By Charlie Brigden
When the Justice League movie eventually materialises (presumably in the wake of BATMAN VS SUPERMAN), logic dictates that it’ll be Hans Zimmer scoring. Favoured by Christopher Nolan as well as being the architect of the recent soundscapes of both the caped crusader and the man of steel, it’s not a big assumption to say he’ll be working the orchestra for Wonder Woman, The Flash and so on. But in case they want a different approach, Warner Bros. and DC should know they already have some fine composers in-house who could easily do the job – and probably better.
What I’m talking about are the musicians of the DC Animated Original Movies. In recent years, there’s been a lot of acclaim for the DCOM direct-to-video flicks such as WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES, BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD, and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER, and notably for their scores from composers like Christopher Drake, Robert Kral and Frederik Wiedmann, with the latter in particular bringing us some really wonderful music (I five-starred his GREEN LANTERN album earlier this year). Wiedmann’s latest project is probably his most ambitious as he takes on his first full-length movie with JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX.
As you might be able to tell from the title, THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX is centred on infamous speed demon The Flash. Based on comic book storyline “Flashpoint”, it has The Flash’s world turned upside-down by his enemy – Professor Zoom – creating a world where Wonder Woman and Aquaman’s forces are at war, Batman is named Thomas, and the Justice League doesn’t exist. That’s a bad thing.
What’s apparent from the atmospheric opening with its lively strings is that Wiedmann gets the material. There’s a wonderful sense of heroism and nobility inherent in Wiedmann’s music that fits the tale down to a tee and isn’t easily lost in action setpieces. ‘Rogue’ features propulsive strings and frantic brass, but the heroic through-line is still there. Likewise, ‘Faster Than Bullets’ is forceful and urgent with its electronic augments adding a hint of darkness, but the feel of the track is very much towards illustrating the good fighting back.
Wiedmann’s score is surprisingly emotional, with the warm strings and piano of ‘Mother’ providing a strong backdrop for The Flash’s relationship with his dead mother, who is alive in the alternate universe. ‘The Fallen’ uses strong brass, stirring strings and a chorus as a lament, while ‘Redux’ is maybe the best cue in the score, with searching strings providing a reflective intro before guitar is introduced into the mix. It’s really great the way the strings briefly move into the higher registers to provide an emotional high, before it slowly moves into murkier waters.
The instrumentation is quite varied across the score, with the traditional orchestra backed up by guitar (electric and acoustic) and choral elements, as well as the expected electronics. ‘Sin City’ has a grimy and sleazy feel, with a heavy dose of electronic percussion and distorted electric guitar, while the electronics are thematic in the case of ‘Inside The Batcave’, illustrating Batman’s technological advancements. ‘Chased By Amazons’ uses acoustic guitar to provide organic texture, along with a beautiful female choir representing Wonder Woman’s people.
But while the less traditional elements add needed colour, the bulk of the work is still done marvellously by an orchestra. It’s really wonderful to hear a lot of proper brass used, just to show how well it works to those who seem to think it’s old-fashioned. The latter half of the album features it a lot in its frantic climactic battle cues, with the fantastically heroic ‘The Mission of a Soldier’, the tense ‘Thawne’s Play’, and the frankly epic ‘Worlds Collide’. It’s just great to hear this kind of writing across the whole score.
In fact, the whole score is great, period. The emotional edge is delicately balanced, providing an anchor against the more chaotic action material, and it’s clear that Wiedmann has a voice that deserves a bigger stage. Make it happen, Snyder.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX is available now from La-La Land Records.