Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises – Thoughts on the Soundtrack

The Dark Knight Rises – Thoughts on the Soundtrack

The music of Hans Zimmer has become indelibly recognized by both casual movie-goers, and those who take joy in listening to music written for film. Though, of late, the phrase “As written for film” has become lessened and abused – and Composers of the Digital Age are no stranger to subjecting such abuse to film music.

Hans Zimmer’s style of music hasn’t shifted incredibly so from his last major outing with Christopher Nolan for the film Inception (2010). It would be dishonest of me to say I found the music for Inception terrible or unpleasant to listen to, so what I will say that in a Narrative perspective of film music, Inception didn’t follow to suit. It accompanied and complimented the dynamic ideas presented in the film, though without developing any of the themes.

Here in The Dark Knight Rises, Zimmer exercises his usual techniques and wares, though with some added flare on the sides. The banging and clanging which you may have heard in On Stranger Tides covers many aspects of this album – predominately for the character of Bane and to emphasise the action scenes. I would say that his approach to composing is sloppy once you consider the world of film scoring – where the music is made for the visuals. Unlike traditional film composing where the composer is required to add and accentuate the ebbs and flows of the narrative, Zimmer will compose something which he thinks sounds good and then, along with Nolan, they fit it to the film. So where you may have deep thought and suggestion of other motives in a typical track in, let’s say, John Williams’ Empire Strikes Back – where we have the tension and growing love between Han and Leia strained through the music, you will instead here something which just sounds pleasing without the thought put into it. With Zimmer there’s more style over substance, not a balance or indeed a reverse of substance over style. Casual movie goers will find this music pleasing, and probably more so than thought provoking music from Williams. (I love John Williams’ compositions. For more on this point see my post Passive Reaction to Film Scores and The Hidden Gem of Film Music
The added flare I had mentioned a while ago represents the experimental composition explored by Zimmer for TDKR. You’ll hear this in Mind If I Cut In where we are introduced to Catwoman’s theme. This is a fairly charming theme which was rather unexpected of Zimmer. (Mermaids in On Stranger Tides is another charming piece, I might also add) Here we have a reasonably competent theme which progresses in a steady fashion with some fluttering strings – strings which are also used by Zimmer to describe the interactions and bond of both Catwoman and Batman. I thought this was a nice decision on Zimmer’s part and is the first step towards a developmental score where we are witness to the themes developing along with the characters.

 The only other track which may be of some revelation to Zimmer detractors at how interesting it could be – is in On Thin Ice, here we have a sentimental, ethereal version of the main theme (those two notes usually blast and resonate in the brass section (not too dissimilar to his Inception theme). On Thin Ice represents a depressed side to Batman and Bruce Wayne’s theme, which diminishes into a third note – possibly inferring that there is more to the ideology of who Batman, and who Bruce is and wants to become.
I was lucky to be part of the score as Hans Zimmer had let the public record their voices for some choral chanting using a program called UJAM. The Dehshay Basarah chant is unusually addictive and means ‘He Rises’. The chanting is sparingly applied though throughout the soundtrack and becomes a tad bit messy when it transforms and mutates into Banes theme – which isn’t incredibly strong as a theme for a villain. But I guess it fits his character to some degree.
The other tracks are really rehashes of music from the previous films but has been pumped up for this final instalment. Overall, it is enjoyable as a soundtrack for casual listening – like something you’d listen to in the car; any thought provoking material is stripped away.

Film/Visual Cohesiveness: 8/10
Rhys’s Rating: 7/10

Track Listing
o    1. A Storm Is Coming (0:37)
o    2. On Thin Ice (2:55)*
o    3. Gotham's Reckoning (4:08)*
o    4. Mind If I Cut In? (3:27)*
o    5. Underground Army (3:12)
o    6. Born In Darkness (1:57)
o    7. The Fire Rises (5:33)
o    8. Nothing Out There (2:51)
o    9. Despair (3:14)
o    10. Fear Will Find You (3:08)*
o    11. Why Do We Fall? (2:03)
o    12. Death By Exile (0:23)
o    13. Imagine The Fire (7:25)
o    14. Necessary Evil (3:16)
o    15. Rise (7:11)

*=Tracks of Interest

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