When it comes to sequel scores, iteration is the name of the game. As such, it seems only reasonable that as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice adds characters and ideas to the Man of Steel universe, its soundtrack does the same. Whilst the tracks don’t have character names for the most part, even without seeing the film, it isn’t difficult to deduce which themes are associated with which characters, based on the track titles, and a cursory look at the film’s trailer.
For example, Their War Here is presumably used during a re-staging of the climax of Man of Steel, given it re-contextualises Hans Zimmer’s music from that very sequence, albeit in a more emotional, downcast way. The track retains the previous film’s sharp violins, blasting horns, and pounding drums, but ads choral arrangements that lend the track a more biblical scope. Whilst is will likely work with the visuals of the film, it’s hard for it not to feel overblown in isolation. Day of the Dead attempts a similar feat, to greater success. It re-casts a recurring bass-guitar motif from the original film, used to evoke triumph and optimism, and surrounds it with heavy drones and ominous, operatic voices. The effect is haunting, and speaks to the potentially dark tone of the film.
Furthering the dark tone, are Junkie XL’s contributions to the score, reportedly the Batman-centric sections. Men Are Still Good (The Batman Suite) is an oddly constructed track, centred around a motif of one booming horn/percussion tone, repeated 6 times. It’s initially striking, but the literal repetition of the sequence quickly becomes tiresome. The track wanders between menacing strings, orchestral grandeur, and sombre reflection, but it always returns to that one central motif. Unfortunately the motif itself just feels lazy in its construction, with little to distinguish it from similarly brash scores from other films. Whilst Junkie XL’s work on Mad Max: Fury Road felt energetic and vital, his contributions here are lumbering and dull.
The strongest tracks are the ones seemingly centred around the film’s secondary characters. The Red Capes Are Coming appears to be the theme for Lex Luthor, and its off-kilter piano and jittering electronics are a welcome respite from the dreary bombast of the rest of the score. It sounds both ominous and vaguely comedic, and adds a pleasant variety to the album. Another welcome track is Is She With You?, which seems to be Wonder Woman’s theme. Based around a repeating, distorted electric cello riff, the track feels more fuelled by adrenaline than anything else on the album. Where other fast paced tracks like Do You Bleed? shoot for grandeur and seriousness, this one is content to simply be exciting, and it’s all the better for it.
If the soundtrack is anything to go off, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in parts, dour, epic, and enlivened by its supporting cast. Whether this is true remains to be seen, but the score, whilst excellently arranged and performed, has an unfortunate tendency to collapse under its own seriousness. It may be better served in the film, but as a standalone album, it’s hardly an inspiring listen.