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Zack Snyder's Justice League
Album Cover Art
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Produced by:
Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL)

Conducted by:
Gavin Greenaway

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jonathan Beard
Edward Trybek
Henri Wilkenson
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WaterTower Music
(March 18, 2021)
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Commercial digital release, with high resolution options. A vinyl option was available later in 2021.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you are prepared for a four-hour thesis proving that Tom Holkenborg is highly proficient at imitating almost all of the most ineffective Hans Zimmer methodology for this franchise.

Avoid it... if you are guided by hope for Holkenborg's opportunity to develop the franchise's themes in that immense running time, his new ideas poorly conceived and reprises of old themes highly inconsistent.
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WRITTEN 5/17/21
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Zack Snyder's Justice League: (Tom Holkenborg) It should come as no shock to anyone that studio executives sometimes screw up, looking after their own bonuses and making poor artistic decisions. Few better examples of this malpractice exists than with 2017's Justice League, the much maligned financial disaster for Warner Brothers that was to bring glory to the DC Extended Universe of comic book adaptations. Instead, it caused the studio to abandon the concept of the combined superhero extravaganza that had worked so well with the Marvel concept and concentrate on only solo character films. The issue that Warner had with director Zack Snyder's version of Justice League was its dark tone and immense running time, and the studio brought director Joss Whedon into the fold to helm a controversial rewrite and reshoot of the movie, adding the demanded levity and shortening the narrative. Fans dissatisfied with the 2017 result clamored for years to witness Zack Snyder's director's cut of the movie in its full form, and, amazingly, Warner eventually capitulated and allowed Snyder the opportunity to finish and release his product in 2021. Much of the basic narrative stays intact, the famed six heroes of the DC comics uniting to fight planet-threatening plotting by the evil Steppenwolf and Darkseid to rid Earth of pesky humans. The longer version of the movie allows for much more exploration of each hero's background and interactions with the slew of secondary characters carrying over from other movies in the franchise. The four-hour running time was originally to be split into a streaming mini-series, but Warner ultimately provided it to viewers as a self-contained film. Not surprisingly, fans reveled in the expanded version, Zack Snyder's Justice League more than compensating for the financial losses of the 2017 release. While the movie was primarily available via streaming, Snyder created a version with a 10-minute intermission in its middle to prepare it for IMAX distribution. During this intermission was to play the score cue "The Crew at Warpower," written by Tom Holkenborg.

The electronica pioneer better known by his Junkie XL stage name, Holkenborg had provided upwards of an hour of music for Snyder's 2017 film prior to exiting once Whedon took over and hired Danny Elfman to write a replacement score. Holkenborg was approached by Snyder to complete his music for Zack Snyder's Justice League and, after considering the maturation of his own skills since then, decided to start over and write the longest film score in history from scratch. There will forever exist controversy about whether the music of the DC universe will be defined by the epic vintage scores of John Williams and Danny Elfman or the newer, heavily synthesized and brooding alternative universe established by Hans Zimmer. The disagreement is partly generational, but there's no question that the 2010's version of DC characters on screen is less romantic and more troubled, encouraging many listeners to assume that Zimmer's gloomy, ultra-masculine tone is better suited for these films. Holkenborg, of course, who was brought into the film composing industry by Zimmer himself, agrees with the darker path, so expect his music for Zack Snyder's Justice League to sound like a direct descendant if not outright imitation of Zimmer's music for the prior two movies in the franchise. It is no wonder that Zimmer protects and praises Holkenborg's work without fail, for the latter follows the former's exact formula for tackling a film's themes in general suites and applying almost the same instrumental coloration and cue structures. Given that Zimmer established his superhero tone in those prior DC films, it's not surprising to hear Holkenborg imitate it, but that emulation is so thorough that it reprises the exact strengths and weaknesses of Zimmer's vision for the franchise. The technique of writing massive suites for each theme and allowing those to guide the rest of the score, in some cases being tracked in liberally by the director, is once again evident here. In both those suites and individual score cues, Holkenborg also follows the tiresome Zimmer method of structuring many cues in the "long crescendo" format, cutting off at anticipatory notes without resolution. When not building to those moments, the score chews through time by using highly repetitive riffs that go on for extended periods.

The general instrumental tone of Zack Snyder's Justice League is oppressively harsh and dominated by bass resonance. Expect not only doom and gloom but a heavy dose of electronic manipulation or, at the least, augmentation to give the score a distinctly grungy, metallic sheen. Even when the composer opts for a more organic approach, as with the Cyborg material and some of the Superman familial passages, the orchestration of these cues isn't dynamic or expansive in the soundscape, failing to pair sufficiently different instrumental sounds to yield any satisfying spread to the music. It doesn't matter which theme is playing and what the emotional need of the scene may involve, for Holkenborg offers every cue with a consistent despondency that, in moments intended to be lighter, translate to ambivalence. Many of the emotional deficiencies of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are reprised in this entry, a massive disappointment given how inadequate the sound design techniques of those two scores were. Listeners who complain that Zimmer's French horns are mixed in a way to sound synthetic will encounter similar issues here, and the electronic grinding in this work is almost as bad in parts. (The nasty synthetics of "The Path Chooses You" make it one of the worst single film score cues of a generation.) When attempting to apply piano and other softer tones, Holkenborg still manages to leave a wall between his recording and the listener, sentimental cues like "The House of Belonging" and "Earthling" not emotionally engaging in any genuine sense. Holkenborg's inability to modulate for the sincerity of such emotions is either due to his intentional attempt to match Zimmer's equal challenges with a hearty embrace in these scores or because the composer does not yet have the experience to balance both the masculine bravado and interpersonal intimacy. The latter may be the more likely scenario, for Zack Snyder's Justice League also suffers from new themes that are substandard and show a lack of intuition about how melodic progressions affect the listener. Whereas Zimmer excelled in Wonder Woman 1984 by superbly manipulating his thematic constructs to compensate for the still masculine tone of many sequences, Holkenborg does not do the same here. His themes are either unmemorable or poor matches for their characters, leaving the work both thematically wayward and emotionally tone deaf.

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.2 Stars
***** 11 5 Stars
**** 19 4 Stars
*** 30 3 Stars
** 46 2 Stars
* 66 1 Stars
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Is it just me or...
ChubDolphin - July 3, 2021, at 4:47 p.m.
1 comment  (333 views)

Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 233:48
• 1. Song to the Siren - performed by Rose Betts (3:17)
• 2. A Hunter Gathers (7:56)
• 3. Migratory (0:56)
• 4. Things Fall Apart (1:03)
• 5. Wonder Woman Defending/And What Rough Beast (7:19)
• 6. World Ending Fire (9:22)
• 7. Middle Mass (1:18)
• 8. Long Division (1:12)
• 9. No Paradise, No Fall (4:10)
• 10. The Center Will Not Hold, Twenty Centuries of Stony Sleep (8:56)
• 11. As Above, So Below (2:27)
• 12. No Dog, No Master (8:13)
• 13. Take This Kingdom by Force (1:44)
• 14. A Splinter From the Thorn That Pricked You (1:09)
• 15. Cyborg Becoming/Human All Too Human (10:35)
• 16. The Path Chooses You (2:11)
• 17. Aquaman Returning/Carry Your Own Water (8:22)
• 18. The Provenance of Something Gathered (1:14)
• 19. We Do This Together (12:57)
• 20. The Will to Power (5:20)
• 21. Smoke Become Fire (1:39)
• 22. I Teach You, The Overman (4:18)
• 23. A Glimmer at the Door of the Living (1:00)
• 24. How We Achieve Ourselves (1:42)
• 25. The Sun Forever Rising (1:30)
• 26. Underworld (5:49)
• 27. Superman Rising, Pt. 1/A Book of Hours (2:40)
• 28. Beyond Good and Evil (4:24)
• 29. Monument Builder (2:29)
• 30. Monument Destroyer (6:07)
• 31. Urgrund (1:49)
• 32. So Begins the End (4:49)
• 33. The House of Belonging (2:37)
• 34. Earthling (3:23)
• 35. Flight is Our Nature (1:54)
• 36. Indivisible (2:32)
• 37. And the Lion-Earth Did Roar, Pt. 1 (5:22)
• 38. And the Lion-Earth Did Roar, Pt. 2 (5:32)
• 39. Superman Rising, Pt. 2/Immovable (1:55)
• 40. At the Speed of Force (4:20)
• 41. My Broken Boy (2:15)
• 42. That Terrible Strength (1:51)
• 43. An Eternal Reoccurrence of Change (1:44)
• 44. We Slay Ourselves (5:52)
• 45. Your Own House Turned to Ashes (3:16)
• 46. All of You Undisturbed Cities (6:15)
• 47. The Art of Preserving Fire (1:27)
• 48. The Crew at Warpower (6:49)
• 49. The Foundation Theme (2:07)
• 50. Batman, a Duty to Fight/To See (5:29)
• 51. Batman, an Invocation to Heal/To Be Seen (8:36)
• 52. Wonder Woman, a Call to Stand/A World Awakened (5:09)
• 53. Flash, The Space to Win/Our Legacy is Now (11:13)
• 54. Hallelujah - performed by Allison Crowe (6:10)

Notes Icon
There exists no official packaging for this album.
Copyright © 2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Zack Snyder's Justice League are Copyright © 2021, WaterTower Music and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/17/21 (and not updated significantly since).
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