Tag Archives: the dark knight rises

White House Down (2013)

White House Down

Roland Emmerich likes to do things to famous buildings in his movies. In Independence Day (1996), he blew up the White House. In The Day After Tomorrow (2004), he buried the Statue of Liberty in snow up to her waist. In 2012 (2009), the White House is destroyed by the USS John F. Kennedy coasting into it via tsunami. Nothing new is brought to the table in his latest directorial effort, White House Down – the White House and Capitol buildings are both severely damaged and nearly destroyed, but hey, at least we have fun along the way.

Channing Tatum plays John Cale, a US Capitol police officer, a man who has struggled to hold a steady job and to be a good father to his daughter, Emily (Joey King), who is obsessed with politics and the current US president, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Cale takes Emily to the White House when he goes to apply for the president’s Secret Service, but he is rejected by Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Dejected, he and Emily join a tour through the White House when the worst happens: domestic terrorists take over both the Capitol and the White House, gathering the tour group as hostages and trapping the president in the building. John must find a way to help protect both the president and his daughter before time runs out.

I’d never seen a Channing Tatum film before this, and I found that I didn’t hate him, so great for you, Mr. Tatum. Sure, he’s not spectacular, but he could have been a lot worse. The important thing is that he does the action well, and there are even a few moments when his character’s relationship with his daughter feels at least kind of close to genuine. Speaking of his daughter, Joey King, who I’d only seen as the young version of Marion Cotillard’s character in The Dark Knight Rises (my review), is charming here, if not a bit too smart for her age, but who cares? She’s sweet, she brings the proper mindset and stubbornness of a preteen, and she provides Tatum’s character with great (if not a little bit over-the-top) motivation. Jamie Foxx does a great job as always as President Sawyer. He carries the air of authority well, and his likable personality in the role brings a lot to the film. Lastly, Jason Clarke proves yet again that he can play the crazy character well, though this time he’s not torturing suspected terrorists (Zero Dark Thirty) or shooting a rich man who ran over his wife (The Great Gatsby); this time, he’s a mercenary who takes over the White House…and apparently he can hold quite the grudge. He does well with it, though, and I like him as the villain. Other notable performances come from James Woods, who plays Martin Walker, the head of Presidential Detail, and Nicolas Wright, who plays a quirky White House tour guide who serves mostly as comedic relief. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also in the movie, and, though I’m not really a fan of hers, she isn’t awful here.

For the first bit of the film, I tried too hard to take it seriously: I thought that it was trying to make a political statement or teach a valuable lesson, and I thought that the circumstances were incredibly ridiculous, but the frequent inclusion of (quite effective and humorous) one-liners and the tendency for things to be just a bit too convenient for our protagonists – and sometimes for our antagonists as well – helped me to realize that even the movie wasn’t taking itself too seriously. Once I realized this, I started having a lot more fun, which is what I really think the purpose is here. Is there a message or a political statement to be found somewhere? Yeah, sure, probably – maybe a comment on how dedicated people can be to the people (or country) that they love? –  but that’s not the point of the film…the point is for it to be a fun action film, and it does a great job at pulling that off. Don’t go in expecting a whole lot of substance, but also know that the action isn’t mindless either. White House Down is good for what it is and good for what it isn’t; it’s not spectacular, and it’s not endless pointless explosions, but it is good for a few laughs and a few decent dramatic moments, and it succeeds the most at being what it’s meant to be: a fun summer action flick.

Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image


Iron Man 3 (2013)

Note: This will be as spoiler-free as I can possibly make it. If there’s something I just can’t avoid, I will warn you before you read on.

To say that Iron Man 3 was an anticipated film would be an incredible understatement. Marvel’s first follow-up to last year’s incredible The Avengers (my review), this film had quite the expectation to live up to. Did it? For the most part, I think so.

Iron Man 3 picks up presumably a few months after the events of The Avengers, with Tony and Pepper back home in Malibu, but something’s different…Tony can’t sleep. Haunted by the alien invasion in New York and determined to protect “the one thing [he] can’t live without,” Pepper, Tony spends all of his time designing and building new Iron Man suits and fighting off panic attacks. To put things in perspective, the suit in The Avengers was Mark VII, while his newest suit in this film is the Mark XLII (that’s 42, for those not versed in Roman numerals). When a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) hits Tony close to home, he must overcome his personal struggles in order to protect the woman he loves and to stop the imminent threat of The Mandarin. Along the way, we are introduced to blasts from Tony’s past, including Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen and Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian.

Much like Christopher Nolan’s final film in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (my review), this is an Iron Man film with more Tony Stark than Iron Man (in fact, there are quite a few comparisons that could be made to The Dark Knight Rises, but I’ll save those for another time) – but don’t worry, there are still plenty of great moments with the suit. I personally really enjoyed seeing more of Tony Stark as Robert Downey, Jr. Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, as we see a more humanized version of the character. He is a real person who struggles with real people problems just like you and me, bringing  an interesting contrast between Tony Stark as Tony Stark and Tony Stark as Iron Man and a lot more to the table than just RDJ flying around in a suit behind a mask. He has a scene or two with Don Cheadle as Col. Rhodes in which both men are without their suits and are forced to rely on their own abilities and instincts to solve their problems rather than rely on their armor. RDJ’s likability in the role shines brightly throughout the film, with another side of the character coming out with the introduction of a new character, a boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins). Harley’s father left him seven years previously, and his mother works at night, so he is often alone. When Tony Stark steps into his life, he’s dragged into Tony’s mission. Stark treats Harley like an adult, which, though it sometimes means he makes snarky or “rude” comments (including a quip about how leaving is what fathers do and that he should man up and suck it up), it shows that Stark respects Harley enough to speak with him honestly and as an equal. The banter between these two characters works incredibly well, with their time onscreen together being some of the best moments of the film. Guy Pearce does an admirable job in his role, though I don’t want to delve too much into his character…spoilers and all that.

Almost every film comes with its disappointments, and Iron Man 3 is no exception. The funniest film of the three, I actually thought that the writers tried to bring too much humor to the table, with some of it feeling forced or unnecessary. I don’t want an Iron Man film that is taken 100% seriously, but I do think that the film as a whole could have survived with fewer attempts at getting a laugh. For reasons that I won’t list here, I was very disappointed with Ben Kingsley’s character, The Mandarin, and, while I thought that Guy Pearce did a decent job as a sort of supplemental villain, a better Mandarin would have been preferred. Lastly, Gwyneth Paltrow, though she does a fine job as a dramatic actress, is not an action star and should not have ever been given the opportunity. That being said, the chemistry between her and Downey, Jr. is palpable and never feels canned, instead flowing rather naturally between the two actors in a great way.

I didn’t fully flesh out my complaints due to spoilers, but, as I said, I enjoyed the film for the most part; in any case, it was a huge improvement over the awful Iron Man 2, so we should all rejoice for that. Six years after the release of the first Iron Man film, Robert Downey, Jr. continues to slip as effortlessly into the role now as he did then, and it manages to be a worthy followup to The Avengers. With decent performances all around and an enjoyable score from Brian Tyler, Iron Man 3 pleases for the most part and leaves me hoping that we see plenty more of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in the future.

-Chad

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content


Top Ten Films of 2012

2012 was a good year for movies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everything – films like Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, Argo, Les Misérables, Django Unchained, etc. are all films released in 2012 that I haven’t seen yet – but I DID manage to see quite a few. Here is my personal list of the best films of 2012 (click on the titles to view my full review):

 

10. Wreck-It Ralph

This was another film that I had been looking forward to for months on end. I’m not as into video games as some other people, but watching this film was still like revisiting my childhood. The heart of this movie is in the right place, with the main message being “accept who you are because you’re a wonderful person just as you are.” A talented voice cast, a sweet story, candy puns out the wazoo, and a fun score by Henry Jackman make this film everything I wanted it to be…and the animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was just as fantastic.

 

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I was late to the whole “Lord of the Rings/J. R. R. Tolkien” party, having only seen Peter Jackson’s film trilogy in the past two years, but I was keen to read The Hobbit and see the movie as soon as I possibly could. While I was disappointed on my first viewing, mainly due to the cartoony special effects that resulted from the higher frame rate (48fps HFR), this film was a faithful adaptation to Tolkien’s original novel, and the return of familiar faces such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum is refreshing. The real highlight of the film, though, aside from Howard Shore’s beautiful score, is Martin Freeman, who plays the perfect Bilbo Baggins. While some may find the run time to feel a little stretched, I found it to be justified by the attention to detail to the original novel.

 

8. The Hunger Games

I read Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed Hunger Games trilogy just a few weeks before I saw the film, and I was hooked from the get-go. The film did a wonderful job of adapting the novel, perfectly capturing the dystopian society introduced in Collins’ literary world. Jennifer Lawrence did a particularly outstanding job as Katniss, and the scenes added by the filmmakers to show the control that the Capitol has over the people of Panem and over the Hunger Games do nothing but add to the story in a great way.

 

7. Flight

Robert Zemeckis, director of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released his first live action film in more than a decade this year. Flight was something I had anticipated for months, and it quite lived up to what I had in mind for it. Denzel Washington gives a powerful performance as a pilot struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, and the film explores topics such as love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Zemeckis proves that he still has what it takes to direct a top-notch film that focuses on character and story just as much as it does on visual effects.

 

6. Life of Pi

This is a film that I sort of went to see just on a whim, and I’m glad I did. With gorgeous visuals that looked fantastic in 3D (something I don’t say often), Life of Pi excels the most in its storytelling. While the ambiguity of the ending may not appeal to some people, I found the film to be a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion in general, leading me to look at my own relationship with God. It sort of melds the biblical Book of Job with Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, and it definitely sparked my interest in reading the book it was based on.

 

5. Skyfall

In anticipation of this film, I first watched Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, which was entertaining in its more muted kind of way, and Quantum of Solace, which was pretty disappointing. I still had high hopes for Skyfall, though, and it exceeded every expectation I had set for it. The action was fun, Javier Bardem as the villain sent chills up my spine (and also brought a couple of laughs), and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench both gave outstanding performances in their respective roles. The length wasn’t an issue to me because I was too caught up in the entertainment of the film to care.

 

4. Lincoln

Does Spielberg make bad films? I’d answer that with a “no” (I have an argument in favor of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). With 2011’s War Horse and his newest film, Lincoln, he has taken a step back from the typical sci-fi/action/fantasy films he is known for and has focused more on period dramas – both of which were fantastic. If Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I won’t know what to think. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones also deliver standout performances in a film that is just as engrossing and fascinating in its exploration of politics as a good action film is in its exploration of shooting and blowing things up. Spielberg is a true master.

 

3. The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan set the bar high with 2008’s The Dark Knight, and this conclusion to the acclaimed trilogy did not disappoint. Tom Hardy as Bane was sinister and terrifying, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were both welcome new presences, and the return of the familiar faces – i.e. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman – was satisfying and well-done. The Dark Knight Rises perfectly concluded Nolan’s trilogy.

 

2. The Avengers

There are so many ways that this film could have gone wrong. I mean, think about it – they took four characters from four separate films and brought them together into one super-film. In the hands of a less-capable director, it could have easily been one of the worst movies of the year, but with Joss Whedon at the helm, it ended up being one of the best. Smart dialogue with exciting action and a great story, The Avengers proved that an ensemble cast like this could work just as well in a film as it does on television.

 

1. Looper

Well-choreographed action sequences meet a smart script in this film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. As a time travel movie, it explores the consequences of our actions and the true cause of evil, and it spends just as much time in contemplation as it does making you sit on the edge of your seat.

 

Well, there you have it. My top ten films of 2012. What were your favorites of 2012?


Skyfall (2012)

A month ago, I had only seen one or two Bond films, one of them being Sean Connery’s You Only Live Twice. However, in preparation for the release of Skyfall, I snagged a couple of copies of the first two Daniel Craig James Bond installments and caught myself up. Casino Royale was a lot of fun, but Quantum of Solace was significantly less so. Nevertheless, I had high hopes for Craig’s third entry into his Bond legacy, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

(Though it should be obvious, I would like to point out that 1) I am not a longtime James Bond fan and 2) likewise, I am not a James Bond expert. I am not attempting to appear to be either of these in this review.)

I loved everything about this movie, from the exhilarating opening sequence, to the opening credits featuring the fantastic title song by Adele, to the character development, to the villain, to the final climactic action sequence. Daniel Craig was back in full force, giving us a Bond that was (to me) highly reminiscent of Christian Bale’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman earlier this year in The Dark Knight Rises: our hero is growing old and is struggling with physical tasks that were once easy for him, so he considers retirement before realizing that the situation is bigger than him and his wants. (Am I the only one who kept finding this parallel throughout, including lines referring to characters originating in “shadows” and “storms coming?”)

Though I’m sure it was a departure from the typical Bond film formula that has been in place since the first film 50 years ago, I appreciated the fact that romance didn’t play a huge part in this film as it did in the previous two. However, that’s not to say that Skyfall ignored the previous 22 films in the James Bond franchise; in fact, it seemed to me (though, keep in mind, I haven’t seen many Bond films and am merely assuming) that there were plenty of references to the older films, such as the classic car, Q’s quip about “exploding pens,” and several others that I’m sure I missed due to lack of education.

Where Skyfall especially succeeds is in the choice of its villain, Mr. Silva, played by Javier Bardem. He comes across as truly sinister, but he still maintains an air about him that allows for several laughs. What really makes him appear so evil, though, is the fact that he doesn’t make an appearance until the movie is halfway over. The first half of the film is filled with terrorist attacks, random murders, exploitation of sensitive information – and it’s all done by a villain who we haven’t even met yet. Bardem plays the role convincingly, with all of the malicious intent and residual hatred that we expect from a villain of his caliber.

From start to finish, Skyfall had me captivated, not only with its exciting action sequences and impressive character development, but also with the tremendous scope of the landscapes and locations presented throughout…it just looks good. Plus, with a terrific performance from Judi Dench, a nice sort of cameo from Albert Finney, and a promise of more Ralph Fiennes in the future, everyone stepped up to the plate and gave more than their fair share to help knock this film out of the park. Boosted by a wonderful score from Bond newbie Thomas Newman, Skyfall more than redeems the not-nearly-as-good Quantum of Solace and promises more to come…Bond 24 has a lot to live up to.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language, and smoking

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Thomas Newman, here!


The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Here’s a brief spoiler-free review of the final film of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

Taken as a whole, this film was fantastic on nearly every level, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have any faults. I had problems with understanding certain characters, from Bane (especially) to Miranda Tate to Jim Gordon to Bruce himself. A couple of the plot points in the first half confused me a bit, but the second half was so incredible that it made these and any other minor faults seem like nothing. Initially, I didn’t agree with some bits of the ending, and, because of that, I decided that it was slightly behind The Dark Knight in terms of quality, but I’ve been mulling things over since the movie ended – it’s starting to grow on me, so the final film of the trilogy may end up being my favorite. Old faces and new faces alike do an awesome job onscreen, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake and Tom Hardy as Bane standing out as particularly great. Overall, it’s an outstanding film; if you enjoyed the first two, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you enjoy this one as well.

Now, onto the review FILLED with spoilers, so, if you haven’t seen the film yet, DON’T READ ON. (skip to end for spoiler-free conclusion)

There are two key bits of speculation that have been circulating the Internet for quite some time now that proved to be correct: 1) Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul and 2) Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the man who will take over for Batman. Good job, Internet people! Also, Batman did technically “die”, so there’s a third speculation come true.

Bane proved to be one of my favorite film villains of all time. Sure, I had trouble understanding him at times, but Hardy’s presence onscreen was bone-chilling and terrifying. I’m not going to sit here and waste time comparing him to Ledger’s Joker, but both had a quality about them that made it difficult to look away – no matter how badly you wanted to at times. The most fascinating part about this character is that he is the first villain who could physically best Batman…and he does in an awful way. Though we couldn’t see most of his face, Hardy did a fantastic job with communicating through his body language exactly who Bane was and what he was capable of. I wish that there had been more of a defeat of Bane by Batman, but I suppose that the defeat we witnessed was the only one that mattered because the title of “head villain” was passed on to Miranda Ta- oh, excuse me – Talia al Ghul.

Hathaway as Catwoman was very good as well; in fact, I managed to watch the film thinking, “hey look! It’s Catwoman!” instead of thinking, “hey look! It’s Anne Hathaway!”, which is a plus for someone like her who hasn’t done a film like this before. She looked the part and did a fine job with the character.

I was very impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his character; he came out of nowhere, but he certainly exhibited the detective abilities and physical skill needed to be a future Batman…more on that later. The leadership he showed in gathering the forces in Gotham to fight and bringing Batman back to the city was outstanding, and I really felt myself rooting for the character…and not just because he was on Batman’s side.

Since I’ve read both of Michael Caine’s autobiographies now, watching him onscreen in The Dark Knight Rises was a particular treat, especially because we got to see him display a wide range of acting ability in this film than we did in the previous two films. When he cried at the end of the film, I nearly cried; Caine is a wonderful actor with a career spanning decades, and seeing him deliver such a powerful performance in this film at his age (he’s 79 years old) was a great thing to witness.

Of course, I can’t neglect to mention Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Not much to say here, but they both did a fantastic job with their roles, especially Oldman.

Christian Bale’s as Batman was admirable in the sense that we see him truly fight for the first time – not physically, necessarily, but for his life, something that we hadn’t seen from Batman before this film. He’s a man who has been through quite a lot both physically and emotionally, and he has suffered in just about every way that a man can suffer. Bale does a great job with truly showing Batman’s humanity in this film…for the first time, the person who wants him dead knows his true identity, so there is no way for him to hide or use theatricality to his advantage. It’s man vs. man, and there’s no darkness to hide in anymore. Bale displays Bruce’s resolve to give the city all that he has and makes not only Batman a hero, but Bruce Wayne a hero as well.

Aside from a slightly confusing first half (which, thanks to Wikipedia’s Plot section of the film’s article, isn’t all that confusing anymore) and the occasional problems with the voices, my only issues regarded the ending. I knew that I didn’t want Bruce to die, so that’s nice, but I wanted him to return to Gotham and have an emotional reunion with Alfred. At least, that’s what I wanted at first. Walking away, however, and taking some time to think about it, I was actually pretty satisfied with how they ended it. Batman is no longer a villain in Gotham but a hero instead, and Bruce Wayne has reached that point in his life when he no longer needs Batman…he is finally at peace, living out his life the way Alfred wanted him to. That being said, I still wish that we had seen more than just an acknowledgement between the two.

I also don’t know how I feel about the whole “(Robin) John Blake is the new Batman” part of the ending; if it was just meant as a teaser that will be left alone, cool. I like it. BUT I really don’t want to start a new franchise with Gordon-Levitt as the focus – Chris Nolan has made it pretty clear that he won’t be doing any more Batman after this film, and I don’t want a sequel trilogy or whatever to be made and it pale in comparison to what Nolan has done with Bale in these three movies. Who knows…maybe it could be good, but I don’t really want to take that chance. Of course, the decision isn’t up to me, so we’ll just have to see where Warner Bros. takes it from here…if anywhere.

***SPOILERS OVER***

I’m having trouble with deciding which film I like more: The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises. On one hand, I don’t want to like this film more just because it’s the last film of the series. On the other hand, I don’t want to like The Dark Knight more just because of Heath Ledger’s Joker; I’m trying to find a balance between the two so that I can make a decision excluding those factors. Though The Dark Knight Rises didn’t end the way I wanted it to when I walked into the theater, I walked out of the theater thinking that maybe, just maybe, Nolan’s ending was better than the one that I had fantasized for the film on my own. So, for now at least, I’m going to call this a tie, but it’s entirely possible – and highly likely – that the finale of the trilogy will come out on top.

As fans of Batman, we all have Christopher Nolan to thank for bringing this incredible character to the big screen in such a big way and for dedicating himself fully to finishing what he started. Batman Begins was groundbreaking, The Dark Knight was breathtaking, and now, with The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan has brought a third, final film that ends the trilogy in a hugely satisfying way.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for intense sequences of violence, intense sequences of action, language and some sensuality

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Hans Zimmer, here!


The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – Hans Zimmer

I don’t have much time to type this out before I go to the theater for the Batman trilogy IMAX screening, so I won’t be going track by track.

Though some of this music is taken from the previous two films’ scores, Zimmer introduces some pretty cool new themes that add a lot to the character of the album. “Gotham’s Reckoning” starts with a rhythm of two duples and two triples, which repeats through the rest of the track. This rhythm serves as Bane’s theme, and it is the musical version of the chant heard in the various trailers for the film. Sure enough, the chant comes in about halfway through the track, adding a level of anxiousness to it all; presumably, this is being chanted by Bane’s army, which, along with the random bursts of brass and aggressive percussion in the background, makes this track all the more terrifying.

Another highlight is the following track, “Mind If I Cut In?”. It opens with some eerie strings which moves into a lengthy piano solo. It brings a bit of a chill down my spine. A later track, “Despair” is really cool because it contains the best instance of the Batman theme (ascending minor third) that I’ve heard out of all three soundtracks; it’s just so pure and heroic-sounding, despite what the title may imply.

Speaking of titles implying things, “Necessary Evil” leaves me stumped – who is the title referring to? Is it Bane’s way of justifying his crimes? Or is it Batman realizing that the only way to stop Bane is to break his one rule, i.e. kill him? I sort of doubt that it’s the latter because Batman “truly [is] incorruptible”, but the track provides the emotional sound that could accompany a weighty decision like that.

There are lots of great moments to point out and talk about, but I could go on and on and on. It boils down to this: this is Hans Zimmer’s best Batman score yet. It features a pleasant mix of old and new, with new bits of music that give a glimpse into the kinds of difficult decisions and situations that Batman must endure in the film, and it concludes the trilogy in a truly impressive way.

Since Newton Howard didn’t return to collaborate on this score, Zimmer tackled it all on his own. I was worried that it would be too “Zimmer-y” for me, but he did an overall fantastic job. In fact, I’d say that the score for The Dark Knight Rises is better musically than its predecessor. As for how it enhances the movie…well, you’ll have to wait for my movie review tomorrow!

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

1. “A Storm is Coming” 0:37
2. “On Thin Ice” 2:55
3. “Gotham’s Reckoning” 4:08
4. “Mind if I Cut in?” 3:27
5. “Underground Army” 3:12
6. “Born in Darkness” 1:57
7. “The Fire Rises” 5:33
8. “Nothing Out There” 2:51
9. “Despair” 3:14
10. “Fear Will Find You” 3:08
11. “Why Do We Fall?” 2:03
12. “Death By Exile” 0:23
13. “Imagine the Fire” 7:25
14. “Necessary Evil” 3:16
15. “Rise” 7:11

16. “Bombers Over Ibiza (Junkie XL Remix)”  5:50

17. “The Shadows Betray You”  5:21

18. “The End”  6:13

Total Length: app. 69 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


The Dark Knight (2008) – Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard

“Why So Serious?”

Opening with eerie sirens, this track doesn’t have a lot of organization or anything like that to it – that is to say, it’s chaotic, which defines the Joker. Played during the opening of the film when we’re first introduced to the character, the various sounds that range from aggressive to contemplative to insane give us our first impressions of who the Joker is and what he is capable of. Even the percussion beat that we hear throughout gives you the feeling of chaos.

“I’m Not a Hero”

Featuring a low string melody that is heard throughout the film, the coolest part about this track is that you can hear the Batman theme (the ascending minor third that I mentioned in yesterday’s Batman Begins post) played lightly in the background. This Batman theme repeats over and over again as the track goes on. Toward the end, there are a couple of random bouts of action theme with echo-y sounds and light rhythmic percussion underneath. The last 30 seconds or so are more heroic sounding, which fits in with this scene in the film; I believe this track is played as Batman makes his visit to Hong Kong and…well, I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

“Harvey Two-Face”

This track contains the theme for both Harvey Dent and Two-Face, if you couldn’t guess that from the title. Played in the strings, this melody is weighed down with responsibility, and the occasional horn solo adds a bit of a heroic tinge to it. Percussion is introduced about 2 minutes in, and everything becomes a bit more driven with purpose and emotion, possibly indicating Harvey’s transition from noble district attorney to corrupted government official. The last 3 minutes or so drops into a slow piano theme, followed by the string melody heard at the start which gets more and more intense as the track draws to a close. As a whole, this track gives us a glimpse into the conflict within Dent.

“Aggressive Expansion”

The start of this track is just as aggressive as the title implies, but then it slows to some atmospheric stuff that probably accompanies a dialogue-heavy scene or something like that. The aggression returns at the end of the track, bringing us a light version of the heavy action theme heard later in the score.

“Always a Catch”

Opening with the sirens used throughout the film that indicate that something SERIOUS is about to happen, it soon moves into a quiet bit of music that fades to the end. Perhaps a lead-in to the next track –

“Blood On My Hands”

This theme is played on the lower strings at first, and it has a heavy sort of emotion to it. Taken from Batman’s line in the film about how he’s already got enough “blood on [his] hands”, this track gives a theme to Batman’s worry that he’s not doing the right thing.

“A Little Push”

Starting with a simple enough bit of ambient music, about halfway through it becomes corrupted and twisted…much like the character of Harvey Dent.

“Like a Dog Chasing Cars”

Featuring some more of the Batman theme over a heavily rhythmic background, the main theme in this track is introduced by the French horns before being joined by the strings. It gets more and more action-y as it goes on, and we hear some of the cool brass parts at about 2:10 or so, which goes on until the last minute or so. In this last minute of the track, we hear what I sort of consider to be an anti-Batman theme; there is a sustained note that, instead of ascending a minor third, descends a whole step.

“I Am the Batman”

Mostly atmospheric, this track is played during the scene when Alfred tells the story of the jewel thief in Burma…not much to talk about here. A nice ambient track, though, and it ends with something similar to the siren at the start of “Always a Catch”…perhaps communicating the moral of Alfred’s story – “some men just want to watch the world burn”.

“And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad”

This track features the action-y theme, and it also contains something interesting: there’s a sustained note that you would assume to be the Batman theme, but it never goes anywhere. You get the sustained note, but that’s it.

“Agent of Chaos”

Most of the stuff heard here is stuff that we’ve already been introduced to, but it’s all mixed together to start with a brooding, anticipating action theme that moves into the sirens, meaning WATCH OUT! And, sure enough, we go into MORE action-y stuff that actually contains some new themes, including high string quarter notes over a lower string melody – a very cool effect. The ending is depressing though, as it features another slow piano solo and sad strings underneath. The contrast between this and what was heard earlier really makes this ending feel pretty heartbreaking.

“Introduce a Little Anarchy”

This is the coolest track on the album. It features the full-fledged action theme with an awesome underlying cello/bass counter-melody kind of thing, along with several interjections by the Batman. This track embodies all that is awesome about Batman – well, the fighting side of him, at least, and it’s non-stop action from start to finish.

“Watch the World Burn”

This track can be heard during the scene when Harvey has kidnapped Gordon’s family. You can hear the emotional tension between Dent, Gordon, and Batman as they try to negotiate the safety of the children and beg Harvey to blame the men most responsible for Rachel’s death. It ends with emotional-sounding strings that are a bit chaotic, again representing what Harvey has become.

“A Dark Knight”

This track is really long (more than 16 minutes) and features lots of different stuff…so I’ll let you listen to it on your own!

OVERALL

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard have come together to create something even better than their score to Batman Begins. Though I would only give the music itself about a 9, the way it is used in the film is extremely effective and pushes it over the top. This album, like its predecessor, does a fantastic job with capturing both the emotional and action-y sides of Batman. Also, make sure to check out the bonus digital disc available on iTunes, containing almost an hour of new music!

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  1. “Why So Serious?”          (9:14)
  2. “I’m Not a Hero”          (6:34)
  3. “Harvey Two-Face”          (6:16)
  4. “Aggressive Expansion”          (4:35)
  5. “Always a Catch”          (1:39)
  6. “Blood On My Hands”          (2:16)
  7. “A Little Push”          (2:42)
  8. “Like a Dog Chasing Cars”          (5:03)
  9. “I Am the Batman”          (1:59)
  10. “And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad”          (2:28)
  11. “Agent of Chaos”          (6:55)
  12. “Introduce a Little Anarchy”          (3:42)
  13. “Watch the World Burn”          (3:47)
  14. “A Dark Knight”          (16:15)

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

I used this Wikipedia page to figure out when each of these tracks is played in the film.

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


Batman Begins (2005) – Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard

And so it begins…

For the Nolan Batman trilogy’s film scores, I want to do my best to go track by track. I may have more to say about one track than others, but I’ll try to keep it all as balanced as I can. I’m typing these as I listen through (after listening through a couple other times today).

“Vespertilio”

The opening track of Batman Begins is ominous and eerie, making you almost feel uncomfortable due to the heavy bass undertones and seeming lack of direction. The theme attributed to the character of Batman (an ascending minor third) is first hinted at in this track, though it’s more of an echo or passing Doppler-esque sound at first before building up to a more confident sound. The underlying string part is intense and brings forth a sense of anticipation that is fitting of the opening of the film; is this Batman? When will he become Batman? HOW will he become Batman? These are all questions that come to mind when I listen to this track.

“Eptesicus”

This track is filled with what I’d assume is the work of Mr. Newton Howard, due to the lyrical, haunting string melody. In fact, strings are clearly the focus in this track, with a few interjecting piano solos. It is a very emotional, remorseful bit of music, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it lined up with the flashback to Bruce’s parents’ deaths – though this is hard to ascertain due to the lack of proper track titles. It hints at one of the main bits of the action theme that we hear later in the score, which is interesting because it sort of shows how Bruce must mature into the persona of Batman before tackling the responsibilities – and consequences – head on.

“Myotis”

Opening with a strong melody from the low basses, the first two minutes of this track are largely atmospheric before we jump fully into the main action theme – our first glimpse into what Bruce Wayne has become. The rhythm of the main action theme is what contains the appeal, I think; with stresses on every other beat before a strong “3 4 1”, it’s simple and easy to latch on to. The track closes with a return to strong emotion, with a hint of despair.

“Barbastella”

A hauntingly beautiful vocal solo opens this track before being joined by a string orchestra that continues the theme. This dominates the first half before entering into what I could best describe as an anticipation; it’s nothing super action-y until the last 45 seconds or so. During this ending, we hear the minor third Batman theme in all its glory for the very first time, and, my, it is a wonderful moment. HE IS BATMAN.

“Artibeus”

I think that this track is intended to serve as a sort of “Scarecrow Theme”, or at least one of his attacks, with lots of agitated strings, frightening electronics, and what sounded like it could possibly have been whispers. The drums sound tribal and primeval, and the whole track kind of terrifies me…I swear I can hear people moving around in the shadows. It’s cool to see how the composers of a film can manipulate the people who watch the film with tracks like this that make them quake in their seats and – who knows? – maybe pee their pants a bit.

“Tadarida”

This track features more of the creepy whispers, and I think I even heard a few evil laughs, but I may be hearing things. More terrifying things. Lots of scary sounds. SCARECROW. And now, about 3 minutes in, we’re back to a non-scary string theme that sounds desperate. More vocals. This stuff gets heavy; it’s almost like you can feel the implications of Wayne assuming the role of Batman weighing on his shoulders; it’s a sobering feeling.

“Macrotus”

With this track, we return to the normal sort of emotional music that we heard earlier. A little past a minute into it, we’re introduced to a beautiful string melody that grows louder and louder until the brass joins in; it becomes this huge moment where we’re just flooded with emotion…and then it’s gone. Bass undertones take over, making the atmosphere of it all more brooding. We hear more hints to the Scarecrow’s music before we return to themes previously introduced in “Eptesicus” and “Barbastella”, perhaps implying that the ghosts of Bruce’s past have returned to haunt him. Appropriate since the Scarecrow’s toxin brings out your worst fears realized.

“Antrozous”

Uh-oh…another Scarecrow track. But Batman is here to fight back in a big way this time, as made apparent by the return of the action theme heard earlier in the score, but this time it is more intense, and we heard more of the Batman theme. It’s a really cool moment to hear Batman’s themes take over the intimidating Scarecrow themes. What makes this track so epic, aside from the simple rhythm that I referred to earlier, is the underlying rhythm section heard in the percussion. It drives the momentum of the action farther and farther forward.

“Nycteris”

Electronics play a large part in this track, from everything from the underlying rhythm to the first bit of the theme, though they’ve also been used frequently throughout the score. This track sits still, but I wouldn’t say it stagnates; it’s just a lapse in action. It might be Batman preparing things, like equipment, but I’m not sure. It features a lot of anticipation, much like “Barbastella”. The last 30 seconds get really emotional again, leading me to believe that it might be the theme for the relationship between Bruce and Rachel.

“Molossus”

ACTION ACTION ACTION. That’s the summary of this track. This is where Zimmer excels. We hear the main action theme that’s been thrown in a couple of times previously, but it’s more massive than it has been. The scale of it is huge, as is the scale of the crime that Batman is trying to stop; everything is aggressive, the Batman theme is thrown in several times, and it’s a nonstop ride from start to finish.

“Corynorhinus”

Pure emotion from start to finish, this track is the conclusion of the film, featuring the interaction between Bruce and Rachel at the ruins of Wayne Manor. Much of this is stuff we’ve already heard, but it’s all the more potent due to the fact that, at this point, Rachel knows Bruce’s secret and tells him that she can’t be with him until he no longer needs Batman. It’s a heartbreaking moment, and you can hear it in the music. The last minute and a half or so ends with the return of the Batman theme, which is really cool, and it also includes the melodic bit of the action theme that we heard at the very beginning.

“Lasiurus”

I sort of cheated with this one by looking it up (I’ve included the link at the bottom of this post): this track is played when Ra’s al Ghul teaches Bruce about criminals and when he looks over Gotham after taking out Falcone. Though not unimpressive, much of this track is just basic string stuff, featuring a very pretty melody filled with consequence. It ends literally exactly the way it started in the first track, which is pretty awesome, if I may say so.

OVERALL

This album succeeds because it focuses more on the human interactions of Batman rather than on the kicking-people’s-butts side of him, which could have easily been done with someone like Zimmer on board. However, everything is done very smartly…and it doesn’t hurt that there’s an awesome action theme to represent the kicking-people’s-butts side of Batman as well. This Zimmer/Newton Howard collaboration has its flaws, but the two of them move in the same new direction that Nolan does, which is refreshing and makes this a soundtrack worth purchasing. My biggest complaint is the lack of track titles that identify the music with a scene in the film, though I’m not cutting down the rating due to this. If you’re just looking for one track, though, go for “Molossus”.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “Vespertilio”          (2:52)
  2. “Eptesicus”          (4:20)
  3. “Myotis”          (5:46)
  4. “Barbastella”          (4:45)
  5. “Artibeus”          (4:20)
  6. “Tadarida”          (5:06)
  7. “Macrotus”          (7:36)
  8. “Antrozous”          (3:59)
  9. “Nycteris”          (4:26)
  10. “Molossus”          (4:49)
  11. “Corynorhinus”          (5:04)
  12. “Lasiurus”          (7:27)

Total Length: app. 61 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

If you’re interested, this link at Soundtrack.net tells you where each of these tracks can be heard in the film!

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!