Aural Fixation - Large

With temperatures on the rise and Comic-Con officially over, there is one place comic book fans can still find solace in the middle of these hot summer months – your local movie theaters. Christopher Nolan is poised to complete his epic Batman trilogy with the highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, set to hit theaters this weekend. Not only will Christian Bale be returning as Gotham’s caped crusader, he will once again be joined by his trusty butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), his business manager/tech wizard, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and Batman champion, Commission Gordon (Gary Oldman) – to name a few. And in true Nolan fashion, some other faces familiar to the director’s work will help round out this final battle with Inception alums Tom Hardy taking on the villain role as Bane and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as hopeful police officer, John Blake.

But Nolan’s affinity for working with those he has before does not stop at the cast. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight composer Hans Zimmer (whose score for Inception was one of the most memorable of 2010) returns to finish out the trilogy as well. While most of us will have to wait until this Friday (or for you late-nighters, Thursday at midnight) to see the conclusion of this heroic tale, Zimmer’s score (now available) takes us there now.

As we heard in one of the first trailers for The Dark Knight Rises, the booming, kinetic percussion and ominous chanting (apparently saying, “Rise”) that gave us our first glimpse into the sound of this final film is a theme that persists throughout the score’s first few tracks (“Gotham’s Reckoning” and “The Fire Rises.”) These tracks hint at a much more sinister and (more importantly) brutal force set to hit Gotham City and while this score will undoubtedly grab your ears, it is the juxtaposition between the more innocent sounds (like a child singing the “National Anthem” or Zimmer’s use of tinkling bells and piano) that make the score for The Dark Knight Rises not only ear-catching, but equally unnerving. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) warns Bruce Wayne (Bale) that Gotham’s seemingly peaceful existence is coming to a rapid end and Zimmer’s score helps further that feeling in the trailer (and the full score) by creating these moments of near stillness and calm which he then floods with a cacophony of sounds.

The trailer that followed also drove home this idea of the “calm before the storm” with only a few piano notes playing under the foreboding dialogue as we watch Gotham, almost systematically, being destroyed. When the score (and the chanting) starts to pick up, we begin to see (and hear) how this is all leading up to a climatic end. This feeling is fully realized in the full-length score where the hints given to us in these trailers are given room to breathe and develop with Zimmer skillfully expressing this range of emotion of peaceful to stormy, making this final chapter not only a spectacle to see, but also one to hear.

Zimmer utilizes the entire orchestra through a robust string section, layered wind instruments, and blaring horns and guides each to create beautiful sounding stanzas which can quickly devolve into terrifying ones. But it is that unmistakable percussion drives that it all. Zimmer has helped to paint a sonic picture over the past two films from the tentative sound of a hero finding his footing in Batman Begins to the bittersweet, mischievous sound of The Dark Knight and combines elements from each of these previous scores to bring everything a head here. Zimmer had been joined by composer James Newton Howard on the two previous Batman scores, but we find him solo this time around and that singular voice rings clear.

The Dark Knight Rises‘ score adeptly flows between the feelings of hesitation to that of unrelenting anger which seem to sonically represent the conflicting views of our hero versus his newest (and possibly deadliest) adversary. The theme that has driven Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is also incorporated here and works as a haunting callback to the previous two films while also tying all three films together. Zimmer’s history with the series has clearly given him a keen ear to the world of Batman and he goes so far as to give a slight nod to Batman’s vehicles (which have been as much of a draw to the films as the performances and stunning visuals) by putting effects on the percussion on tracks like “Imagine The Fire,” making it sound almost like the revving of a car or motorcycle engine.

It is clear that all the stops were pulled out for this final film and Zimmer’s score is as decidedly Batman as it is grand. When the score nears its end and you can almost feel the film’s climax many of us have been waiting with baited breath to see, and there is no question that Batman fans and film fans alike are sure to be sitting on the edges of their seats as this final battle is waged. But in staying true to that unsettling duality of calm versus chaos the hopeful, slightly open ended, feel of the score’s final track, “Rise,” seems to hint that even though The Dark Knight Rises is being billed as the trilogy’s “conclusion,” this story may not be done quite yet.

The score for The Dark Knight Rises is available through WaterTower Music:

1. “A Storm Is Coming”
2. “On Thin Ice”
3. “Gotham’s Reckoning”
4.” Mind If I Cut In?”
5. “Underground Army”
6. “Born in Darkness”
7. “The Fire Rises”
8. “Nothing Out There”
9. “Despair”
10. “Fear Will Find You”
11. “Why Do We Fall?”
12. “Death By Exile”
13. “Imagine the Fire”
14. “Necessary Evil”
15. “Rise”

All songs composed by Hans Zimmer.

What did you think of the score for The Dark Knight Rises? How do you think it compared to the scores for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight?

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