Eager fans who've been devouring every scrap of The Dark Knight Rises that they can get before the Christopher Nolan flick officially hits theaters July 20 have something else to feast on this week, with the film's entire musical score now available online for free. (Stream the 15-song soundtrack at Empire Online here.) Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, who's been known to push the envelope as far as blockbuster soundtracks go, has become Nolan's go-to on all three Batman films as well as Inception. What are commentators distilling from the final Batman film's moody, sonically epic score? Here, eight talking points:
1. Bruce Wayne begins the film in a dark, sullen, and cold headspace
"Any soundtrack to a Christopher Nolan Batman film must start with the swooshing," says Kevin P. Sullivan at MTV, and the first track, "A Storm Is Coming," delivers. The official Dark Knight Rises synopsis says Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hasn't donned the cape and cowl in eight years, and this track's cold mood hints that Wayne's "headspace" is grim indeed as the movie opens, says Matt Patches at Hollywood.com. After all, Batman's still wanted for a murder he didn't commit and is seen as a menace to a society he was trying to protect. He can't be feeling too great.
2. Bane seems to figure prominently in the film from the beginning…
The title of the third track, "Gotham's Reckoning," directly echoes the villain Bane's description of himself when (as seen in trailers) he first arrives to rain terror over Gotham. The fact that the track appears so early on suggests that Bane's first attack — the notorious football stadium explosion — occurs very early in the film.
3. …And seems to be really good at what he does
Previews have suggested that Bane (Tom Hardy) is building an army, and the sheer bombast of Track 7, "The Fire Rises," "has us thinking [it] will be very successful," says MTV's Sullivan. Expect carnage.
4. An old face might return
Hollywood.com's Patches wishfully interprets Track 10, "Fear Will Find You," as a hint that the Scarecrow, played by Nolan favorite Cillian Murphy, will appear in the film: "Fear has been one of the most important themes of Nolan's Batverse. Throwing in Scarecrow, master of fear, just makes sense."
5. Batman will be locked up
The "most arresting" of the soundtrack's titles, "Why Do We Fall?" seems to confirm a much-rumored plot point, says Dan Seitz at Uproxx: Batman will be sent to "a prison hellhole." Zimmer can really phone it in sometimes, but "he's definitely going full on with this one."
6. Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate could be more important than assumed
Little is known about Cotillard's mysterious character, but the track "Death by Exile" has some commentators guessing that Miranda Tate may be a pivot point. "In interviews, Cotillard has written her off as Bruce Wayne's business colleague," says Hollywood.com's Patches, but the new speculation is that she's the daughter of Batman Begins' (possibly immortal) villain Ra's Al Ghul, and, as such, is setting the stage for his return as the ultimate bad guy. "This mere 23 seconds paints a thousand imaginative words."
7. Batman might kill
Nolan's Batman is almost "a post-9/11 metaphor for how one can truly fight in the name of justice," says Hollywood.com's Patches. The track "Necessary Evil," for which Zimmer constructs an "introspective" atmosphere of "epic scale," suggests that the noble Batman may have done something well outside his moral compass. Namely, the assassination of Bane.
8. Batman might die
The final track, "Rise," feels "absolutely angelic," says Hollywood.com's Patches, and could easily accompany a plot twist at which Nolan's been hinting since the franchise began: Batman's death. Make sure you listen to it now, says MTV's Sullivan, because when you hear it in the theater, you'll likely be too consumed by "whatever insanity is going on on-screen to pay attention."
Listen to the first minute of all the tracks down below: