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Composers: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
The Moment: At the end of the film, the recently-promoted Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) calls upon the Caped Crusader (Christian Bale) with his newly crafted Bat Signal, beckoning the superhero to the rooftops above the police station. Batman arrives and approves of the crude device and the two engage in a brief discussion about escalation, where the good guys and bad guys continue to outdo each other. Gordon mentions a new threat in Gotham, a criminal with a flare for theatrics like Batman whose star is on the rise. Batman promises to look into this “Joker” character and turns to leave when Gordon stops him and says, “I never said thank you,” to which the humble Dark Knight replies, “And you’ll never have to.”
The Score Cut: The music playing is called Corynorhinus (which is the name of a genus of long-eared North American bats). Watch the clip and listen carefully to the music.
David Says: The highly influential compositions of this film created a whole new trend in film scores that continues even today. The thunderous, tension-filled tracks by Zimmer and Howard set the tone for the series and beyond. For this moment, the steady pulsing strings seem to suggest something big is coming, even though we are at the end, which is revealed by the Joker’s card, but it is the final rising wail of the symphony and the heavy clap of the drums that punctuate the sentiment of Batman as he departs. While there is little action in the moment, the steady rhythm of the music and its powerful emotional release really make the scene feel energetic and the viewer can’t help but be elevated by the experience, leaving the film with a rush of adrenaline and anticipation of more to come.
Dan Says: Hans Zimmer likes subliminal ambience. He’ll use subtle heavy bass-filled droning or slightly stirring strings that arc towards climax. This Cut demonstrates the mounting tension long sustained provocative notes can illicit. Dialogue scenes can often zone out the viewer. Zimmer ensures something is brewing under the surface even without action, keeping our attention. His music matches the intent of the spoken word, as the conversation builds towards its resolution, Zimmer adds layer upon layer of soft sounds until percussions punctuate each sentence. The score becomes more and more obvious until the scene transitions to the next. Zimmer orchestrates the audience subliminally, creating edge-of-your-seat anticipation of the following scene. The entire film is composed in this way, so that even slower parts of exposition feel like they’re building towards a crescendo of the finale.