Hans Zimmer’s Sketches From The Soundtrack album for Wonder Woman 1984 serves as an excellent companion piece to the initial score release; one that dives deep into all of the major themes and expands upon them in all the intriguing and interesting ways that the original score didn’t quite have the time to do.
Well, here we are again. Nearly two months after we heard Hans Zimmer’s frankly fantastic score for Wonder Woman 1984, we get treated to what is essentially a second CD for it; one filled with demo reels, concepts and thematic expansions for all the major musical components of the initial score. A similar thing happened with Zimmer’s last superhero soundtrack X-Men: Dark Phoenix, where an Xperiments album was released a couple months after the film and featured big suites of themes that didn’t quite get their dues on the original album; overall making for a pretty essential companion to the first score release. Here with WW84 I’m happy to say its no different; if you felt certain themes didn’t quite get the fleshing out you were hoping for on the soundtrack, then look no further than Sketches. Think of it as a part two to WW84‘s already sublime score.
It begins with ’84, and right off the bat I can thankfully say that the album doesn’t have those silly, hard to understand track titles that Xperiments had – this cue is (as you’d expect really) a bit of an introduction piece to the score overall. It opens with synth playing Zimmer’s original Wonder Woman theme before electronic percussion then arrives and the Themyscira motif starts playing loudly and heroically, then combining with the aforementioned Wonder Woman theme for two minutes of dramatically upbeat score. There is however a slight caveat to all this – ’84 and indeed most other tracks on the album are demo cues i.e. there’s no real orchestra here; it’s all synthetic. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounds great, but if you listen to this right after the original score album for instance, you will probably notice a…decline in quality (as that used real orchestra as well as synthesized instrumentation, whereas this is purely synthetic). No Hero Is Born From Lies then continues with those main themes, even bringing in the expanded notes of Wonder Woman’s theme from tracks like Truth and Open Road, then mixing them all up and overall giving them the thorough fleshing out that they absolutely deserve. I did feel that the new elements of Wonder Woman’s theme didn’t quite get the big, lengthy attention they needed on the original album – bar a minute or two in Truth there wasn’t a big “main theme” track that tied it all together – and so its absolutely wonderful to hear them getting that here. And the album’s only just getting started.
Apex Predator is just over five minutes long, and is essentially a lengthy fleshing out of Cheetah’s ominous villain theme from the score (one that featured heavily in track Cheetah). It opens very similarly to the original album cue, with loud, imposing electronics establishing tone before an electric guitar then bursts into the fray, playing Cheetah’s foreboding theme in particularly epic and dramatic form with ferocious percussion joining it in the background. The music even goes a bit Batman V Superman at about three minutes in, with something that sounds eerily similar to Batman’s action motif playing frantically as the pace of the track quickens then to its end. Next up, The Monkey Paw expands upon the theme for the Dreamstone, evoking mystery and intrigue with creepy electronics and slow, ominous strings. Over the course of its four minute runtime the instrumentation then builds, holding the motif higher and higher until reaching a particularly malevolent-sounding crescendo just before the score fades out as menacingly as it arrived. Barbara Minerva then plays a light, upbeat and rather 80s-esque theme for said character before she became Cheetah; utilising short elements of the aforementioned villain motif but in a much lighter, happier and overall rather synthy manner. The lengthy Dechalafrea Ero is up next; an eleven minute suite dedicated to the old god that created the Dreamstone from the film. This is a bit of a new theme, and one that leans heavily into atmosphere and mood-setting. Creepy brass, quiet strings and low-pitched electronics form the instrumental backbone of this track, which slowly builds itself to louder and more villainous-sounding levels over the course of its somewhat…overly long runtime. In Love then features another big thematic expansion for (rather predictably) the brilliant love theme for Steve and Diana. It really is a fantastic piece of music, and while the motif did already get quite a thorough fleshing out on the original album (see Lost And Found), its still great to hear it played loudly and proudly again here.
Citrine is a primarily electronic piece, one that for three ominous minutes focuses entirely on the creepily ethereal theme for the Dreamstone. Much like with earlier cues (and to be honest, a great deal of Hans Zimmer’s music in general) it starts quietly, before then building slowly but surely until reaching a loudly dramatic crescendo, with the track then closing out a short while later. In Harm’s Way brings back Zimmer’s original motif for Wonder Woman (from Is She With You) in what is essentially a demo version of the Open Road action setpiece from the WW84 soundtrack album. Instead of loud orchestra though we’re presented with synthetic percussion and brass alongside action-centric electronics, and while overall the cue is pretty enjoyable it (rather expectedly, I suppose) doesn’t hold a candle to the properly orchestrated rendition that Open Road is. It is quite interesting in terms of gaining an insight into the production of the score, though. After that, Life Is Good, But It Can Be Better focuses on the villain theme for Maxwell Lord, while also mixing it with a few notes from the recurring percussive motif in Anything You Want to create overall one of the tenser and more unsettling pieces of music on this Sketches score. The moment I personally had been waiting for then finally arrives with standout cue The Amazon; a piece where for ten glorious minutes the extended Wonder Woman theme simply goes all out, exploding with such sheer ferocity and heroism that Truth and some of the earlier cues could only hint at. Zimmer simply doesn’t hold back here, with some truly spectacular moments.
Overall, Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman 1984 (Sketches From The Soundtrack) is an excellent extension of the already superb score that the original album was. Much like with how Xperiments was to Dark Phoenix, Sketches takes all of the major themes from the score and gives them considerable expansion and fleshing out; where some motifs hadn’t quite gotten the attention they could’ve done with in the first album, Sketches goes back and completely rectifies this, to amazing results. The only slight catch to this is that the cues here are all mostly demos and mockups, created synthetically on a computer rather than with a real orchestra, so if you’re listening to this right after the main score album, you will probably notice a bit of a decline in quality. Only a bit though, because even without that crisp orchestral sound here Zimmer manages to do some truly astounding work with his new themes – take standout cue The Amazon for example as a mind-blowing expansion of the new elements of Wonder Woman’s theme, or Apex Predator as a brilliant focus on Cheetah’s motif, which only got one short track on the initial release.
In essence, if you liked Zimmer’s Wonder Woman 1984, you’ll love this.
Standout Cue: 11. The Amazon