Almost as exciting and beloved as the movies themselves, the Dark Knight scores by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard are easily one of the most anticipated events that accompany these films when they hit screens. Howard chose to sit part 3 out, not wanting interject himself into the stronger work relationship Nolan and Zimmer developed during Inception, so now all weight rest on Zimmer’s shoulders. Needless to say, it is now clear what a standalone Zimmer/Batman score sounds like.
Heavy in the brawn department, Zimmer’s score to The Dark Knight Rises is often a freight train to your senses; a metaphorical piece of massive shrapnel blowing your cranium to pieces. And that is absolutely what he does best. Very few action scores reach the levels of pulse-pounding, “get up and kick something” excitement quite like his. Incorporating massive kettle drums and thousands of voices chanting in Moroccan reaches a base level in mankind’s instinctual aggressiveness that could be described as near-genius for the result it is going for. This is likely the best action music that will be released all year.
Just like so many of his recent scores, the highlights of Zimmer’s albums are the newly written material. “Gotham’s Reckoning” is the most thrilling track on the disc, accompanying one of the most thrilling scenes in the movie. The music boiling underneath for the first half before it suddenly explodes into chaotic villainy for the second half is fantastic to listen to. I still can’t get enough of Bane’s theme.
“Mind If I Cut In?” is an interesting change of style from the rest of the album. The slinky, ambiguous piano melody can only be referring to Miss Selina Kyle/ Catwoman. Admittedly, I’ve already heard a somewhat similar musical concept to what Zimmer is doing here with his other recent screen femme-fatal, Irene Adler of Sherlock Holmes, but the mystery and intrigue of this track fits very nicely with what that character brings.
“Underground Army” is like something straight out of Tron or even Inception. The metronomic pulse of the synth pushes the whole foreboding and seething track along.
There is also a new theme introduced at the ends of “The Fire Rises” and “Imagine the Fire”, as well as in a much slower, somber form in “Necessary Evil”, that speaks of the incredible grimness and evil that will unfurl at certain parts in the film.
Those are, in a nutshell, the reasons this disc is ultimately worthwhile. It has some other great action tracks like “Fear Will Find You”, in addition to “The Fire Rises” and “Imagine the Fire”, but they all speak to the biggest downfall of this production: far too much of it is recycled material.
So many tracks are just been there, done that. And I don’t mean “I’ve heard that part before”. I mean “I’ve heard that before, played the exact same way, at the exact same volume, with the same instruments playing, and why is it taking up nearly half this album”. The final track, “Rise”, is seven minutes of stuff I’ve heard on, not one, but two previous albums. This is something Zimmer has been doing lately on his sequel scores, Dark Knight included, and much as I’d like to give it a pass for keeping in line with the previous movies, I can’t help but feel just a little gypped once again.
There is also no reasonable excuse that two out of the fifteen tracks present, “A Storm is Coming” and “Death by Exile”, are close to 30 seconds or less, with nothing really happening in them.
Not that I like to dwell on what could have been, but it would have been interesting to hear what Howard would have contributed to this final movie. His contributions to the previous movies brought a real emotional core to contrast Zimmer’s aggression. Zimmer does provide some melancholy sections, notably “On Thin Ice”, but his droning, murky fog musical approach to the more complex emotions isn’t quite as satisfying as some of the best of what Howard has to offer.
The music will, no doubt, fit like a glove when played with the movie (it always has), but for anyone who has the score to Batman Begins &/or The Dark Knight sitting on their shelf, you may be feeling a little deja-vu with Rises. The new material is what makes this album worthwhile and that encapsulates about half of it, so choose for yourself whether you want the whole thing or whether you just want to pick and choose certain tracks. Just don’t be surprised if you catch yourself mouthing “Deshay, Deshay, Basara, Basara” for the next few weeks.