Review #125: (Soundtrack) Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard – The Dark Knight

Film – The Dark Knight (2008)
Composer – Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard

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The Dark Knight is a comic book/action/thriller directed by award winning director Christopher Nolan and featuring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman amongst many others. This is the 2nd in Nolan’s Batman Trilogy and is regarded as one of the best comic book related films made to date. The Dark Knight focuses on Batman now being an established figure, taking down the mob and introducing his biggest enemy The Joker. The Dark Knight was awarded with numerous Oscar nominations after its release, winning ‘Best Sound Editing’ and ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for Heath Ledger’s incredible performance as The Joker. unfortunately Heath Ledger passed away not long after The Dark Knight, but left an incredible legacy behind him.

After the fantastic job Hans Zimmer and James Howard did on Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan knew they had to be the ones to write for the sequels, catching the tone of the realistic Batman universe Nolan was creating perfectly. There are often glimmers of joy and sadness in The Dark Knights soundtrack, but as with the tone of the entire film it is mainly based on creating tension and displaying aurally the madness/chaos of the Joker. The key to this soundtrack I feel is more the way in which the instruments are played, rather than what they are playing or what is playing, as it is simply orchestral (with a bit of electronic instrumentation) like most Zimmer scores. The Joker’s main theme throughout almost all scenes with him include this scraping of razor blades on strings and dynamically aggressive percussion, representing the chaos/anarchy of the Joker in music form. The opposite of the Joker is Batman in all ways, and this is put forward to us through far more organised orchestral music, including strings, percussion and brass played in a far more traditional sense. These more structured moments include very large/epic in size arrangements (as is Zimmer’s music), with lavish but still moody/dark melodies/harmonies and dynamics that slowly build throughout, to again build that tense feeling until the chaos of the Joker arrives.

Hans Zimmer in particular has done many large films over the years and some fantastic scores. I personally think that The Dark Knight was one of his best film arrangements, displaying creativity in his portrayal of the Joker that he may not have been able to use in other films. The Dark Knight is a film were everything from directing to acting to editing to the score were done with passion and innovation which lead to an incredible piece of work.

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