In a matter of hours, the world will find out if Zack Snyder has pulled off the impossible. Will his Batman V Superman film be the all out epic masterpiece its trailers suggest it to be? Or, will it be one of those projects that should have been left untouched in its original medium form of graphic novels and comics? Whatever the outcome, you can expect my full review next week but for now, and to kick off the countdown to the film, we have the original motion picture soundtrack score to talk about. Now, I know what you might be asking…why on earth am I reviewing a soundtrack score to a film I haven’t even seen yet? Isn’t the whole point of music in a film to reflect and portray the images on screen? Can an album of music so integrated into the film it accompanies ever be judged away from said film? All valid points, but, this is no ordinary soundtrack score.
First of all, this is the second collaboration between two of the great modern day composers. Hans Zimmer’s back catalogue is littered with incredible soundtrack scores such as The Lion King, Gladiator, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Interstellar whilst Junkie XL has contributed to films such as The Dark Knight Rises, Man Of Steel and has himself composed the music for Deadpool and Mad Max: Fury Road. They both bring a power, edge and uniqueness to the films they score being capable of the huge pounding sound as well as the quieter more reflective moment. Secondly, they have some mighty big boots to fill. John Williams and Danny Elfman gave Superman and Batman (respectively) stone cold classic soundtracks. Superman’s main title march and Batman’s theme are genuine iconic pieces of music that are forever imprinted onto the sub conscious of our minds. When we imagine ourselves flying like Superman or being as badass as Batman, what do we do? We hum out loud their tunes. And thirdly, yes, this is a soundtrack score, but, it is also a musical statement and in being so, merits judgement standing on its own two feet. The secret to a masterpiece soundtrack score is its arrogance of working without the visuals it is written for with two prime examples being Vangelis Blade Runner and Ennio Morricone The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. So, like I said, Batman V Superman is no ordinary soundtrack score…hell, Zimmer has already done Batman and Superman before so there is no reason that this shouldn’t be anything short of mind blowing.
So, before we start, minimum spoilers here. In fact, the titles of the individual songs themselves seem to be made up of quotes we have heard in the various trailers released (The Red Capes Are Coming and Do You Bleed? for example) so a good way to kick off. Also, the version I am reviewing is the Deluxe Edition which has a total of 18 tracks spread over two discs and also comes with a decent booklet (again with no spoilers), a poster and is packaged extremely well. We are thrown straight into it with opening track Beautiful Lie, a bombastic and epic wall of sound that gives way to an almost creepy piano motif interspersed with bells before building momentum as the orchestra gives us subtle hints of past Dark Knight trilogy sounds with added choral. Their War Here rushes along, slamming beats and powerful choir opening up into music lifted directly from Zimmer’s Man Of Steel soundtrack (probably done on purpose) giving us a solid, if not remarkable, first two tracks. The Red Capes Are Coming however, is a different beast. This is a very dark, thunderously deep piano led tune that climbs, falls, rolls and stomps all over the place, reminiscent of pure classical music and a track that, by the sound of it, could be Lex Luthor’s theme (or a part of it anyways). Day Of The Dead starts off as the slow piano tune from Man Of Steel building in exactly the same way then becoming sorrowful and almost sad whilst Must There Be A Superman’s female choir, breathing style strings and manic style give the track a 2001 A Space Odyssey hint and feel.
Track number six, New Rules, is very odd. The first half sounding like it has been lifted directly from either the Alien or Prometheus soundtrack…so much so that Zimmer and XL ought to worry about copyright infringement! Do You Bleed reminds me of The Matrix Revolutions when Neo and Agent Smith are flying all over the place kicking the crap out of each other with some techno sounds thrown into the fray as well. Problems Up Here is mostly a rehash of The Red Capes Are Coming, Black And Blue feels very mechanical and “Doomsday” like and highlights Junkie Xl’s pounding drums brilliantly working with Zimmer’s choir production, Is She With You? is obviously Wonder Woman’s theme and adds some (what sounds like) very welcome lead guitar work into the mix, and, This Is My World gives us a fist pumping “yes we did it” epic start but then brings it right down with gorgeous choir “but at what loss” emotion. Final track, Men Are Still Good (The Batman Suite) is a 14 minute accumulation of everything that has transpired previously (and from the Man Of Steel soundtrack score) interspersed with very black rumblings of dread, playfully dark violins and orchestra so low and deep, it grumbles and vibrates. The second disc (labelled as Bonus Tracks) continues the first discs sound over its five tracks with the exception of Vigilante sounding very much borderline horror movie uneasiness in parts and Fight Night bringing the whole thing to a close with some disturbing sounds weaved in.
First the positives. It sounds incredible! Obviously played by insanely skilled musicians with years of experience, it doesn’t falter from start to finish. Each instrument is given equal mixing, the production is outstanding and you can clearly hear the true collaboration aspect between the two composers (although it is probably 60%-40% balanced towards Zimmer in style). The variation is also spot on going from the epic superhero sound to the quiet serene moments. Light victorious sections give way to genuinely dark passages, and, as much as it sounds like what you would expect, there are pieces that completely catch you of guard and push the boundaries of soundtrack score music; I am really excited to hear this within the context of the film, especially The Red Capes Are Coming…the highlight track of the album without a doubt!
Now come the negatives. Considering this is meant to be Batman V Superman, I didn’t hear anything that sounded like a Batman type theme and there was an over reliance on re-using music from the Man Of Steel soundtrack for Superman which is odd considering we have been told from day one that the film isn’t Man Of Steel 2. There are also strange moments where it unashamedly rips off other soundtracks…as mentioned Alien, Prometheus, 2001 and The Matrix Revolutions are so in your face, you wonder how it was not highlighted by the people involved. But the one thing that irks me more than anything is the fact that this is Batman V Superman god dammit…the biggest showdown between two of the greatest superheroes ever created, “Son of Krypton versus bat of Gotham”, yet the score doesn’t seen to reflect this. Honestly, it isn’t a patch on Zimmer’s Dark Knight trilogy or even as good as his Man Of Steel soundtrack score.
So, to conclude, the Batman V Superman Dawn Of Justice soundtrack score is very good. It does its job well, sounds unbelievable and will no doubt fit perfectly within the film. There are moments of actual genius that send shivers shooting down your spine yet there are moments of bewilderment and unoriginality leaving you with a lingering worry about what actually might have been. A worry that lingers in the back of my mind when I think about the film itself…come next week, will I be left wondering what might have been or, like I said at the beginning, will Mr Snyder pull off the impossible?