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Wonder Woman 1984
  • Composed by Hans Zimmer
  • Watertower / 90m

Widely praised as the best film (by a distance) in the DC Extended Universe, Patty Jenkins managed to inject some much-needed life into the series with Wonder Woman in 2017, Gal Gadot taking on probably the most iconic female comic book character. A sequel was inevitable and here it is, finally released after Covid delays (but sadly in most territories, released only into cinemas – and in my territory, released into cinemas at a time when most cinemas are shut, which is a truly baffling decision – so don’t expect any spoilers about the film, given I can’t actually watch it).

Hans Zimmer wrote a theme for the character in his otherwise-best-forgotten score for Batman vs Superman – as a kind of dynamic action riff it left quite an impression and, even though it wasn’t really suited as a general theme for Wonder Woman, it was used as such by Rupert Gregson-Williams in his fairly bland score for her first film (completely understandably, I have to say, given how well-known it became).

Hans Zimmer

The sequel (as you might guess from its name) is set a few decades after the WWI events of the first film and has a completely different tone, so Hans Zimmer – returning to the character – has taken things in a completely different direction. I can’t say I felt much excitement when he was announced as the composer for the project: he’s done so very many of these comic book films and his approach has usually been to seek out any darkness within the films and musically emphasise that, generally steering well away from adding any brightness and joy.

Well, take a look at this score’s album cover – bright, garish, retro, fun – and it basically tells you what the score is like. It doesn’t just add brightness and joy, it positively revels in doing so – and better still, introduces a raft of great themes. Zimmer is not conventional so I wouldn’t call it a classic comic book-style score – but it is, finally, his version of what one of those might sound like, doing all the things you may one day have expected a comic book score to do before new rules have been written over the past decade or so as they have exploded in popularity.

The first notable thing is that Zimmer has indeed given Wonder Woman a new theme (but don’t worry, fans of the old one, that’s here too) more suited to her new surroundings, and it’s introduced in the fabulous opening piece “Themyscira”. Those who know me will know that for two decades I have been singing the praises of Gavin Greenaway’s “IllumiNations” piece for the fireworks at Epcot in Disney World – an extended piece of musical happiness and my favourite piece of music from the Media Ventures era of Zimmer’s music – and here in “Themyscira” we have what is essentially a variant on it – an explosion of joy from orchestra and choir, completely tuneful and boasting a really memorable central melody. Add it to your “Best of Zimmer” playlist immediately.

The piece was released as a single a few months before the film’s eventual release (given the score had all been locked before the plague descended on us all – it was just sitting waiting to be heard) and got lots of praise but you never know with these things whether you’re being presented with something atypical, or that is by far the standout moment – not a bit of that here. The second track, “Games”, just continues in the same vein: there’s a real Olympic feel to the track, the ancient (Latin chanting) and modern combining, that Themyscira theme blasting forth again along with a tremendous long-lined action/adventure theme which shakes the room when the horns blare it out midway through the cue. We also hear the rhythm but not the melody from Zimmer’s old Wonder Woman theme (often heard in that way particularly in this new score’s first half) – and then you notice that her new theme has the same rhythm. Then you notice it’s actually the same theme, but in a major key. (It sounds so different, it is like two different themes.)

The seven-minute “1984” opens with another great take on that theme – this time there’s a rather 8-bit feel to it (the orchestra’s still there, but you’ll know what I mean when you hear it – I believe that musical academics describe the style as “plinky-plonky”). It’s a rousing set of heroic, adventurous variants on the new theme and I am well-aware that it’s cheesier than the annual cheese festival held in Cheddar, and equally certain that there’s no way I could care less about that. When the piece slows down midway through (with a rather mournful female vocal) you wonder if that’s it, but no – you only have to wait a few moments for the strings to explode into some rampant action material.

All that and we’re only three tracks in! A new theme is introduced in “Black Gold”, as things start to take on a somewhat more villainous turn – it starts off sprightly enough before a sinister sound emerges from the lower strings a couple of minutes into the cue, then getting twister all the way back to something surprisingly upbeat for the final minute or so. Then in “Wish We Had More Time” comes another theme, and it’s a major one, presumably a love theme – it sounds vaguely familiar, not a million miles away from the music at the end of “The Battle” in Gladiator – and while it’s quite possible he’s aiming for Mahler, part of me really hopes this is a Zimmer tribute to the legendary Ennio Morricone (who Zimmer worshipped) – the vocal, the swirling strings, he is writing in a style Morricone did hundreds of times. In any case, in my head I will take it as a touching tribute – and touching it is, sweeping and emotional.

Another cue later, and another new theme – “The Stone” has an air of mysticism to it, with a heavy synth presence alongside the strings – it’s a nice pause for breath. Then in “Cheetah” that character gets her own theme too – it’s got a comic-book sinister tone along with a nice, playful feel at times. We come next to the spectacular “Fireworks”, which is a grandiose, soaring version of the new main theme presented in a romantic, long-lined style.

“Anything You Want” reprises both the villain themes, though in a fairly low-key way – until that is you get to the final 80 seconds as it builds up to this grand action climax (which is not unlike the more dynamic music from the Dark Knight scores). This leads into the stirring “Open Road”, perhaps the closest this score gets to Zimmer’s previous efforts in the DCEU but executed with extraordinary panache – it’s pulsatingly exciting, the old WW theme introduced first through its rhythm before being unleashed by the full brass section (not the distinctive electric cello form we’ve heard it in its previous movies). It’s just thrilling.

The tragic-sounding “Without Armour” offers some lovely, delicate writing (I love the harp near the beginning) full of feeling, before another big action/suspense track, “The White House” – it’s another belter. In some ways it feels like a throwback to the composer’s sound of a couple of decades ago, perhaps with a bit of “The Kraken” thrown in for good measure – at his best Zimmer brings such energy to action sequences, and he does precisely that here. The fragmented use of the old WW theme is very effective at heightening the thrill levels – and there are a couple of sequences within the cue that feature the most exhilarating action music Zimmer’s conjured up since Inception.

“Already Gone” is another great track: it starts ominously and you think it’s going to burst off into more action but goes off in quite the opposite direction, with the strings swelling under mournful vocals, an epic sense of tragedy unfolding before we hear what I will now call the Morricone theme appearing in all its glory again, and then some (the cue’s climax is just humungous).

The eight-minute “Radio Waves” packs a lot in – another huge action track, you hear both villain themes, both WW themes and a lot more besides. An electronic heartbeat runs over the top of the cue’s portentous opening section which ratchets up the tension beautifully for over three minutes before a blood-pumping blast from the horns presumably heralds the arrival of our heroine and the tension is released. In “Lord of Desire” we hear by far the darkest arrangement of the “Black Gold” villain theme, deliciously dark in fact and very enjoyable.

We come towards the score’s endgame with a pair of outstanding climactic pieces. “The Beauty In What Is” is dynamic, colourful and uplifting, soaring away and then slowing back down in the way Zimmer finales often do – but it isn’t actually the finale because that is “Truth”, which is even better, the main theme given one last rousing chance to shine – and shine it does. But even then, the album isn’t finished with you (even if the actual film score is) because we get quite the bonus track, the twelve-minute “Lost and Found” which is a set of variations on the score’s romantic material (including the Morricone theme) and quite a spectacular way to end what is in every way a truly spectacular album.

Hans Zimmer is always a polarising film composer – he’s written some exceptional music for films over the years, yet sometimes I think he’s just missed the target by miles – with some of his high-profile comic book scores falling into that second category for me. Yet, somehow, perhaps it was only he who could have pulled this off – by far the most colourful and by far the best comic book movie score since this Marvel/DC age began.

If you’d told me at the start of the year that I would be ending it by proclaiming a Hans Zimmer score for the DC Extended Universe to be my favourite film score of the year, I’d have assumed that would mean that it must have been a pretty bad year. Well, it has been a pretty bad year, and this is not perhaps the music that 2020 deserved to have at the end of it – but it’s the music it needed to have and it is my favourite film score of the year, and absolutely not because there haven’t been any other decent ones (there have). Hat’s off to Hans Zimmer – when he’s on fire, he’s on fire. This is him at his best.

Rating: *****

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  1. Marco Ludema (Reply) on Thursday 24 December, 2020 at 19:34

    Between this and Shazam (tried that one yet?), DC’s music really has come a long way, even though I was able to enjoy the earlier DCEU efforts for what they were. A great superhero score to end this rather miserable year on.

  2. Benjamin Stock (Reply) on Friday 25 December, 2020 at 00:39

    I was hoping this would get a five star review. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  3. Stark Oracle (Reply) on Friday 25 December, 2020 at 13:57

    Thanks for your honest review James !! I was hoping for a 4 star review, but you gave 5. Well, I have to say that a 5 star review is the rating this soundtrack really deserves. Because its so good. HZ at his best. No doubt.

  4. John Wilkinson (Reply) on Saturday 26 December, 2020 at 15:30

    I’d love to see you review Desplat’s The Midnight Sky. It’s my #1 score of the year so far (although WW84 is great too).

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 27 December, 2020 at 17:34

      Hi John – yes I will be doing that one in the next day or two.

  5. Cambio Wechsel (Reply) on Saturday 26 December, 2020 at 23:15

    Good day. I am Cambio Wechsel. I have many friends in parts of Begium, and also other friends in other parts of Belgium.

    My main problem is that when I got a tattoo of Hans Zimmer on my arm my arm was very small but now I have big muscles Zimmer looks so big, like he has eaten many other Germans.

    Can you please either recommend a way to reduce the arm back to its original size OR put me in touch with Hans Zimmer himself so I can encourage him to increase his size in proportion to my arm.

    Also do you know his EXACT time of birth? I know the day, month and year but not the time. I would like to record this information on my hard drive. I used to like Marisa Tomei also and still think she is ok. Has she ever met Hans Zimmer? I dream of them appearing in Belgium.

    You must do this.

  6. Peter (Reply) on Sunday 27 December, 2020 at 15:27

    Surprised by the rating, but I agree. The score just pumps from start to finish and in many instances carries the movie. So many scenes come off as epic thanks to Zimmer’s music and to me it’s clear it wouldn’t be the case otherwise. Great work.

    I have a question though if anyone can help me – the score flat out uses older Zimmer music. Not is inspired by it, but uses it note for note. One cue is near the end which is “This is my world” from Batman v Superman, plus the main titles from Batman v Superman appear too. The director admitted this was supposed to be temporary, but then they decided to keep it in because it fit the scene.

    The other is when Diana learns to fly, or flies in the skies – I don’t know for the love of me where that music is from although it is incredibly familiar. Anyone can help with this?

  7. Mephariel (Reply) on Sunday 27 December, 2020 at 17:26

    Hi Peter,

    The score does use some of “This is my World,” but that wasn’t what Jenkins was talking about. She was talking about the cue “A Beautiful Lie,” which first appeared in the opening of Batman v Superman. This cue ended up near the third act when Diana was making the speech and right before “The Beauty In What Is” kicks in. You can search YouTube and find the unreleased version.

    As for your second question, the music is from the movie Sunshine, and the cue is called “Adagio in D Minor.” It is a very famous cue that has since been used in several movies and trailers, etc.

    Personally I thought the insert of “A Beautiful Lie” is fine. It really fits the sequence. I didn’t like the insert of “Adagio in D Minor” at all. I am not sure why they made that decision when they could have use Zimmer’s WW theme in that sequence.

    • Peter (Reply) on Monday 28 December, 2020 at 11:34

      Thanks for clearing it up. I knew it was something I heard a million times before.

      I googled it yesterday and Patty Jenkins (the director) admitted that the Batman v Superman cues were temporary music that were supposed to be replaced by Zimmer’s score, but that they liked how they fit with the scenes so much, they left them in. Plus, she said it makes some sense considering it’s kinda sorta the same universe. She didn’t explain why they left the music from Sunshine in though – regardless of whether it fits, it’s beyond played out and not from the DC movie universe like at all.

      I want to buy the explanation as not just BS, because the rest of the score is obviously not thrown together, Zimmer and his team really put some work into it.

  8. Michael (Reply) on Friday 1 January, 2021 at 20:57

    My favorite Zimmer-Soundtrack is “POTC: At World’s End” which I thought would be the last of its kind after Hans moved into the realm of “moody / atmospheric soundtracks”. Don’t get me wrong, Interstellar was very good. But it was also repetitive.

    I didn’t expect the “wonder” that is the “WW84”! Finally Zimmer brings back the orchestra and makes really good use of it and oh my, “Lost and Found” blew my away. I love this soundtrack, will be playing it on heavy rotation the next weeks.

    2021 starts with a (good) bang for me, that gives me hope!

  9. Ian Simpsin (Reply) on Wednesday 6 January, 2021 at 23:17

    My taste in film music is generally similar to yours, so I snapped up this soundtrack pretty quickly after seeing this five star review. Sure enough, I think it’s superb as well. It strikes me as quite stylistically similar to Zimmer’s score for the 2019 remake of The Lion King, and while the film and the songs aren’t as good as the originals, in my opinion Zimmer’s score is even better than his 1994 one. I’d say Wonder Woman 1984 surpasses Interstellar for me, for as a couple of others mentioned Interstellar is more repetitive.

    As an avid collector of James Bond soundtracks I’m aware that Hans Zimmer got brought in to replace the original composer for No Time To Die, and I have always had mixed feelings about it, fearing that we might end up with something in a similar vein to Man of Steel, but this Wonder Woman 1984 score has made me more optimistic. If Zimmer was to cross this style of music with a bit of John Barry influence we could end up with a very strong Bond score.

  10. Jack (Reply) on Thursday 14 January, 2021 at 06:02

    Haven’t felt that way listening to a new score in a long time. How is it that barely a single minute is wasted on a 90 minute album? Brilliant.

  11. Xakk (Reply) on Thursday 14 January, 2021 at 22:20

    The reason ‘I Wish We Had More Time’ is familiar is because it’s not new. It’s simply ‘Time’ the theme Hans used to close Inception.

  12. MICK STURBS (Reply) on Thursday 14 January, 2021 at 23:47

    I AM MICK STURBS.

    ZIMMER, HANS – HE IS COMPOSER OF THIS SCORE. I LOVE HIS INSTRUMENTS. CAN MY FRIENDS ON THIS PAGE SUPPLY PICTURES.

    I LIKE THE BIG INSTRUMENTS THE BEST.

    I AM BUSY MAKING LEMON DRINKS FOR MY FRIENDS. I HAVE BIG JUGS SO THERE WILL BE ENOUGH FOR EVERY PERSON HERE.

    BRING ME PICTURES OF ZIMMER BIG INSTRUMENT AND I SUPPLY ACCESS TO BIG JUGS.

    I WILL BE THINKING ABOUT THIS.