An idea can be an exciting thing. You get this spark of something and it lights up your brain for days. You think if you can pull this idea off it could be the greatest thing ever. You plan and mull the idea over in your head and map out how you can make this thing happen for days, weeks, months, and even years. Maybe you give the idea up and pass it onto someone else who may have the means to make this idea sprout from your meager beginnings into something close to what you’d imagined in the first place. Or maybe you just pack the idea away for a time when you can make something of it. Or worse yet, maybe that idea’s spark fizzles. Maybe it never sees the light of day.
After having lived with Zach Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice for a year I’m starting to feel like maybe the spark of that idea needed to have been put on hold a little longer. At least until that story could’ve been pounded out a bit more…or a lot more. That movie had so much potential to be great had they just followed the blueprint left for them by Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. That story would’ve been an amazing intro into the dynamic between Batman and Superman. The dichotomy between the alien boy scout and the American vigilante. The first half of the story was an all out Batman tale, with Bruce Wayne now in his 50s coming out of a drunken retirement(10 years after the death of Jason Todd) to help stop the rampant violent crimes of “the mutants”, a new gang in Gotham. Batman must defeat their leader in order to stop them. There’s also a Joker confrontation at an amusement park, with occasional shots of Superman meeting with President Reagan about the problem in Gotham. He is eventually is asked to “take care” of the problem, leading to a battle between Batman and Superman at the end.
If you haven’t read the book I won’t tell you how it ends. I’ll just say from there they could’ve worked in the Justice League, and maybe even gone full circle with The Dark Knight Strikes Back. Sure, it would’ve started out as more of a straight up Dark Knight film, but who would be complaining about that? Not me. The best bits of Batman V Superman, in my opinion, were the Bruce Wayne bits anyways. I thought Affleck did a pretty damn good job, despite the boos from the Peanut Gallery. Jeremy Irons as Alfred was on-point, and the shots of the burnt out Wayne Manor worked well to fold in Nolan’s films. The shot of Todd’s bloodied Robin suit in the Batcave could’ve foreshadowed a future Under The Red Hood film which I would’ve been extremely happy with. Instead of staying true to a certain comic writer’s vision they whip up this comic book gumbo of a film that throws in all these different storylines(The Dark Knight Returns, Doomsday, and even hints of Under The Red Hood) and create this colossal mess of a film. At times engaging with some great looking shots here and there, but for the most part lacking any light, humor, or steady footing.
But hey, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL hit it out of the ballpark with their soundtrack!
If there’s anything truly redeeming about the film besides Gal Gadot in that Wonder Woman outfit(pants uncontrollably) is the score. Beautifully constructed more like a classic film score with grand orchestration and dramatic twists and turns, it pushes all the right emotional buttons without getting schmaltzy. To me, thanks to Junkie XL’s modern touches and percussive additions this album sounds more like an industrial take on the classic John Williams score. It’s very doom-laden, but with shards of light pushing through the muck and mire. You never get the feeling these guys called this score in(unlike the film itself at times.)
The gentle piano refrain of “Day of the Dead” works into something more triumphantly morose and almost has hints of post-rock inside of it. “Do You Bleed” is all swirling synthesizers, tribal beats, and doom-laden voices. You get the feeling that something bad is going down here. “Black and Blue” is that which action sequences are made of. It’s over 8-minutes of propulsive orchestration and darkly lit percussion. “Is She With You(Wonder Woman Theme)” is probably the most well-known piece on the soundtrack as it’s Wonder Woman’s intro music. It’s probably the catchiest thing as well with it’s Middle Eastern slant and tribal percussion. You could definitely see this one following the character into many adventures(and sequels.)
So what you have in this score is a beautiful collaboration of modern and classical touches. “This Is My World” is as dramatic and melancholy as things can get, while “Men Are Still Good(The Batman Suite)” is a 14-minute piece that exemplifies the best of dark and light. It’s simply magnificent. I think Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL are two of the best working in film scoring today. They seem to be fans of Snyder and Christopher Nolan films, too.
Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was a grave disappointment. An overshot. An overstuffed mess of a film, but not without its tiny pleasures. My son and I enjoyed seeing it together in the theater. It was an excuse to get out and enjoy the cinema. The Batman segments were pretty great, too. And of course the Hans Zimmer/Junkie XL score. Well worth the price of admission.