Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score for Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is a strong continuation of the epic musical world established in Man Of Steel; one complete with several bombastic new themes and many a thunderous action setpiece.
With Man Of Steel, Hans Zimmer successfully revamped the sound of Superman with a new and powerfully heroic musical take on the character – one complete with hopeful atmosphere, bold brass and some exquisitely dramatic backing percussion. With sequel Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice he was joined by fellow film composer Junkie XL (a.k.a Tom Holkenborg), and together they expanded considerably on Zimmer’s new superhero world with new takes on his Superman theme as well as introducing a few new ones for iconic heroes Batman and Wonder Woman.
A Beautiful Lie starts off the score in a decidedly melancholic fashion, opening with a dramatic, brassy burst of the new theme for Batman before the music then slows right back down with mournful piano notes and saddened strings as the solemn origin of the aforementioned character plays out in the film. More strings gradually arrive as the music progresses, building and flaring in their solemnity before some very funeral-esque vocals then take over towards the end of the piece for a particularly dramatic finish. Now – let’s talk about that Batman theme. It’s showcased very briefly here and appears in fully fleshed out form in a later piece Men Are Still Good (The Batman Suite), and overall I’ve always been in two minds about it. The motif at its core is a very dark, foreboding piece of music – one that mostly utilises imposing drums and hard-hitting dramatic brass to emphasise its very assertive, in-your-face, almost villainous musical tone. While it does fit this particular version of Batman quite well (who’s a much darker, more broken depiction of the character than we usually see)…I’m still not sure I really see Batman when I hear the theme, nor do I particularly love the piece overall – I mean, I like it, but unlike with the comparison between Williams’ and Zimmer’s Superman motifs where I felt each brought their own merits to the table, this new Batman theme doesn’t bring a whole lot, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Danny Elfman’s iconic theme for the character from the 1989 Batman movie. The new one’s good, don’t get me wrong – it’s just not great. Anyway, I think I’m getting a bit bogged down here – let’s move on.
Their War Here opens ominously, with imposing vocals and emphatic brass playing a particularly loud rendition of Batman’s new theme before the score then rapidly brings us back to the musical world of Man Of Steel. The dramatic action percussion returns in typically fast-paced form with General Zod’s motif then playing malevolently over the top on brass. Batman’s theme then makes another short action appearance before the music suddenly breaks and saddened strings take over for a few moments of melancholy, after which though Batman’s theme returns for once last foreboding rendition before the track then comes to an end. Another new theme is then introduced in The Red Capes Are Coming – a dramatically villainous yet surprisingly upbeat (though I suppose it does fit this version of him) motif for Lex Luthor. It’s got the same imposing brass and darkened vocals of Batman’s theme, but it utilises them in a much more sinister-sounding, malicious manner – at least to start. The theme goes off on a bit of an instrumental tangent towards the end of the track, with very classical-sounding strings taking things into the more upbeat territory I talked about earlier, a style which further cements just how…wacky this particular iteration of Luthor is. Whether you like Jesse Eisenberg’s geeky, manipulative take on him or not though, you have to admit – this theme does fit him rather perfectly.
Slow, hopeful strings open Day Of The Dead, and a few seconds later the now well-known piano notes arrive, and Superman’s theme from Man Of Steel returns. It plays quietly at first, with strings and brass then building in the background with the latter instruments rising to play the theme louder and prouder. This doesn’t last for long however before the score then descends back into solemnity, with Superman’s theme vanishing just as quickly as it arrived and ominous vocals taking over for two minutes of solemn yet quietly sinister finish. Mystery followed swiftly by horror then descends in Must There Be A Superman, with ethereal vocals opening the piece that then turn fast-paced and creepy as the cue continues. Foreboding electronics arrive quietly in the background before then becoming much more prominent after about a minute or so (to the point of being near deafening), where the pace then quickens substantially for some rather frantic action before the track then comes to a creepily electronic end.
New Rules opens with a quietly ominous rendition of Batman’s theme, with sinister brass playing the main notes of the motif while gentle percussion hints away in the background. The theme becomes more and more prominent as the track progresses, stopping short temporarily at around the two minutes mark (where some very horror-like electronics and vocals take over), but then resuming louder and more powerful than before to close the track on a dramatically foreboding note. Do You Bleed then brings Batman’s theme to the action forefront, with loud, epic percussion, imposing vocals and in-your-face, boisterous brass playing the motif in particularly prominent form. Lex Luthor’s theme returns in typically malevolent style in Problems Up Here, with percussion and brass holding the motif menacingly high until Superman’s theme dramatically enters the fray at about a minute in. Here things get a little solemn, with quiet, funeral-esque strings and vocals playing a rather ethereal rendition of Krypton’s theme from Man Of Steel with the cue then closing out shortly afterward.
Black And Blue is the eight minute action setpiece that we’ve spent the entire film waiting for – the battle between Batman and Superman. It opens in expectedly dramatic form, with foreboding brass and ominous vocals setting the scene before Batman’s theme then takes over for a minute of frantically epic action score. Superman’s theme then gets a little hopeful playthrough before – oddly – General Zod’s theme from Man Of Steel plays in loud, ferocious form. I suspect for this sequel film the theme has taken on more of a dark action role than being representative of the character anymore, but it’s a little jarring to hear here when Zod himself…isn’t. It doesn’t stay for long though before Batman’s theme reasserts itself, with menacing percussion playing followed swiftly by tense brass and deafening vocals for another few minutes of tension before the pace then rapidly grinds to a halt. Here, quiet vocals fade gently in with a piano then playing the opening notes of the Beautiful Lie theme from earlier in the score, at which point the music then softly ends.
Things get pretty horror-like at the start of Tuesday with deep, ominous electronics opening the piece, setting a rather creepy musical atmosphere. Additional, pulsing electronics and loud brass then burst in after about two minutes, shifting the tone from quietly sinister to desperate, frantic action. Boisterous percussion also joins the fray a little later on, piling onto the already dramatic score to create a thunderous overtone that then leads rather seamlessly into standout cue Is She With You; the theme for Wonder Woman. Roaring percussion bursts into view as soon as the piece begins, with a fast-paced electric cello then playing the new theme as loudly and heroically as can be. It’s one hell of a thematic debut, and it coupled with several epic appearances from Superman’s theme dotted through the track easily makes it the standout action setpiece of the album. This Is My World is however also a standout cue, but for an entirely different reason. It starts slowly, with a melancholic rendition of Superman’s theme on piano before the motif from If You Love These People (that I mentioned in my Man Of Steel score review) begins playing loudly and solemnly on vocals and brass. From here on though the track stays utterly quiet, with gentle vocals singing Superman’s theme sadly, mournfully, and utterly heartbreakingly. A small glimmer of hope rises towards the end of the piece with the theme on gentle piano, but it too dies as the music then quietly fades away – thus ending the score on a decidedly solemn note.
Overall though, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is a truly fantastic score, with the exquisite use of themes (both old and new) being the absolute highlight. Superman’s motif is used very effectively throughout the album, and that combined with some fantastic new pieces for Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor (a little less so for Batman, but his is still good) as well as several standout musical moments in Beautiful Lie, Is She With You and This Is My World easily make the score a worthy successor to Zimmer’s frankly breathtaking work for Man Of Steel . It’s a massive shame that this musical style and world were taken away when Danny Elfman originally scored Justice League back in 2017 (and chose not to use any of the established themes), but with a bit of luck, Junkie XL will come to save the day when Zack Snyder’s Justice League finally sees the light of day in March this year. Who knows, we might finally get the epic musical finale that this brilliant soundtrack duology has always deserved. One thing’s for sure though – you’ll certainly be seeing a review for the score on this site, so keep an eye out.
Bring us home, Mr. Holkenborg.
Standout Cues: 11. Is She With You/12. This Is My World