I’ve trashed some of Hans Zimmer’s work in past ‘Composers’ posts, and I’m not regretting doing so or denying anything I said. However Zimmer, as I mentioned in ‘My Favorite Film Composers’ post, can compose good scores in between all of the same-sounding ones. The Dark Knight, which he wrote with James Newton Howard, is almost a decade old but still listenable if you approach it the right way. It’s also one of my favorite Zimmer scores to date, won a Grammy, and marked the final collaboration to date between the two composers.
Some people may consider this another same-sounding score from the German who reuses music like no other composer, and although I see where they come from, I think this one offerers a little more variety and is better overall than similar works.
In order to appreciate this soundtrack fully, you have to understand where Zimmer was coming from, especially in the Joker theme. Director Christopher Nolan worked with Zimmer to get the sound of the Joker correct, and Zimmer eventually made a multi-thousand bar mixtape of different sounds he’d created, which Nolan listened to on a flight. A few of the sounds in that mixtape were retained for the final tracks. Eventually, Zimmer got the theme down to a cello with it’s string being tightened slowly, producing two seamlessly interweaving notes.
This experimental combination forms the basis of the track ‘Why So Serious?’ an over nine-minute mix of different sounds used by Zimmer for the film’s antagonist. It isn’t traditional-sounding and not everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoy it.
Other tracks highlight the driving, thundering strings used throughout the score and Batman’s often absent theme, especially on ‘Like a Dog Chasing Cars’ and ‘Aggressive Expansion’. Unlike Zimmer’s news-network theme for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Batman’s theme actually sounds like something you’d associate the character with. ‘Harvey Two-Face’ showcases Newton Howard’s contribution with a softer piano theme for Harvey Dent/Two-Face.
‘Agent of Chaos’ is among my favorite tracks because of it’s range. Unlike some of Zimmer’s other pieces which are all-loud and thundering throughout, ‘Chaos’ weaves between loud and soft sections while also creating heightened tension with a brief but noticeable use of Joker’s theme. Tracks such as ‘The Ferries’ and ‘I’m Not a Hero’ also use this range to good effect.
The score can be found in physical format in the standard edition, but a collector’s edition was released back in 2008. Several people online have compiled the editions together to create something close to a complete score. ‘Bank Robbery Prologue’ is the first track on the collector’s edition. Despite me saying I don’t like an overuse of synthesizer in film scores, here the synth blends to create some cool-sounding sections along with all the other sounds used throughout.
Overall, you may want to give this score a listen, as it does lend itself to replay on certain tracks with a large amount of instruments and depth. Unlike Zimmer’s future works, this represents the time when this type of score was still pretty new and his work on here shows.