Arts & Entertainment, Music

Case Study: The Dark Knight

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 8:03 min

Learn how Hans accentuated the tension in the already-tense boat scene from The Dark Knight.

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Topics include: Dark Knight Case Study


There are a couple of surprising things going on for a blockbuster Batman movie, I think. One of the things that Batman and the Morgan Freeman character are obviously doing the wrong things with that surveillance thing. They are now doing the immoral thing. And then Chris quite overtly uses the African-American prisoner, who he shoots him as if this guy is a really bad guy, etc. And the other guy on the other side, the businessman, with the gentle face. Basically, it turns our expectations upside down that the big action scene that is going to happen right now is not an action scene. That somebody we don't expect to make a more morally-correct choice will make a morally-correct choice. And I always said to Chris, I love that our action scene is about the nonevent of the bombs going off, the nonevent, the not-the-expected thing. That you're telling the truth by playing against type. And the other piece of baggage that comes with the scene is that was Heath Ledger's last scene. So it's tough to look at. The scene is full of ideas. The idea of surveillance, is it moral? Is it immoral? If we can go ahead and save the world by using our cell phones and the NSA and all that stuff, eavesdropping on us, is that the way to save the world? Or is relying on something as simple as the goodness of one human being, in this case, a guy who, the way Chris has framed it, the way he's dressed in the prison orange, you know, he's got the tattoos. He's got all that stuff. And our instincts are yes, he's going to go. And when he goes, give me that thing, you know, is he threatening? And he's the most moral-- he knows how to make the right moral choice. So the scene is about ideas as opposed to the mathematics of an action scene, or the kineticism of hey, we can make this really exciting by pumping a lot of fast-paced music underneath it. I'm actually trying to create an enormous amount of space, which does create tension, and slow everything down so you'll really take in what is going on. You don't want to die. But you don't know how to take a life. Give it to me. Damian will kill you and take it anyway. I don't want you to miss the scene, by me, during action. Fine. I'll do it. And that was really where I was coming from when I said to Chris, you know, is it OK if I don't write this as an action scene? Doesn't make any sense for us to have to die too. And I understand why Chris wanted to do this as an action scene. The adrenaline is high, etc. And it's in that place of the movie where you would have an action scene. You know, geographically, that's where the action scene would take place. But by actually making it slower than what was going on in the screen, it added far more tension. And it was a bit more elegant to do it that way. Give it to me. You can tell him I took it by force. Give it to me. And I'll d...

About the Instructor

Hans Zimmer didn’t see a film until he was 12 years old. Since then, he’s scored over 150 films, including Inception, The Lion King, and The Dark Knight. In his MasterClass, the self-taught Academy Award-winner teaches how he creates sounds from nothing, composes compelling character themes, and scores a movie before ever seeing it. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to start film scoring.

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Hans Zimmer

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