bank Robbery (5:36)
3: Find The Batman (1:46)
4: Buyer Beware (3:06)
5: Dirty Cash (Unused) (0:55)
6: The New DA (1:04)
7: Hostile Witness (1:43)
8: Bank Warrants - LSI Holdings (2:40)
9: Who Appointed Batman? (1:17)
10: Move The Money (1:34)
11: Kill The Batman (3:18)
12: Halfway To Hong Kong (Unused) (1:19)
13: Trip To Hong Kong (1:29)
14: Put A Smile On That Face (4:05)
15: LSI Extraction (4:01)
16: Mobsters Taken To Justice (0:59)
17: Are You Up To It? (1:14)
18: A Hero With A Face (1:25)
19: Joker Crashes The Party (3:05)
20: Panic Room (0:33)
21: You're Gonna Love Me (3:04)
22: Watch The World Burn (3:19)
23: Loud Enough (4:06)
24: Speech Ambush (1:39)
25: Dent To Van (0:52)
26: Gordon Is Dead (1:05)
27: Rachel Next (1:05)
28: Interrogating Schiff (2:50)

Disc 2:

1: Blood On My Hands (1:41)
2: The Outcast (1:00)
3: I Am The Batman (3:44)
4: Truck Convoy (1:07)
5: Pod Deploys (0:57)
6: Batman Down (0:51)
7: We Gotcha (1:17)
8: Gordon Returns Home (1:08)
9: You Complete Me (3:41)
10: Wired (8:49)
11: Harvey Two-Face (2:43)
12: This Is My City (2:22)
13: Hospital Bomb Scare (Part 1) (3:40)
14: Hospital Bomb Scare (Part 2) (3:57)
15: Explosion Aftermath (2:20)
16: Dent Kills Wertz (1:15)
17: Sonar System (3:24)
18: Unlucky Driver (1:19)
19: The Ferries (4:35)
20: Always A Catch (2:43)
21: Storming Pruitt Building (3:52)
22: Give It To Me (3:44)
23: A Little Push (2:19)
24: Eye For An Eye (3:49)
25: Dent Defeated (0:36)
26: I'm Not A Hero (3:45)
27: A Dark Knight (0:37)
28: End Credits (2:14)

Disc 3:

1: The Joker Suite (9:31)
2: Harvey Dent Suite (6:17)
3: The Dark Knight Suite (16:15)
4: New Batman Theme (5:03)
5: Interrogating Schiff (Alternate Intro) (2:43)


With "Batman Begins" (2005), Composer duo Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard had successfully ushered in a new and impressionable approach to the lyrical crafting of a comic book adaptation.

Symphonic score still has its place in such a world, but the advent of weaving the music into the sound design to create a hybrid fusion of all things auditory was a technique that hadn't quite been tapped in its full potential. Several composers, such as Elliot Goldenthal with his work on "Alien III" (1991), played with the concept.

But it was Zimmer and Howard's succession and ascension to "The Dark Knight" (2008) that created a foundation for a more dominant place in attitude and aesthetic.

The combining of music and sound effects has since begun to reign as the method of choice for a lot of contemporary drama and action-fare. In an odd parallel, it seems to resemble the aftermath of Danny Elfman's work on "Batman;" how subsequent films and television shows like "Dick Tracy" and "The Flash" sought the same vein of score, to the point of bringing Elfman himself onto those respective projects.


"The Dark Knight" is a sweeping epic of the largest of scales and it's score is no exception, crafted with skill and sensitivity into a body of work that is suspensful, tragic, wounded and ultimately bold and heroic.

It's a morality play told in music, where the emotional subtext of the film isn't diminished by the lack of visual accompanyment. On the contrary, the emotion of watching the movie is just as stimulated by listening to the score alone. It's that powerful.

In the fashion of "Batman Begins," the score opens on a tense, thrumming motif before a new and distinct sound pierces our senses.

A high, whiny guitar string that stratches and swells and bouys in volume and weight as we see a bat emerge from blue flame.



This is the musical note associated with the Joker.

And already, before the film has even begun, his haunting, terrifying presence descends upon us like a black cloud of anarchy that will hang over the entirety of the score, waiting to lash out when we least expect it.

The meat of the "Begins" score was driving beats as dictated by heavy strings and an admittedly redundant undercurrent motif that plays like waves throughout the tracks. "Knight" is given the same undercurrent as a means of connectivity to the previous film but the buck stops there as far as comparison.

Where "Begins" was more refined and infantile in its approach, "Knight" amplifies the motif on all cylinders. More strings, more brass, more tension.


Like a vice, the score closes in and holds us in its grasp as it builds and mounts into dizzying heights of aggression and suspense, not unlike the Joker himself.

"Bank Robbery" is the quintessential example of the overall effect taken with the score. You can clearly hear the music echoing the beat-motif laced throughout "Begins" but it's harder here. It's as if the foundations that we witnessed with Batman coming to fruition in Gotham City are being viciously corrupted by the Joker and the technique almost acts like a correlation between the two legendary adversaries. This is evidenced at the end of the track as the Joker's presence gradually disappears and Batman's is finally introduced with "Find the Batman" and "Buyer Beware."



Following a tremendous plucking motif, I love the added string work for the cue, which appears alongside Jim Gordon as he stands beside the lit Bat-Signal about ten seconds into the cue. It creates the passage of time; the idea that Batman's existance, while speculated, is permeated throughout the criminal underworld, urging scum such as the Czech and Scarecrow to take precautions in their dealings lest the dark knight find them. The strings forty four seconds are also wonderful.

The track quickly dives into the sound effect motif accompanied with ferocious percussion as the fake Batmen begin their assault until, finally, Batman reveals himself and his full theme follows suit and the new string material is reintroduced.

With all of its incredibly percussive action material, Zimmer and Howard also introduce a new bed of material in their musical interpretation of crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent.


"Hostile Witness" opens with what I'd dub the 'Harvey Dent' theme, rendered in a poetically crafted three-note succession on piano, followed by a five-note piece on french horn.


This cue reminds us that for all the corruption and subterfuge that runs rampant in Gotham, there are, as Bruce said himself, still good people here. Dent is one such individual, seeking lawful means for chipping away at the criminal heiarchy that Salvatore Maroni now sits upon.

The track is a beautiful representation of the justice that slowly but surely is doing its part, however minut it may be, to reclaim Gotham City from its ugly underbelly.

However, given his omnipresence, the Joker absolutely reigns over the majority of the score; both his own presence and the resultant chaos of his actions are


I love the escalation of "Joker Crashes the Party" as the aforementioned chaos crescendos, all consuming as it takes over the tender strings of Harvey asking Rachel her thoughts on marraige.

It's tragedy incarnate.

There's no hope in this Gotham City; not so long as the Joker's madness thrives in the streets, destroying everything in its path. As before, he corrupts the score everywhere he pops up and this is once again demonstrated by his motif's appearance at the end of the cue.

As the Joker's actions push our heroes to a moral breaking point, the tension lifts on high as Batman, Gordon and Dent shift priority from the mob to the new and immediate threat in their midst.



"Blood on My Hands" highlight's Bruce's dilemma; torn between the life he wants with Rachel, the life he leads as Batman and the ugly truth of the edge the Joker's efforts are attempting to push him over.

The action picks up with the collection of tracks "Truck Convoy," "Pod Deploys," "Batman Down" and "We Gotcha."

The Joker's theme slams us into the sequence as the wheels are already set in motion against the Police as they transport Harvey Dent via convoy.


As the trucks pass by a Firetruck lit ablaze (get it?), the track swells enormous and it's so overbearing and maddening and threatening; you can feel that things are about to take an ugle turn as the convoy descends to lower 5th street given the obstruction.

With the majority of the action unscored as the Joker and his men work to run the convoy off the road and assassinate Dent, the music picks back up with Batman in "Pod Deploy" as he emerges from the wreckage of the Tumbler in the new Bat-Pod, proving that you can't keep a good vigilante down for long.


"Batman Down" reiterates the Joker's theme as he emerges from the overturned semi-truck, egging Batman on to kill him; to end the madness the only way they both know he could.

It's musically striking to say the least.

"Come on, come on I want you to do it, I want you to do it c'mon hit me. Hit me. Hit me, c'mon HIT ME. HIT ME!" 

As the sequence closes with "We Gotcha," it appears as though the Joker's won the day with his theme opening in dominance. However, it's abruptly interrupted with the reintroduction of the string motif that I suppose you could dub the 'Law' theme as Gordon reveals himself, apprehending the Joker and earning his promotion to Gotham City's police Commissioner.

The score takes a slow burn in the aftermath of the truck chase.

It's here that we're introduced to a new Joker theme, secondary to the central motif of the character.

Demonstrated in his intimate one on one with Batman in the MCU interrogation room, "You Complete Me" is a wonderfully refreshing track that's far more reserved in its scale than the action cues. It's quiet, it's calm and yet its arguably just as powerful.


Here, Batman and the Joker aren't at war with one another with fists or rocket launchers.


It's a battle of ideologies, of methodologies.

It's the most vulnerable these two mythic figures ever appear in the movie and it's beautiful.

but things quickly pick up once more with two of my favorite tracks from the collection.


"Wired" is a tour de force of symphonic power and emotional resonance as Batman and Gordon race against time to save Harvey and Rachel from death. There's a wonderful inclusion of the piano motif from "Batman Begins," that one would recognize as "Aftermath" from that score.


In the previous film it was used to represent a loss of innocence, as exampled by the loss of Bruce's when his parents were murdered and the loss of the innocence of relationship between Bruce and Rachel when it's decided that they can't be together because of his decision to be Batman.

That innocence concept remains, but it becomes more desperate and with more at stake. Harvey Dent is a physical manifestation of the law and order in Gotham and in his case, innocence has matured into hope.

Now the piano threatens a loss of that hope.

The pulsating string work is also beautifully rendered with the shots of Batman speeding through the streets on the Bat-Pod.

All the while, littered throughout the track, the Joker's theme permeates, building once more to his eventual breakout from the MCU as the cue blows out much like his cell-phone bomb as Gordon and his cops gun it faster while Batman arrives just in time to save Harvey, but not Rachel as he intended.

The Joker's theme cues Batman's entrance into the room as Harvey screams in anguish over what his being there means for Rachel.



As desperate and struggling as "Wired" was, those same elements amp up even more for "Hospital Bomb Scare," which is split between two seperate tracks on the album.

With the Joker's threat to lay a random hospital to waste unless Mr. Reese is murdered within the hour, the track peels back the veil of civility in Gotham as the city quickly falls prety to madness and widespread panic.


Exceptional moments in the cues include the escelating strings one minute and twenty eight seconds into "Part 1" and especially the bit at two minutes and seventeen seconds with the crashing six-note motif pulled from the Batman theme as doctors, nurses and orderlies scramble to evacuate the patients out of Gotham General.

Other cues do their part to create the tense, calibrated atmosphere of the movie.


One of my favorite cues from the original studio release has to be "Harvey Two Face," which is distinguishable in its representation of the overall framework of Dent's heroism and eventual tragic fall.


This track is wonderful in its composition of several motifs; I especially love the material that runs from two minutes and twelve seconds in to just over the three minute mark.

There's also a wonderfully tragic bit of brass at five and a half minutes in that's just too good to put into words.

There's also the thundering percussion and low strings of "Sonar System" which are incredible as Bruce convinces Lucius Fox to assist in his capture of the Joker.

This brings to mind something.

One of the things I love about the film and the score is that even with each new tragedy and complication that's piled onto the narrative, you still have Batman and Gordon at the core of the piece, fighting to maintain something, ANYTHING as far as hope.

Joker's insanity sacrifices so much and you feel the desperation of these men as they struggle with each defeat to keep it from getting out of hand. At first they fight to save Harvey from death. In spite of doing so, he's disfigured and the public face of the 'White Knight' is tarnished. When they fail Dent and his psyche is fractured, they fight to save him from the threat on Gotham General but he disappears.

When they can't find him, they're STILL fighting to undo what's been done to their champion.

"How long can you keep this quiet?"



Things amp up for the film's thrilling finale with "Storming Pruitt Building," as Batman's theme flourishes to life, representing his desperate struggle to protect the hostages, incapacitate both the Joker's henchmen and the police and ultimately in reaching the Clown Prince himself.

The track plays very much like a supped up adaptation of the cue from the Monastery battle in "Begins," but there are several additions to the material, fleshing out out, raising the stakes.

There's an incredibly heroic addition to the Batman theme here with a descending three-note scheme that can be clearly heard at a minute and six seconds into the piece.

I love that!

The Joker is given his proper curtain call with "A Little Push" as he explains himself (somewhat) to Batman in chilling fashion. As with the entirety of the film, the cue once more taps into the dark well of the Joker's screaming guitar motif as Batman comes to the terrifying realization of the full ramifications of what the Joker's done.


"What did you do?"

The four-note secondary theme from the interrogation scene reappears before the strings swell and plumet into a hollow vibrating tone, possibly to mimic Batman's heart as it drops from his chest.

After Batman's defeat of Two-Face and rescuing Gordon's son, the score ends on a somber note as Batman decides to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the peace he and Gordon have fought for; the peace Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent died for.


With "I'm Not A Hero," The piano motif reappears as Batman's intent becomes painfully clear to Gordon.

"I'm whatever Gotham needs me to be."

The track sprawls across the moral scope of the story we've seen played out as Gordon, Fox, Alfred and Batman all feel the effects of what they've endured and it's a piece that's ironically uplifting in its hopelessness.

The film's ending is not one of victory for Batman, not in the least, and the score properly reflects that. And yet, it does so in a manner that still deems him heroic for the choice he's making.

It's a tremendous fit to what is overall a brilliant score.

In the end, "The Dark Knight" was knocked out of contention at the Academy Awards for musical score on a technicality, something to do with it being a dual effort between Zimmer and Howard.

At this point, awards are of little consequence and weight.

The score for "The Dark Knight" is thrilling in its more character driven moments and just grand in its larger-than-life point.

An amazing body of work from two very distinguished and talented composers.



Hans Zimmer

 James Newton Howard

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