Album Review: Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL – Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

A jarring, chaotic score overpowered by muscular repetition




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Batman and Superman are bringing pads, armor, and all sorts of gear to protect themselves in their first  film bout. Witnesses to this event, however, might just want to just bring a few cotton balls, and jam ‘em in their ears beforehand.

The machinations and marketing behind Warner’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice have been so deafeningly gargantuan that it comes as no surprise that the event film’s been rumored to have a $400 million price tag. Why must Batman and Superman square off? Only Zack Snyder and his team of fight-makers seem to know. His production, however, consists of, but is not limited to: hundreds of credited actors, 13 producers, nine visual effects supervisors, and two of the biggest brand names in modern composition.

For Bats vee Supes, Snyder enlisted the talents of Academy Award-winner Hans Zimmer and Mad Max: Fury Road survivor Junkie XL, and the resulting new score is as brash, brazen, and big as one would imagine given the duo’s love of the loud. Sometimes the BvS score plays to stirring effects, and feels as epic as the movie it’s attached to. Other times, it’s like a cacophonous symphony of crashes and clattering sounds, as if composed by Batman and Superman’s tightly clenched fists, cracking every last baton.

The soundtrack begins like a punch to the head with the hostile bass thumps of “Beautiful Lie”. But immediately, the bass stops in favor of elegiac piano taps slowly roaring like a Western showdown. The track then regroups and re-builds into a nervous piano riff that glues together chamber sounds, anxious strings, and funereal voices. It’s a lot, but it holds together.

Tonally, the transitions in “Beautiful Lie” make the track a great preparation for things to come in both BvS and its soundtrack. The latter, for the most part, is like audio debris: fascinating instrumental pieces scattered out all over the place. The resources and diverse array of sounds are Zimmer and Junkie’s super-strengths. They want big, obvious themes with wholly modern sounds.

In “The Red Capes Are Coming” — which is presumably a villain’s theme for Lex Luthor — gauche, twitchy violins sound out the deranged brain-waves of an egomaniac. The track’s punctuated with piano slams that curiously recall Amadeus. Those kinds of strings, style, and the variety of decisions here, are uncommon in the superhero genre, which is to the album’s benefit. In “Is She With You”, the famed DC character Wonder Woman gets her own attempt at a musical device, and it’s a piercing cry of electric cello. Junkie and Zimmer run the gamut from subtle strings to sweeping percussive rumbles, rarely resting, only occasionally composing a beat at less than 11.

Outside the confines of the film, this album would go well with an intense workout, the tracks blaring as someone lifts weights too fast until they accidentally tear a bicep. To that point, the muscular repetition of the score is its downfall. Every track pounds at medium to fast speeds, barely ever catching its breath, and it gets exhausting over 18 tracks. The second number, “Their War Here”, is like a never-ending battle, with blaring horns and incessant beats that recall Fury Road’s car full of giant drums in a strange way. “Men Are Still Good (The Batman Suite)” is just 14 minutes of noise mayhem; ferocious fiddling on the violin, blaring digital bass hits, all the intense multi-pieced orchestra sounds that a major movie can buy. It’s so bloated and too static to appreciate. Tracks like these act as overpowering texture, rather than actual listening material, and is often too jarring, too chaotic, to work as repeat listening.

Essential Tracks: “Beautiful Lie”, “The Red Capes Are Coming”, and “Is She With You”