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The Dark Knight
Album Cover Art
Regular CD
Special Edition (Limited) CD
Album 2 Cover Art
Collector's Edition Set
Album 3 Cover Art
Co-Composed and Co-Produced by:

Co-Produced by:
Alex Gibson

Co-Conducted by:
Matt Dunkley
Gavin Greenaway

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Conducted by:
Bruce Fowler

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Brad Dechter
Elizabeth Finch
Kevin Kaska
Randy Kerber
Suzette Moriarty
Walter Fowler

Ambient Design by:
Mel Wesson

Arranged by:
Henry Jackman
Labels Icon
Warner Brothers Records
(Regular/Special Editions)
(July 15th, 2008)

Warner Brothers Records
(Collector's Edition Set)
(December 9th, 2008)
Availability Icon
There were initally two CD albums commercially available for this score, followed in subsequent months by another CD album and an LP release. Of the two albums released in July, 2008, one is a regular product in a jewel case and the other is a special edition digipak that was reportedly limited in its production run and therefore was offered at a retail price $2 higher than the regular CD album. Released on August 12th, 2008 is a double LP release on heavy-weight (180 gram) vinyl, utilizing the same cover art as the regular commercial CD. Its initial retail price was $33. The contents of all these albums, according to Warner, is the same.

Warner Brothers also immediately advertised a "collector's edition" album to be released at an undetermined date in subsequent months, featuring special artwork. That product came in the form of a 2-CD set that added several more cues and remixes on the second CD. At a retail cost of over $55, the set's additional music and packaging was very overpriced.
Nominated for a BAFTA Award and a Grammy Award.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you never grow tired of Hans Zimmer's predictable action and drama scoring methods of the 2000's, for The Dark Knight is, despite the composer's unusual handling of the Joker, extremely consistent with his previous works.

Avoid it... if you already own the album for Batman Begins and haven't listened to it for a year or two, especially in the case of the sequel score's ridiculously priced and underachieving 2-CD special edition.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 7/12/08, REVISED 4/7/10
The Dark Knight: (Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard) The superlatives don't seem to stop for director Christopher Nolan's vision of Gotham City. Three years after reintroducing the legendary comic book hero with Batman Begins, Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, have fashioned a sequel that is, by nearly all critical accounts, a superior and transcendent summer blockbuster. In The Dark Knight, the Nolan brothers build upon the framework that established the origins of the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins with the addition of the characters of Harvey Dent and the Joker. Stunning cinematography and art direction are prerequisites for any outstanding super hero film, and The Dark Knight spares no expense in its sense of spectacle. The rejuvenation of the Batman franchise from the soulless sequels that followed Tim Burton's original two films is quite remarkable, though for film music fans, the split in opinion over the changing winds of the concept's musical sound has been as ferocious as it has been polarizing. In its most basic foundation, the debate pits identities for the titular character defined by two distinctly different composers, men who not only tackled the task from opposite directions, but faced entirely different directorial styles in the process. There will always be heated discussions about whether Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer better captured the essence of Batman (and let's not forget Elliot Goldenthal), but the roots of that disparity are inherent in the manner with which Burton and Nolan so differently treated the character and his universe. Never has Hollywood presented such a conundrum for fans to ponder: two very successful but extremely distinct views of the same concept in their own franchises. Nolan could very well be on track for artistic dominance and might eventually surpass Warner Brothers' adjusted earnings for the first four films combined, but there will always remain respect for Burton's original Batman, as well as a notch on many "guilty pleasure" lists for Batman Returns. The inevitable comparison in soundtracks is a troublesome subject, in part because of Hans Zimmer's habit of polarizing film music collectors and in part due to an abundance of crazed hype generated by both the studio and the composer prior to the Nolan films.

While Zimmer collaborated with highly respected veteran James Newton Howard for Nolan's first two Batman films, it's easy to get the impression that these are primarily Zimmer scores. They have the distinct traits of his works in most sections and he was involved for greater lengths of time in their creation. In interviews, Howard often volunteers a secondary position and showers Zimmer with constant praise. With the exception of a few clear moments in The Dark Knight, Zimmer's trademark sound is on grand and predictable display. The two composers did several rounds of interviews prior to this film's release, often jovial in tone and always curiously overt in their expressions of respect for one another. At times, they sound like teammates on a college sports team who, under those circumstances, would give each other a good slap on each others' asses for a job well done. They both think very highly of their work for The Dark Knight, as assuring as they had also been about their choices prior to Batman Begins (but perhaps with a bit more cautious restraint the first time). Their words are illuminating of their intentions (and Nolan's agreement with them), and they convey a confidence that you rarely hear so strongly from composers nowadays. They have spent ample time explaining their unconventional moves and placing those choices in context, recognizing in some cases that this music will "irritate" some listeners. They also, however, have spent so much time dwelling on the rationale for these decisions that their attitude tends to border on condescending, especially in their dismissal of the Burton/Elfman approach that they are apparently tired of hearing about. Warner is sticking to its guns, too, commercializing the endeavor to such an extent that there are three different CD albums (a regular CD, a collector's edition with extra art, and a limited special edition digipack... Open thy wallet, fool!) and even a 2-LP vinyl product for the most serious (and nostalgic) aficionados. For their achievements, the composers are being treated like rock stars, performing live on stage at an IMAX theatre in New York City prior to the premiere showing of the film and then appearing throughout the country at Virgin Megastores to sign copies of the products over the following days. Zimmer then planned to go on a worldwide concert tour later in 2008 and take a sabbatical from film score writing (a sabbatical that never ended up happening).

Perhaps lost in all of this hype is one tiny little complication: the quality of the music. Reactions to both of these scores from the die-hard fans of Zimmer have been utterly predictable. Reactions from Howard's fans have been more interesting, in many ways, because many of them consider Howard to be a far more talented and versatile composer. Some of them seemingly tolerate or, in better cases, appreciate Howard's contributions to these scores while distancing themselves from Zimmer's work. For The Dark Knight, Zimmer was able to expand upon ideas that he concocted in Batman Begins and, for the most part, produced an extremely similar score in tone and style. Many parts of the two are interchangeable, and this fact is due to the composer's notion that the Nolan interpretation of Gotham and its characters is far more gloomy and brooding than even Burton's vision. Zimmer is quick to emphasize "sound" and "texture" over traditional thematic structures, which is largely why he doesn't take any inspiration from Elfman's music for the concept. One of the more obnoxious and disrespectful statements that Zimmer made in a 2008 interview about The Dark Knight involved his dismissal of Elfman's "happy jolly theme" for Batman. Regardless of the differences in the movies, and regardless of the fact that Elfman's rendering of his primary idea had shades of Bernard Herrmann attached to it, Zimmer seems inept at understanding the notion of duality. It's possible that the reason Zimmer used the words "happy" and "jolly" to describe that theme (outside of the fact that he sometimes doesn't exercise good diction in his use of English) is because Elfman used some rousing major-key statements in his material. But what remains more important is the fact that Elfman used both minor and major key components in the theme to represent Bruce Wayne's two personas. Elliot Goldenthal would follow suit in his title theme for the latter two sequels. Zimmer, on the other hand, is so infatuated with the darker side of the character that he doesn't seem to equate the major key part of Elfman's "happy jolly theme" with the necessary element of superhero duty. Elfman's score is downright menacing in parts (despite its major-key usage) and is, appropriately, gothic. Conversely, relying solely on minor-key dramatics is boring and immature.

By now, any score collector will be familiar with the fact that Zimmer loves to use cellos and basses to churn up his sense of brooding melodrama. Throw in some broad brass tones over the top, some electronic pulsation or ostinato for movement, and convey the whole thing in harmonious progressions... It's become the Zimmer trademark of the 2000's. If he wants to address Nolan's superhero with this sound, then so be it. Few would argue that it isn't at least functional. The first film was so good in its other production elements that it easily carried an underachieving score, and The Dark Knight does the same. Zimmer and Howard are both quick to point out that continuity is important, and that being the case, both of the most obvious motifs from the first score return. The pinpoint string ostinatos representing the general coolness of Batman, as well as the rising two-note minor-key progression for his heroic self, are both preserved and given satisfactory airtime. The progression is more intelligently woven into several of the action cues. Much fuss was made at the time of Batman Begins about the fact that Zimmer had written a more elaborate idea for Batman, but that the theme had no place in that film because the character had not yet matured into his regular role as Gotham's savior. In the sequel, we finally hear what Zimmer had in mind for the character and, unfortunately, it's a murky blend of The Last Samurai, The Thin Red Line, The Da Vinci Code, and, most interestingly, Crimson Tide. It's hard to imagine how collectors who denigrate James Horner for his blatant self-referencing will be able to give Zimmer a free pass for resurrecting so many previous scores in The Dark Knight, for the pulls are undeniable. The expanded title theme only appears twice in the score ("I'm Not a Hero" and "A Dark Knight" on the albums), ironically, and passes as a generic, muscular anthem from the composer. Its slow, easy shifts, as pleasantly harmonic as they were in scores as far back as The House of the Spirits, rank well on Zimmer's list of easy listening hits, especially in the expansive exploration of the idea in "The Dark Knight." This clear rip-off from The Da Vinci Code, while entertaining in its most basic sense, is devoid of style, vivacity, and duality.

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.71 Stars
***** 734 5 Stars
**** 781 4 Stars
*** 1,161 3 Stars
** 1,306 2 Stars
* 1,219 1 Stars
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(Comment Deleted by Poster)   Expand >>
Mitchell Kyler Martin - December 29, 2016, at 12:24 p.m.
2 comments  (785 views)
Newest: February 5, 2017, at 5:44 p.m. by
The Dark Knight Formula
Bruno Costa - December 2, 2010, at 11:58 a.m.
1 comment  (2277 views)
Peacemaker theme in slow motion
Vinod - July 31, 2009, at 1:42 p.m.
1 comment  (1970 views)
Zimmer and Newton law works here.   Expand >>
Joker - June 22, 2009, at 8:17 p.m.
2 comments  (2783 views)
Newest: October 7, 2009, at 5:24 p.m. by
Richard Kleiner
Alternate titles for the tracks. Following the style of the Batman Begins score!
Arman - May 26, 2009, at 4:09 p.m.
1 comment  (1823 views)
Great soundtrack   Expand >>
jay - May 12, 2009, at 5:34 a.m.
4 comments  (4197 views)
Newest: June 3, 2010, at 8:33 p.m. by
Richard Kleiner

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
2008 Regular/Special Edition Albums Tracks   ▼Total Time: 73:31
• 1. Why So Serious? (9:14)
• 2. I'm Not a Hero (6:35)
• 3. Harvey Two-Face (6:17)
• 4. Aggressive Expansion (4:36)
• 5. Always a Catch (1:40)
• 6. Blood on My Hands (2:17)
• 7. A Little Push (2:43)
• 8. Like a Dog Chasing Cars (5:03)
• 9. I Am the Batman (2:00)
• 10. And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad (2:29)
• 11. Agent of Chaos (6:55)
• 12. Introduce a Little Anarchy (3:43)
• 13. Watch the World Burn (3:48)
• 14. A Dark Knight (16:15)
2008 Collector's Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 146:03

Notes Icon
The inserts of the initial July 2008 releases include a lengthy note from the director about working with Zimmer and Howard on the score. They also offer extensive credits and photography from the film. The December 2008 2-CD set is packaged in a 40-page hardbound booklet with troublesome rubber pegs holding the CDs. Only the same exact director's note from the previous albums is included, with no additional information about the score or film. The majority of the set's useless booklet is dedicated to more photography from the film.
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Dark Knight are Copyright © 2008, Warner Brothers Records (Regular/Special Editions), Warner Brothers Records (Collector's Edition Set) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/12/08 and last updated 4/7/10.
Open thy wallets, fools!
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