The team behind the DCEU movies really captures what the characters are all about, and they are able to deal with themes that are relevant today. These movies have a deeper meaning. It's not just entertainment, and that's one of the reasons I love the #DCEU. It's a multiverse, but DC is able to make each movie different from one another. They are all unique. What I want to talk about today is how these movies all fit together. There is the beautiful shared story, but it's other elements I want to explore — the soundtrack being its own language, the different tones of the movies and the scene defining the hero.
The Soundtrack — Its Own Language
The soundtrack is a key element in every movie. It's there to help conveying emotions like sadness or fear, and for the DCEU I would argue that the soundtrack is even more important and even have its own language.
The Character's Theme
Each hero has his own theme, and each theme captures what the character is all about. That's the beauty of these soundtracks. For Superman, his theme is something hopeful, full optimism and wonder. You can hear it in the track "What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World" from the Man of Steel soundtrack. This track in particular has the two themes of the character, the slower one with the piano and the more dynamic one that we can hear in his first flight during the movie.
Batman has a very different theme. His universe is something dark and gritty. He is not a symbol of hope. The Batman we see in Batman v Superman is, in many ways, the Batman from the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. He's tired and older. He loves the pain from the fight and he loves inflicting it as well. He is a disillusioned man. The track "Do You Bleed" and "A Beautiful Lie" convey all of this in a very meaningful way. You can feel the fear when hearing these tracks.
Then, there is the Wonder Woman theme created by Hans Zimmer and Tina Guo. Fans first heard it when she made her appearance in Batman v Superman before Rupert Gregson-Williams reused the theme for her solo movie. The Amazons come from a distant place and they are fierce warriors. The dynamic use of the cello represents the Amazons and this idea of Wonder Woman being a great warrior. She is also more than that; she is also a symbol of hope and inspiration for so many people.
Her solo movie gave her a second theme as well. In several tracks, we can hear a recurring tune like in "Lightning Strikes," "Angel On The Wing," "We Are All To Blame." I think this tune embodies the hopefulness Wonder Woman carries. You can feel the innocence as well. At the beginning, Diana doesn't know the world of Men and she learns little by little its darker side; she learns how to become Wonder Woman. Yet, you can also feel the courage of the character with this theme, and it's undeniably inspiring.
Finally, there are the "heroes" of Suicide Squad, even though I would say they are more antiheroes than heroes. Indeed, they are villains who have to save the world against their will. Each character doesn't have an individual theme as it is an ensemble movie, but there is a theme for the group, and you can hear it in the track "Task Force X" by Steven Price. This theme conveys the rebellious side of the characters and it is very electrified.
A Dialogue Within The Dialogue
More than speaking the hero's language, the soundtracks of the DCEU movies are what I would call "a dialogue within the dialogue." For this, I'll take as an example two scenes from Wonder Woman. When Diana returns to the village after its been gassed by Ludendorff, she sees that all the villagers are dead. The score at this particular moment adds so much to her grief. The violin is used in a way as if someone was crying; it's "musical tears."
You find similar tears in the final part of Diana's fight against Ares. When Diana has seen the evil of mankind, she is hesitating to kill Doctor Poison. You can hear something similar to tears and then she remembers what Steve Trevor told her before he sacrificed himself. At the end of that moment, the music changes and hope comes. It's Diana saying no to Ares, saying that she believes in mankind. That's why I said the soundtrack speaks. There are many many scenes in the DCEU movies where the soundtrack adds something to what the characters say, see or do.
Also in Suicide Squad, a lots of songs are used and if you pay attention to their lyrics, they are very much representing what is happening in the scene or describing the character. "Sympathy For The Devil" by The Rolling Stones is perfect for Amanda Waller.
This analysis of the soundtracks leads us to the tone, which is an essential element of these movies.
The Different Tones Of The DCEU
It's not because you have a shared universe that every movie needs to have the same tone. Unlike the Marvel movies, the DCEU has a different tone for each movie, adapting it to the characters. Even with having a different tone for each movie, they all fit together in the same universe. You recognize the universe by its visual aesthetic, the way the story is told, the characters, and even in the tone — they connect in different ways. You find something similar; the comic book feel. It always feels like it's taken directly from the page of comics.
Hope For Superman
Superman is about hope and thus, Man of Steel has a very optimistic tone. It's present throughout the movie; you can feel it in pretty much all the scenes. It starts with Kal-El being send to Earth with Jor-El hoping his son will change humanity, and it ends with Kal-El becoming Superman and being a symbol of hope for mankind.
Grim and Gritty For Batman
As I said before, Batman's is a dark and gritty universe, so it makes perfect sense that Batman v Superman is dark, especially when we know which Batman it is. They even show us that Bruce Wayne kept the suit of the Robin who was killed 10 years ago by the Joker as a constant reminder of the pain. Batman's action sequences are violent, just like the previous Batman movies. If you look at Tim Burton's Batman movies, critics complained that it was too dark and violent, but that's who the character is.
Superman brings some hope to the tone. That hope acts differently from Man of Steel, as we see a Superman who is tested and challenged in his new role of superhero. We see the character questioning who he is. The hope is slowly disappearing, allowing the darkness take control. However, when he sacrifices himself to save the world and we see people honoring him, the hope comes back. Despite being a sad scene, the tone isn't gloomy — it's hopeful. His death inspires Batman to be a better person nd shows Wonder Woman that there is still good in mankind.
Bring On The Craziness For "The Worst Heroes Ever"
Suicide Squad is a villain ensemble movie with a gritty tone. You can't expect a movie featuring villains to be all happy happy, especially when you feature some of the most dangerous villains from the Batman universe. These villains are deranged people, and it brings some craziness to the tone. Throughout the movie, you have humorous moments coming from them.
A Lighter Tone For Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is an origin story, so Diana Prince is not yet the superhero from Batman V Superman. At the beginning, there is a lighthearted tone showing Diana's innocence as she doesn't know Men's world. The tone changes as the movie goes on. Darkness arrives as she discovers Men's world and World War I. At the same time, this lighthearted tone transforms itself into something hopeful as Wonder Woman inspires people and saves the world.
Each movie has its own tone that adapts itself to the characters and what they need. That's exactly why it works, because each movie is unique, which leads me to my final point: the scene defining the hero.
The Scene Defining The Hero
For this one, I will talk only about Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman as they are the three heroes who got their big scenes.These scenes for our three superheroes illustrate what they stand for and what they're all about. In each scene, you can hear the character's theme.
Superman's First Flight
Superman's first flight is the scene that defines him. It's a moment filled with hope, optimism and wonder. Flying is one of his classic powers, which makes this scene even more important. As Clark stumbles, tries to fly again and finally succeeds, Jor-El explains exactly what Superman can bring to the people of Earth:
"You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."
That's exactly what Superman brings them in Man of Steel.
Batman's Warehouse Fight Scene
Batman's scene is very different. It's a scene of intense violence. There is no doubt that it is one of the best fight scenes in superhero movies. He is fearless; he is the night; he brings the pain, and you can see that he loves it. What is important is why he is in this warehouse. Batman is there to rescue Martha Kent, Clark's mother. He is there to accomplish "good," to bring justice on his own. He is a vigilante; he is Batman.
The No Man's Land For Wonder Woman
This is the moment she decides to make a difference. The soldiers have been stuck in the trenches for over a year while the villagers are enslaved by the German soldiers. Wonder Woman decides to help the villagers, venturing into the no man's land. As she draws the attention of the enemy on her, she inspires Steve Trevor and the soldiers to follow her lead in the battlefield. This scene is what Wonder Woman is — a source of inspiration for people and she fights for what's right. "Justice begins with her."
The DC Comics Extended Universe has its own language, it's a unique movie franchise that's more than just a shared story. Each movie is different while also connecting with the others. The soundtrack plays an essential role in these movies, as it talks to and with the characters. Then there is the tone, where each movie has a different style that adapts to the character it's about. The DCEU is about understanding these characters and knowing how to tell their stories properly. You can see this with each scene that defines the hero.
Furthermore, Zack Snyder is a visionary. With him every frame is important, telling a story filled with symbolism. These are movies you can re-watch several times and still discover new things you hadn't seen before.