The Secret Inspiration For ‘The Dark Knight’ Score

The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most anticipated movies of the year for many reasons, one such reason is the new score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. The previous movie had one of the more subtle, complex and ultimately effective scores for any Super Hero movie ever, so of course anticipation is high for this installment’s music.

While we wait on the upcoming score to be released it can be fun to reflect back on what has come before. A recent YouTube video has popped up with some very interesting revelations about the inspiration for one of the more memorable musical moments from the last film. It appears as if the track ‘Why So Serious’ bears more than a passing resemblance to the score of an early 80’s French film.

Now most people will use this as yet another moment to stand on a pedestal and try to tear down Zimmer as a plagiarizer. Hans Zimmer has a reputation of taking music from his previous films and re-purposing them in future movies, just take a listen to some of the action music in Rango and you will hear more than a little Pirates of the Caribbean.

The video makes a pretty compelling case that the track is almost identical, but I don’t think Zimmer is to blame, this seems more like the work of Christopher Nolan himself. One of the dirty little secrets of the film score world is the use of a temp track. Basically the temp track is other music that the director or editor uses on the rough cut to get a feel for how the final scene works. Some times the whole movie has a temp track and it even screens for audiences with that music.

Many times those temp tracks make such an impression on a director that he forces the composer to be as close as possible to that track in the final score, or even going as far as to purchase the rights to that original music. What about this situation makes me believe this is another temp track moment and not grand theft music on the part of Zimmer?

Check out the very last tidbit in the video. The movie the original piece of music appeared in turned up in Nolan’s last film, Inception. Clearly this film is on Nolan’s mind, and he thinks highly enough of it to put it in the movie. Often times cinematic choices are the result of the filmmakers influences, and clearly this older film resonates with him.

So you are free and clear this time Zimmer, now go blow us away with another fantastic score this summer and we can spend years dissecting that one too!

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