Film scores

Soundtrack review: Batman vs Superman – Dawn of justice (Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL – 2016)

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I am enjoying this moment right here; the anticipation has reached its peak and I finally have the score I’ve been waiting for for so long. I can honestly say that “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of justice” has been the most eagerly anticipated score for me in years. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever counted the days so feverishly until a release date. Where do I begin? I hope the intro won’t be longer than the review itself but I am just relishing these moments. Hans Zimmer is my favorite composer. His past Batman works (even if unrelated) count among my favorite scores. Then there’s the small trivia tidbit that for the past three years, these two composers have won my personal score of the year award. First Hans with the score to which this one is a direct sequel (“Man of steel”, a masterpiece for me), then “Interstellar” and Tom Holkenborg last year with “Mad Max: Fury Road”. So yeah… expecting “Batman vs Superman” to be my score of the year 2016 is a given. No pressure guys, no pressure. The plot of the movie is that following the events of Man of Steel, Gotham City-based vigilante Batman travels to Metropolis to preemptively combat Superman, while another threat endangers humanity. Batman is my favorite comic book character and I can’t wait to see where he is after the “Dark knight” trilogy.

The opening track “Beautiful lie” contains in a nutshell everything I love about this musical universe that these two composer super heroes have created: the superhuman percussion that penetrates me to the bone and the intense emotion that shatters me from the first piano like sound. This cue alone would justify buying the album for me, from the first explosion until the final whisper. “They war here” brings the “Man of steel” theme and I feel at home with this score already. “Day of the dead” is a throwback to my favorite theme from the first score “What are you going to do when you’re not saving the world?” but with a twist… the optimism and stride of that theme is toned down here with the doubts and questions about this alien’s presence in our work. Brilliant twist from Hans.

For me listening to film music is all about how it affects me and makes me feel, regardless of instruments or techniques used. Do I get shivers from a cue? Does the end of “They war here” give me goose bumps? This is all that matters. I recognize the megalomaniacal Lex in “The red capes are coming” with its disaccorded strings and sarcastic sound even before he appears in the movie and it makes me feel curious and intrigued. Every piece of music from this score stirs something inside me. It’s not always loud and it’s not always moving but even quieter and more transitional cues like “Do you bleed?” and “Problems up there” are enjoyable.

Sometimes the music feels less coherent than on “Man of steel”; I can’t help but compare the two. There are more chaotic moments and sections where the music seems broken into pieces. I will have to see the movie and understand how they fit in context. There are moments when Tom Holkenborg brings his “Mad Max” wonderful insanity like in “Is she with you?”. This is one of my favorite themes from this. It leads into “This is my world” which is the most beautiful and emotional variation of the “Man of steel” theme I’ve heard. It would have fit perfectly on that score but I’m happy Hans kept this choral and heart breaking version for the sequel. I feel all the weight of the world on my shoulders and the loneliness of a misunderstood alien when I listen to it.

Hans Zimmer said he didn’t want to betray Christian Bale’s Batman, their Batman so the new theme for Bruce Wayne’s alter ego is all Junkie XL. The “Men are still good” suite is 14 minutes long and I remember “The Dark knight” suite clocking at 16. Naturally it starts with… the opening of the “Man of steel” score, the “Look to the stars” motif which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I understand the story is all about the two heroes crossing paths but having the Batman suite start like that is a little odd. As the cue progresses, “Man of steel” motifs keep bleeding into this theme and I can’t help but think of those “Batman vs Superman” posters where each of the hero’s faces are half torn to reveal the other one’s. Focusing on the Batman moments they express the level of darkness I would expect seeing the state of mind of the character in the movie. This being a suite it’s not easy to identify the actual theme without a few listens. The more I listen to “Men are still good” the more I understand it and the more I feel Bruce Wayne’s pain and desire to make things right. This cue is sad, deep and affecting. The buildup at the end mirrors the resolve in Batman’s heart that makes him come to Metropolis. In the end the whole puzzle comes together.

The version of the score I’m listening to includes 5 bonus tracks as well. They sound a bit different from the rest of the score, bordering on horror actually. They are quieter, more mysterious and the noise is reduced to a minimum and I get a very Trent Reznor like vibe from “Blood of my blood” and “Vigilante”. I don’t feel they add a lot to the listening experience, maybe if they were in the middle of the score they would have made more sense as they are not great themes on their own and they need the rest of the score to function. “They were hunters” deserves a mention because of the hypnotic and quiet and, once again, Nine Inch Nails like piano which introduces once again a theme from “Man of steel”, “Goodbye” this time.

Even if “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of justice” might not be my score of the year I can’t wait to hear it context and discover more of it upon further listening.

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 75 / 91

Album excellence: 82%

Highlights:

Beautiful Lie

Their War Here

The Red Capes Are Coming

Day Of The Dead

New Rules

Do You Bleed?

Black And Blue

Tuesday

Is She With You?

This Is My World

Men Are Still Good (The Batman Suite)

Vigilante (Bonus Track)**

They Were Hunters (Bonus Track)**

Fight Night (Bonus Track)**

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

3 Comments

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  • Excellent review
    Considering i have already listened the score twice, you described the impact of every track perfectly. “Is she with you?”, & “This is my world” are my top favourites. Just like you mentioned, “Is she with you” has the full Tom Holkenborg feel in it. And “This is my world” has Zimmer’s best and most emotional compositions from Man Of Steel’s soundtrack (remember This is Clark Kent?)
    Also, much like these 2 tracks, the initial 4 tracks are very coherent and enjoyable.
    And well stated about the “Bat Suite”. The “Look to the stars” kinda beginning doesn’t makes much sense.
    Overall, it’s a good soundtrack. It has some very solid compositions.
    But IMO, Man Of Steel’s soundtrack was more awesome.