Monday, April 4, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zimmer, Junkie XL, 2016)

     In 2013, Hans Zimmer began scoring a new chapter of superhero films with "Man of Steel".  In that score he was assisted by Junkie XL, and in the sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, JXL "graduated" to a co-composer credit.  Considering that Zimmer has recently stated that he's "done" with superhero films, it's likely that Junkie XL will continue on alone with the "Justice League" films, which should be interesting (though apparently the themes of the characters in these next two films have already been provided by Zimmer).

     In any case, this film functions sometimes as an introductory Batman film, and so most of the score revolves around his new themes (motifs).  Wonder Woman also gets some exciting thematic material in this film as well, and it will be interesting to see if they are developed in the upcoming solo Wonder Woman film.  So, amazingly, this film contains a full complement of at least 20 identifiable themes/motifs, 10 from Man of Steel and 10 new ones (there are a couple additional motivic chord figures which re-occur as well, but 20 is enough for now, I think).

Themes returning from Man of Steel (and described further in that analysis post):
Superman Theme A, B, C ("Flight", plus darker variation)
Clark Theme
Earth Motif
Krypton Harmony
Zod Theme A, B
Lara Theme
Codex theme (used as an ostinato and reused here as a Batman battle theme)

New Themes:
  • Batman:
    • Batman Motif: 6 beat repeated accent on one note, often percussion only.  Sometimes, when used melodically, the 6 beat motif is repeated on different notes (also used as 5-beat cadence).
    • Vigilante Motif: haunting 3 note motif (E'-B-D#').
    • Boyhood Tragedy Theme: fateful descending lines/chords in 2-beat notes and in two layers.
  • Lex Luthor:
    • Lex Theme A: ironic piano and strings motif.
    • Lex Theme B: variation of Theme A involving prepared piano, more percussive elements (only used once in The Red Capes Are Coming, but very evocative).
    • Lex Theme C: staccato, "gypsy-like" violin theme, probably referring to Lex's mania.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Diana Prince Theme: heroic rising figure slightly reminiscent of Danny Elfman's 1989 Batman Motif, developed.
    • Wonder Woman Theme/Rhythm: ornamented, wailing version of Diana Prince Theme, featured on electric cello (sounding like guitar) and often paired with a signature drum rhythm (derived from Man of Steel's Mission Rhythm).
    • Wonder Woman Motif: rising 2-note signature figure on cello, based on WW theme, somewhat moaning/howling.
    • Wonder Woman Ostinato: rapid staccato string-like texture/ostinato, probably digitally created/sped up.

     The listing below is in film sequence order (different from the CD order).  I noted most of the obvious elements of each cue, but the score is totally awash in various "ambient textures" (I must have typed that phrase dozens of times by now!) and I gave up on describing all of these textures after awhile.  Having said that, I did enjoy that aspect of this score, especially when wedded to the screen image.

     This is probably true for most modern action films, but one of the things I lamented about this score's usage in the film itself is that so much of the score's "precision" is buried in the sound editing (ie - overbearing sound effects).  For example, if one goes to the theater and manages to listen to "Fight Night" with noise-cancelling earphones along with the matching scene, one can hear/see that it's amazingly well scored to picture (or the film was edited to score).  Another thing worth mentioning here is that, considering this film has not yet been released on home video, it's highly likely that I may have mixed up/missed a few themes...

Trk Dur Title Film Sequence/Themes
1 3:47 Beautiful Lie 0:00: 2 x 6-beat Batman Motif as slams, with final 13th slam (unused).
0:15: Logos, procession to the Wayne mausoleum: Batman Motif and Vigilante Motif in piano with Batman Motif string pluck pulses.
1:09: Flashbacks (intercut) of Young Bruce and his parents being held up by a gunman: descending Boyhood Tragedy theme on piano with Batman Motif string pulses continuing.
1:55: Young Bruce runs into the cemetery forest and falls into a pit/Flashback: Young Bruce's father is shot: Boyhood Tragedy theme slower 2nd layer enters in strings.
2:39: Flashback: Young Bruce's mother is killed: boy vocal picks up Boyhood Tragedy 2nd layer.
3:10: Flashback: Young Bruce's father whispers his last word, "Martha": Vigilante Motif in distant tones over Batman Motif.
2 4:35 Their War Here 0:00: Young Bruce is surrounded by a swarm of bats and then levitates towards the light with them: Wonder Woman ostinato joined by rising Diana Prince theme over Batman Motif pulses, building with choir and ending in boys voice, ambient textures. 
"In the dream, they took me to the light.  A beautiful lie."
1:10: Adult Bruce Wayne races towards his office building in Metropolis during Superman's battle with General Zod: drum rhythm, brass/choir fanfare into Zod theme (developed with and without drums/brass/strings) ending with choir and rising strings.
2:48: Bruce gets out of his car and sees Zod's mothership/gravity weapon: quiet texture, tremolo strings/swell.
3:15: Bruce begins running.  Superman and Zod fly into the Wayne building and it is destroyed, killing Bruce's friend Jack inside: Zod theme  variation on low strings, sad strings/choir, falling string figures, ending with string/choir cadence (based on Boyhood Tragedy slow layer).
14 4:26 Blood Of
My Blood
0:00: Lois Lane attempts to interview a shady general in Africa: treated ethnic wind figure, various ominous strings/textures/impact rhythms.
1:32: The photographer ("Jimmy Olsen") is revealed to be CIA and Lois is taken prisoner.  Lex's security forces (led by "KGBeast") begin shooting the general's guards, creating a massacre.  Something in the sky approaches: compound string rhythm (variation of Wonder Woman rhythm), intercut with suspense textures, slams with choir/string rhythm.
3:03: Superman arrives and dispatches the general holding Lois at gunpoint.  At a Senate hearing, an African woman implicates Superman as the cause of the general's dead guards.  Senator Finch holds Superman responsible: ambient textures, Krypton harmony with Superman theme A/choral textures.
15 3:54 Vigilante 0:00: Back in Metropolis, Lois discovers a bullet lodged in her journal.  She takes a bath: low bass throbbing/high strings.
1:01: Gotham police investigate a human trafficker and find signs of the Batman: ambient textures, etc. 
1:55: Batman escapes from the police.  The police find the trafficker Bat-branded (Bruce Wayne greets Alfred in the Batcave): ambient "noise" textures with distorted layers and reverbed impacts, building to a 5-beat Batman Motif cadence, then suddenly quiet and building to full Batman Motif.
6 4:03 New Rules 0:00: Alfred questions Batman's branding of his latest prey: high Vigilante Motif on distant trumpet over low Batman Motif in timpani, Vigilante Motif on low strings, etc.
"We're criminals, Alfred.  We've always been criminals."
1:12: Clark Kent sees a TV report of the Batman's vigilantism (alt version): high Vigilante Motif on trumpet joined by rising Diana Prince theme in strings and Batman Motif pulses.
2:05: (Unused) slightly louder re-track of T15 (Vigilante, from 1:55: ambient "noise" textures with distorted layers and reverbed impacts, building to a 5-beat Batman Motif cadence, then suddenly quiet and building to full Batman Motif.)
3 3:32 The Red Capes
Are Coming
0:00: Lex Luthor gains access to Zod's crashed spaceship: ambient drone to "ironic" Lex theme A on treated piano/strings.
0:57: Lex obtains the body of General Zod.  He proceeds to shave off Zod's fingerprints: Lex theme B on 2 prepared pianos/strings.
1:53: Senator Finch tells Lex that she is not going to help him obtain a Kryptonite meteor: low chromatic rising piano figure/high texture becoming strings, falling piano.
3:08: Lex points out his painting of heavenly angels and devils: Lex theme C as a dancing violin figure.
16 3:28 May I
Help You,
Mr. Wayne?
0:00: At Lex's party, Diana Prince and Bruce Wayne briefly lock eyes: Wonder Woman motif on electric cello/high Diana Prince theme string tremoli.
0:20: Bruce makes his way to Lex's data warehouse.  Mercy, Lex's assistant, asks him what he's doing: Diana Prince motif in high tremolo strings continue, joined by subtle Wonder Woman electronic ostinato and Diana Prince theme on celli, ambient textures, Batman Motif in timpani.
1:49: While Bruce, Clark and Lex converse, Alfred informs Bruce that the data transfer of Lex's files is complete: ambient textures/strings/brass/synth with hint of Diana Prince theme in high strings, etc.
2:36: Bruce sees that Diana has taken his data copy.  She loses him: Wonder Woman motif, Wonder Woman ostinato and Diana Prince theme in celli, ending in Krypton harmony cadence.
4 4:02 Day Of
The Dead
0:00: After Lex's explosion, Clark expresses his feeling of futility to Lois.  He tells Lois that this is not his world and takes off (takes place before "They Were Hunters"): ambient textures, Earth motif, Clark theme on piano.
1:08: Superman rescues a girl from a burning building during a Day of the Dead festival: Krypton harmony, Superman theme A (w guitar gliss), theme B.
1:57: Montage of Superfeats and talking heads discussing how the existence of Superman affects mankind: Superman theme C variation on low strings, joined by subtle col legno strings, becoming a troubled harmony variation.
5 3:59 Must There Be
A Superman?
0:00: In a post-apocalyptic dream, Batman surveys a sandy landscape: dissonant choir (Ligeti-like), slams, reverbed impacts.
0:50: Batman enters a truck expecting to find a Kryptonite meteor, but instead finds a trap.  Batman fights soldiers wearing "S" insignia (as well as apparent Apokolips Parademons swarming from the sky), and is overpowered: noise textures/glissandi, pause then more accents/sound design, choirs/rhythmic element with irregular tempo.
2:33: Batman wakes up in chains and is threatened by Superman: ambient sound design, siren-like, Krypton harmony in a very dissonant variation.
"She was my world...and you took her from me."
3:31: Back in the "real world", Bruce is visited by the Flash, who gives him a warning from the future: low hum with high oscillating noise/rapid bass pulse.
"You have to find us!"
7 4:36 Do You Bleed? 0:00: The Batmobile pursues a truck carrying Lex's Kryptonite meteor: ambient noise textures, Batman Motif drums with strings/choir, simplified Zod drum rhythm intercut with Batman Motif accents.
1:20: Batmobile chase continues: previous elements joined by synth riffs/brass accents/string swells, ominous building action figures, descending Codex ostinato theme in strings.
2:32: Batmobile chase continues: new syncopated rhythm enters, Batman Motif chords with choir, Codex synth/string/choir riffs, ambient textures, Codex figure/Batman Motif.
3:48: Batman's pursuit is halted when Superman appears.  The Batmobile crashes and Superman opens it up like a can of Pringles.  The two heroes have words: Batman Motif with drums/choir, developed, ambient noise textures.
17 2:46 They Were Hunters 0:00: (unused Bruce scene?) enigmatic repeating piano figure.
0:28: Clark tells his father that he misses him: ambient textures, joined by Earth motif, Clark theme on piano.
1:10: Alfred visits Bruce in the Wayne mausoleum and they discuss the Wayne legacy: ambient textures continue joined by Vigilante Motif in distant trumpets with Batman Motif on timpani, foreboding variations with piano/low textures.
8 4:25 Problems Up Here 0:00: Lois is captured by KGBeast and brought to Lex at the top of his building: Lex theme A, with coda figure.
0:48: Lex explains to Superman why he hates him so much: low textures joined by poignant, brief cello figure over slow, low Superman theme A, quiet piano/string accent figure over tremolo strings, rising cello/string figures.
2:53: Lex shows Superman pictures of Martha Kent as his prisoner and tells him that he must kill Batman in 1 hour or his mother will be killed: dark ambient textures with female lullaby figure (from Man of Steel's "Goodbye My Son"), cello (Zod theme B poignant variation) over ethereal choral/string texture.
"And now, 'God' bends to MY will.  Mother of God, will you look at the time!"
9 8:31 Black And Blue 0:00: After surviving Batman's first wave of attacks, Superman pushes Batman through a building and drops him on the Bat-signal lamp: ambient textures/strings, subtle Batman Motif rhythmic quote, rising figures.
1:01: Batman hits Superman with a Kryptonite gas grenade.  He begins pummeling Superman: swirling string cluster texture, Batman Motif drum accents with Vigilante Motif in brass, developed with drums and strings.
2:25: The Kryptonite gas wears off and Superman briefly regains the upper hand:  strings/choir harmonies from Superman theme B ending harmonies, synth riffs into Batman/Vigilante Motif, Zod theme, rising string/choir.
3:47: Batman hits him with another gas grenade.  Batman then smashes a kitchen sink on Superman's head: ambient textures with stuttering accents, choir/electronic drums/synth into Batman Motif/choir.
4:46: Eventually he tosses Superman down to the ground floor, and drags Superman to the room with the Kryptonite-tipped spear: falling string figure into ambient textures, joined by Vigilante Motif on trumpet, choir with drum rhythm, ambient textures to Batman Motif choir accents, string rhythm with poignant rising upper melody.
6:34: Batman threatens Superman with the Kryptonite spear: fateful held strings and brass chords/timpani (Superman B ending harmony).
7:10: Superman asks Batman to save his mother.  Bruce flashes back to his parents' murder/funeral/falling into the Batcave.  When Lois tells him about Superman's mother, he stops: strings become Boyhood Tragedy theme in piano and boys voice, then 2nd layer (boys voice) is joined by strings (reprise of Beautiful Lie).
18 4:20 Fight Night 0:00: The Batwing approaches Marthe Kent's location and engages artillery.  Alfred takes control of the Batwing as Batman leaps into the building through a window, one floor below Lex's goons: ambient textures into pounding Zod theme slams/rhythms intercut with soaring strings, Batman Motif cadence, Codex theme low string ostinato developed, Batman Motif accent with choir.
1:06: Gunmen prepare for Batman: ambient screeching noises
1:28: Batman arrives and does his thing: Batman Motif, synth riff/slams/brass, Zod rhythm, developed with Batman Motif rhythm and Codex ostinato, etc.
2:35: (fight scene continues): Vigilante Motif joins in low brass, etc...general organized, rhythmic chaos.
3:24: Gunmen in another room wait for Batman.  Batman comes out of the wall and eventually saves Martha Kent from KGBeast: quiet held textures, brass/drums accents.
10 4:01 Tuesday 0:00: Superman confronts Lex at the Kryptonian scoutship, but Lex presents the birth of the Kryptonian mutation Doomsday: low textures, string cluster gliss, ambient pulses/tremoli, falling electronic tone, low string pulses/tremoli.
1:50: Superman engages Doomsday.  After demolishing Superman's statue, Doomsday heads to Lexcorp Tower.  Diana Prince sees news footage of the attack: brass accents with rising string figure, building string figure, falling brass accent figure with low pulses/string tremoli, brass rhythm, low piano accents, building ambient textures/string accents, ending on low strong tremoli. 
11 5:47 Is She
With You?
0:00: After Batman lures Doomsday to Gotham, his life is saved by the sudden appearance of Wonder Woman.  Superman appears and gives her the lowdown.  Meanwhile, Lois attempts to retrieve the Kryptonite spear: wailing Wonder Woman theme in electric guitar/electric cello over pounding drums, tremolo violins double drum rhythm and cello develops guitar melody, bass and drums on rhythm only, wailing electric guitar/cello joins rhythm with theme fragment, rising ambient textures.
1:48:  Superman and Wonder Woman engage Doomsday in a massive battle: Wonder Woman theme on electric guitar/cello with drum accents only, noble brass fanfare with subtle guitar melody, developed on urgent rising strings/brass.
2:47: Lois is trapped underwater while trying to retrieve the spear: quieter Wonder Woman rhythm on rising strings/synth/choir.
3:09: Superman and Doomsday have an eyebeam duel, but Superman disengages to save Lois.  He then goes after the spear: Wonder Woman rhythm developed with string ornaments and choir accents, Krypton harmony, Lara theme fragment on aching violins.
4:11: Batman distracts Doomsday: Wonder Woman rhythm returns on drums/rising strings/Vigilante Motif low brass.
4:41: Superman gets the spear but is weakened by its Kryptonite tip.  Wonder Woman chops off Doomsday's hand, but it regenerates with a spear-like bone tusk: ominous "tolling bell" figure over held strings/choir, building.
12 6:24 This Is
My World
0:00: Clark tells Lois that he loves her: Clark theme on piano over quiet ambient textures, developed on strings.
1:07: Superman stabs Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear.  Doomsday stabs Superman with his "bone-hand": poignant strings with piano/brass/choir leading to rising fanfare.
1:56: Superman dies from his injuries.  Batman lowers his body to Lois: mournful choral layers with soloist, ambient harmonies.
4:14: Luther gets a haircut in jail, Perry White publishes a newspaper with the headline "SUPERMAN DEAD": strings/synth/piano on Clark theme.
5:03: At Clark's wake in Smallville, Martha Kent gives Lois an engagement ring Clark was going to give her: Clark theme finishes on piano/ambient textures, Krypton harmony joined by rising strings.
13 14:04 Men Are
Still Good
(The Batman Suite)
0:00: Bruce talks with Diana at Clark's funeral.  He tells her that men are still good, that they can do better: Krypton harmony, low ambient textures, Superman theme B with strings/vocal.
1:10: Bruce hints to Diana that something dire is coming.  Batman appears in Lex's cell.  Luther tells Batman that something is coming: low Batman Motif pulses/ambient textures, reverbed impact noises (reprise of ambient "knightmare" textures from Must There Be a Superman?).
2:36: Batman punches the wall and departs, as Lex rants on: Batman Motif on slam/choir accents, Lex theme C on echoed violins, developed with lower textures.
"The bell's already been rung, and they've heard it, out in the dark among the stars.  They know the god is dead."
3:29: At Clark's grave, Lois drops dirt on his coffin.  A few grains mysteriously rise into the air: Earth motif, Clark theme on piano.

Batman Suite (unused in film):
4:31: Low textures/gothic string theme (intro to Diana Prince theme).
5:18: Diana Prince theme enters on horns.
5:49: Vigilante Motif joins on trumpets, celli theme resumes.
6:32: String harmony changes (less forbidding), (Vigilante Motif variation).
7:13: Low strings/trumpet, tremolo strings, Batman Motif slams, then in quiet timpani, bass.
8:41: Cello drone joined by Vigilante Motif, Batman Motif in timpani (then piano), joined by Vigilante Motif in celli, bass.
10:18: Slow rising Diana Prince theme in bass, strings, joined by brass.
11:16: High ambient textures with accelerating rhythm, Batman Motif .
11:56: Diana Prince theme enters in brass with staccato string accents (Batman Motif slams continue).
13:03: Rhythmic choir accents join, tutti version of Batman Motif .

     I tend not to write "reviews" on this blog because one man's poison is another man's pleasure, but I have to admit, I really hated this score the very first time I heard it - in fact I couldn't get past the first half dozen tracks and simply moved on to the next CD in my pile.  But after seeing the film and putting in a fair amount of time studying how the score works with the film, I now consider it pretty great.  Doing this also forced me to analyse Man of Steel (which I was not originally planning to do) and I realized that I was wrong about that one too, back in 2013...  As a Zimmer skeptic, I may have reevaluate his Dark Knight trilogy now (which I currently think is a bit boring!).

Hans Zimmer
Junkie XL
Zimmer/JXL Interview (Collider)
Zimmer/JXL Interview (DC Entertainment)
Zimmer/JXL Interview (Consequence of Sound)
Review on Movie Music UK


  1. Why do you consider what you call the "Wonder Woman Ostinato" to be for Wonder Woman when it's used primarily in scenes exclusive to Batman.

    1. I can't remember. Maybe cause she's cuter, who knows.

    2. Fair enough. It looked like a lot of work was put into this post so I figured there was a more technical reason than that. Personally, I think that fluttering ostinato is a theme for Batman (representative of the bats flying), as is what you called the "Diana Prince theme". That latter theme even sounds a lot like the Elliot Goldenthal theme from the Joel Schumacher Batman movies.

    3. Thanks for using your "real name". I get lot sof "Anonymous" comments which usually end up being spam. So anyways, I haven't heard this in ages you may be right, that it's a Batman motif. I probably noted it as WW mainly because I only ID'd it as a recurring motif when Bruce spots Diana, and mistook it for a WW thing, but only later realized it occurred earlier in the dream sequence.

  2. No problem, I love dissecting film scores, especially scores to movies I love.

    The ostinato thing is played when Bruce is lifted by the Bats, when Batman says "You will" to Superman, when he arrives back at the Batcave, and when he takes off in the Batwing to save Martha, ect. so it seems like a Batman thing to me, unless I'm mistaking what you're referring to.

    And the "Diana Prince theme" seems more like a brooding "Dark Knight" or "Batcave" theme to me. It's the longest melodic theme that's associated with Batman scenes.

    In fact, the fluttering ostinato, the "Dark Knight" theme, and the 6 beat "Batman motif" can all be heard together when Bruce goes to Luthor's party:

    1. Hey, would you be interested in "dissecting the new "Justice League" Elfman score? Considering it uses so much "classic" Elfman I almost feel obligated to write about it, but not quite motivated enough...

  3. Dude i like your website, just discover it by searching on google "Men are still good midi file"