‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Soundtrack Review: A Hans Zimmer Masterpiece

Tj Weaver July 19, 2012 6
‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Soundtrack Review: A Hans Zimmer Masterpiece

By far one of the most anticipated soundtracks of 2012, The Dark Knight Rises OST seals Christopher Nolan’s trilogy with an intensely epic sound that won’t be forgotten. Composer Hans Zimmer cleverly blends the familiar with the new, all while creating unique sounds for both Bane and Selina Kyle. The soundtrack, just like the last two, tells its own story; Zimmer doesn’t rely on recycled tracks to carry the score, instead he infuses each song with his own touch of magic.

In the Beginning…

The score begins with “A Storm is Coming”, as the familiar sound of “Verspertilo” of the Batman Begins OST chimes in a slightly different count. Clocking in at just 37 seconds, it’s just enough, barely teasing us for what’s to come. Zimmer then moves us into “On Thin Ice”. It’s one of the few tracks without the percussion section, and stands out for that very reason. This is the first time we hear Batman’s theme, it’s faint, but definitely there. Perhaps signaling towards a Gotham in search of their hero. The song bleeds into “Gotham’s Reckoning”.

Bane’s Theme – “Gotham’s Reckoning”

In one of my favorite tracks on the entire score, “Gotham’s Reckoning”, Zimmer creates a sound that introduces the ruthless Bane in just the right amount of intensity. It’s quiet, but deadly and powerful. The song begins with the same repetition heard in several TV spots. Just as the track decrescendos, the distant chant of Bane’s army chimes in. At 2:43 it’s off to the races, as the percussion and heavy brass cut in, giving Bane’s theme a much more definitive sound. And toward the end, the song crescendos as the choir fades out. “Gotham’s Reckoning” is Bane.

Selina Kyle – “Mind If I Cut In”

If anyone asked me to give one sound that encompassed Selina Kyle’s character, it would be the sound of diamonds falling in a metal pan. “Harvey Two-Face” and “Why So Serious” from The Dark Knight OST is to Harvey Dent and The Joker, as “Mind If I Cut In” is to Selina Kyle. The violin’s sly runs, combined with the repetitious sound of falling chains, presents Selina as a woman with her own interior motives. Not to mention, the childlike finger plucking of piano keys. Amongst the rest of the soundtrack, it’s definitely a standout.

Zimmer’s Attention to Detail

What I particularly enjoy about this soundtrack apart from the last two, is Zimmer’s detail to the iconic themes of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Up until “Despair”, the tracks, “Born in the Darkness”, “The Fire Rises”, and “Nothing Out There”, give way to the themes that defined Nolan’s Batman back in 2005 — “Antrozous”, “Myotis” & “Molossus”.

As one would expect, “The Fire Rises” is the score’s “Like a Dog Chasing Cars”. There’s a lot going on in this one track, as it pushes the score into new heights. In particular, my favorite section of the track is at 1:31; Zimmer gives each orchestra section their mini chase — the brass section starts the infectious sound, hands it off to the violin section, and the percussion finishes it off. At 4:10 Bane’s theme heard in “Gotham’s Reckoning” cuts in, and from then on it’s the Bane show in all its glory.

“Nothing Out There” is another stand out track. Zimmer combines the chains from “Mind if I Cut In” with the sounds of Rachel’s theme, heard at the end of “Agent of Chaos” from The Dark Knight. It’s as if seeing Selina brings up Rachel for Bruce or perhaps Marion Cotillard’s character bring back the memories.

The sound we’ve come to know and love finally appears in “Despair”. Zimmer centers the song around the climax of the epic brass sound associated with The Dark Knight — it’s the same sound heard in “Corynorhinus” in Batman Begins. Like a reborn hero, the brass slowly builds from 1:08 to 1:30, ending in a grand fortissimo. Then silence. At 2:20 you know for sure Batman has returned to Gotham as a short clip of  ”A Dark Knight” ends the song.

Controlled Chaos

From here on out it’s purely Batman vs Bane. In “Fear Will Find You”, Zimmer layers on both characters’ themes, one on top of the other, as to create controlled chaos. It’s simply beautiful as the two sounds, completely different of one another, battle back and forth, one giving way to the other. It’s chaotic but controlled, as the brass and drums create tension between the return of the choir’s chant.

Have you ever listened to a song and not realize why it moved you so? That’s what “Why Do We Fall” did to me. I sat listening to it several times and couldn’t figure out why I loved it. It’s absolutely brilliant. The song seems to combine a sort of pathos with the epic sound of our vigilante. The title speaks volumes, but the sound Zimmer assigns the title just tops everything on the album.

Out of all the tracks, “Imagine the Fire “ shows Zimmer’s brilliance. The addition of what sounds to be either piccolos or high pitched violins at the beginning adds an eerie sound to the piece, as if we’re waiting for Batman’s death (and as of writing this, I have not seen the film). Zimmer even changes Batman’s theme by dropping several notes half an octave. And the addition of the bells! When you think it’s over, at 2:43 Zimmer adds this drowned and muffled horn, that puts Bane in mind. And once again, the two sounds battle it out, but it’s a bit more controlled than “Fear Will Find You”. Add in the choir’s chant at 4:35 and and mesmeric violin runs and Zimmer shows once again why he’s at the top of his game.

A Heroic But Tragic End

“Necessary Evil” is more like a collage of several songs from the last two scores. It’s a bit choppy as the track jumps back and forth. Although not one of my favorite tracks, the song is more a tribute to the franchise. “Rise” ends the trilogy on dark note, there’s little hope. Heroic? Yes, but it’s also tragic. The song symbolizes Bruce’s climb from beginning to end, but by listening to the song it’s hard to tell exactly what happens to Bruce. Zimmer again ties everything up as he reuses the same distant, high-pitched voice from Batman Begins‘ “Tadarida”.


Overall Score: 4.5 Stars Out of 5

My Top 6 Favorite Tracks:

  1. “Imagine the Fire”/”Fear Will Find You”
  2. “Gotham’s Reckoning”
  3. “The Fire Rises”
  4. “Why Do We Fall?”
  5. “Despair”

Comparing All Three Soundtracks

Each soundtrack is great in its own right. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard created a sound so epic that for years to come people will associate their work with Batman. There’s one sound, one or two tracks, that will always define each score. For me at least, “Molossus” and “Antrozous” = Batman Begins. “Like A Dog Chasing Cars” & “Agent of Choas” = The Dark Knight. And “Gotham’s Reckoning” and “The Fire Rises” = The Dark Knight Rises. While the Batman Begins soundtrack focused heavily on Bruce/Batman, both the sounds of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises were defined by their villains, The Joker and Bane.

For me, The Dark Knight OST was a bit too slow. Not to mention the crescendoing high pitch sound, symbolic of the Joker, is not something I could listen to on repeat. Did it work for the character? Absolutely. It was eerie in every way possible. The Dark Knight Rises OST, as great as it was, just didn’t have everything I was looking for. The score doesn’t have one song as epic as “Molossus” or “Like A Dog Chasing Cars”; instead it’s a lot of great songs in one score. The Batman Begins OST was perfect. The score combined several different sounds that were sympathetic to the characters relationships and situations. In tracks such as “Barbastella” and “Macrotus” Zimmer and Howard played to Rachel and Bruce’s relationship perfectly. Unfortunately, we lose a lot of that sound as the trilogy the ends. And yes, Rachel passes away in The Dark Knight, but the sound for The Dark Knight Rises just wasn’t balanced well. There’s a lot of bold and brilliant sounds, and just not enough emotion.

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Soundtrack List

    • Jhicks989

      Great review I agree with most of your statements but I think of all Chris Nolan Batman Soundtracks The Dark Knight OST is the best. The final track “A Dark Knight” (16 mins long) is the best overall track I listen to it on my I pod every time I race on my bike.

    • http://www.bestheadphonesforclassicalmusic.com/ Classical Music Headphones

      Excellent in-depth assessment of each track. I agree that–while I love “The Dark Knight” soundtrack, there’s certain Joker-centric tracks that are a little too distracting to listen to. They make you feel uneasy (which was probably the point). I wrote a review of the soundtrack as well, if you’re interested: 

    • Sorme

      Interesting thing about this films soundtrack is that it is played in the movie in the same key as the OST. In the first two they are a semi tone higher than originally written and recorded on the OST. As Hans Zimmer seems to have an affinity with D minor as lots of his music in the first two is in D minor. (also in Gladiator and music for call of duty: modern warfare 2)

    • SL

      Great review, thanks. Just bought this soundtrack and I have a question that I hope you who are much more knowledgable about soundtracks than I am could answer. I thought that by buying the soundtrack I would get the track playing over the end credits. That was what I was after, but they appear not to be on this album. Any idea where I can get the end credits music?

      Many thanks,

    • Perrinzki

      If this makes the score better, listen to ‘Risen from Darkness’, it’s that ‘Molossus’ the normal score lacked.