Before the release of THE BATMAN, the soundtrack to THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was my favorite Batman album.
If there was one word I’d use to describe Hans Zimmer’s take on Batman it’d be utility. It’s not a traditional march or theme but more of a sense of accomplishment. Imagine the feeling you get when you find just the right tool for the job. That’s Zimmer’s Batman score in a nutshell.
The third film is always the hardest to pull off but RISES is the Christopher Nolan Batfilm I rewatch the most and my favorite soundtrack of the trilogy.
The soundtrack is very militant. Exactly what you’d expect for a film occupied with themes of revolution and urban uprising. Zimmer famously asked fans to record themselves shouting the chant that plays when Bane’s forces are on the attack, receiving thousands of submissions.
The chant gives RISES its brutal tone, which we get a full dose of early with “Gotham’s Reckoning” during the plane hi-jacking.
For me, the undisputed masterpiece of the RISES soundtrack is “Why Do We Fall.” It is the most adrenaline-packed, heart-pumping two minutes of Batman music ever recorded.
After seeing Bruce Wayne fail to escape the pit prison multiple times we’re already on edge. As Wayne makes his final climb the track gradually speeds up, growing louder and louder. It’s a simple but effective “In the Hall of the Mountain King”-style tune. When Wayne escapes you feel the accomplishment and want to stand and cheer. Every. Time.
While the chant is Bane’s theme I like how the other prisoners yell it as Bruce escapes. In typical Batman fashion, it takes something fearful and turns it into a triumph.
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What makes me even more appreciative of “Why Do We Fall” is that it uses a small bit from BATMAN BEGINS and improves upon it. If you go back to rewatch the scene in BEGINS where Bruce enters the Batcave via the bookshelf entrance you can hear the original DNA of this track. It’s a beautiful callback and where our hero once descended he now rises.
That impulse to rework music from the trilogy should have been exercised more. The “Rise” track is pretty much the same music from the end of THE DARK KNIGHT. Same with “Despair,” which comes across as a reshuffle of the Hong Kong fight scene.
However, my biggest gripe with the RISES soundtrack is how the supplemental material was handled. My 2012 CD included three digital bonus tracks. Of those “Risen From Darkness” was my favorite and “Bombers Over Ibiza” was surprisingly fun.
In working on this piece I discovered even more bonus tracks were similarly released to MovieTickets.com and others. Most of the extras are early drafts. The “Bane” suite is quieter in its build-up, at times sounding too close in tone to Heath Ledger’s Joker theme, and the chanting isn’t as intense.
“The End” is the most intriguing unused track, almost having a Pink Floyd MEDDLE vibe. There’s a constant echo of water dripping in the background along with breathing (Bane breathing under his mask?) and eventually a sound that reminded me of a wolf howl.
I’d be curious how “The End” would’ve played out in the movie if it replaced “Nothing Out There,” which is used when we see the upgraded Batcave. The track sounds like cool ambient cave noise.
Ultimately RISES should have been given a two-disc CD release as THE BATMAN did a decade later. Though I suppose lacking a deluxe edition of the score I could always build my own playlist and burn an old-school customized CD…
Like the film, the RISES score is one you can nitpick here and there but the whole experience is a beautiful work that honors the preceding films and stands on its own. – James Armstrong