Dark Knight, The: Sound and Music

Sound Design

Another critical design element of The Dark Knight is not seen but heard. The sound design of the film was extremely complicated, says director Chris Nolan.

There were an enormous number of elements encompassed in the sound mix and there are moments where its hard to detect what is sound design and what is music, he asserts. There are large segments of the film where we use little or no score. It was a major challenge for our sound designer, Richard King, and his team to create a range of sounds that would provoke the kind of emotional response that you would usually rely on music for. Then the end of the film is very heavily scored with music, but it develops as the action progresses.

Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, who partnered on the music for Batman Begins, reunited to compose the score for The Dark Knight. Nolan relates, I like the score of the film to be an evolution that runs parallel to the editing of the film, and Hans and James have been amazing in accommodating that. Usually without even seeing final footage, they give me pieces of music that my editor, Lee Smith, and I take into the edit suite. Its a very organic process that puts a lot of unusual demands on the composers, but they did a fantastic job with it.

As they had on Batman Begins, Zimmer and Howard split duties on The Dark Knight, with Zimmer composing the theme for The Joker and Howard taking on the dual personality of Harvey Dent/Two-Face. They also made changes to the overall score, eschewing any heroic fanfares. Zimmer says, I dont see Batman as a typical superhero, so I wanted to avoid anything super in the music. I kept thinking about the Bat Symbol. It is the iconic representation of Batman, but at the same time, it is dark and unadorned.

Batman is a very complex character, Howard adds. Were still getting to know him, so to try and attach a musical theme to him that defines him in any way would be misleading.
Nolan concludes, For me, Batman has an enduring appeal and endless fascination because he is a relatable character. He is referred to as a superhero, but actually he is a self-invented superhero. And I think the fantasy of a man who, through sheer will and self-discipline, has turned himself into more than just a man, into a heroic figure. Thats just a very compelling myth.