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Reviews - Soundtrack

Street Date: 3/18/08
MSRP: $16.98
Packaging Type: Jewel Case
Media Quantity: 1
Run Time: 57:26
Note: Cover art on left was the temporary art; art on right is the final.
Track Listing
1. Main Titles (2:01)
2. The Centre / Hal Shot Down (2:50)
3. J'onn J'onzz Arrives (0:51)
4. Wonder Woman Recounts / J'onzz Watches TV (2:11)
5. The Flash Saves Las Vegas (3:32)
6. J'onn Becomes John / Church Brawl (3:12)
7. Carol & Hal Banter (0:22)
8. Driving to Ferris / The Real Ferris (1:34)
9. Hal's Mission Revealed / Batman Surprises J'onzz /
The Flash Fights Gorilla (2:52)
10. Crazy Scientist (1:37)
11. J'onzz Contemplates / J'onzz is Leaving (1:18)
12. To Space (1:27)
13. Mars Mission Mess (4:13)
14. New Green Lantern (3:56)
15. Superman Ties It Up / J'onzz Bonds (2:41)
16. Island Revealed / Superman Down (5:22)
17. Plan to Action (2:35)
18. Thick of Battle (4:32)
19. The Flash vs Centre / Last Bit of Business (3:37)
20. Victory (3:09)
21. End Credits (3:01)

Press Release
La-La Land Records will release the soundtrack for JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER on March 18. The animated feature will be released on Blu-Ray, Hi Def DVD, and on Demand on February 26 and on HD DVD on March 18th. Kevin Manthei (Batman: Gotham Knight, Xiaolin Showdown, Invader Zim) composed the original music.

Kevin Manthei has been working in the film, television and game arena for over 15 years. He has worked as the series composer on five animated TV shows – representing over 130 half hour episodes, composed over 50 game soundtracks, has made a mark composing music for animated features, independent films, as well as contributing additional music on many well-known feature films. Click here for the full press release.

Review (Zach Demeter)
Music can not only make a motion picture evoke emotion it can also completely make or break the scene it’s trying to complement. With Darwyn Cooke’s Cold War comic The New Frontier, fans no doubt imagined a superhero infused score with bits of mysterious secret agent music while their eyes took in the colorful wonders that Cooke put on paper for us to take in. When Warner green lit the comic to be turned from a trade paperback to a soaring animated epic, fans began to wonder who would score this film. While initial rumors suggested that previous DC Animated composers would return to write the music for the film, it was Kevin Manthei, a newcomer to the world of DC Animation, who would eventually be awarded the job.

Oddly enough, as swept up in the scores of animated shows as I am, I didn’t really pay much attention to Manthei’s name once it became attached to the picture. Though I hadn’t heard of him, I merely assumed that those involved with the production of the film, many of whom had been at Warner Bros. Animation since the days of Batman: The Animated Series, simply knew what they were doing. When the first piece of music for The New Frontier came on during the film I was immediately pleased with what I was hearing. Not only did it sound just as it should, but matched the tone of the film perfectly. While later in the film I would only notice certain musical cues here and there, I just assumed that Manthei wrote the score to be complementary of the action on screen, rather than overpowering it.

When I sat down to listen to the soundtrack for the first time, I was almost as eager as I was when watching the film for the first time. After enjoying the film so much, I couldn’t wait to dissect any and all sections of it and the score was easily one of the areas I had wanted to explore. Imagine my surprise when, after setting the soundtrack to play, it seemingly ended shortly after it began. I had listened to the full fifty-seven minutes and never once did anything leap out at me. I was confused at first, suspecting I either wasn’t paying attention or maybe there was something I simply missed while it played. I listened to it again and was again met with the same result. As enjoyable as the score was in the film, I never found anything about it to really stand out. It was all very…I don’t want to say generic sounding, but it really all simply blends together.

It’s now the third day since I received the soundtrack and I’ve listened to it well over a dozen times. I’ve had it on an endless loop and while it may annoy those around me to hear the same music over and over again, I’ve not only begun to be able to pick specific cues out that are repeated, but to also appreciate the subtleness of the soundtrack overall.

Now you may think I’m trying to disguise my comments in a way that makes it sound like the soundtrack is actually horrible—that’s not the case. It’s a wonderful soundtrack, but it just isn’t one of the best from the world of DC animation—at first, anyway. The soundtrack grows on you, especially when you start paying attention to such tracks as “Thick of Battle”, which has a wonderful alien sounding middle to it and the rousing “Flash vs. The Centre” is also quite the epic piece. On top of the more action oriented pieces we have the heroic sounding theme (which has a bit of Spider-Man thrown in at times) and the darker music that accompanies J’onn and Batman’s segments in the film. I think what made the soundtrack such an uneventful listen the first time was that it was marrying so many different brands and moods of music together all at once that you only began to notice how well they gelled and work with one another on repeat listens.

There is plenty of music to enjoy in The New Frontier and Manthei shows he has a knack for scoring the heroic. Some of the Justice League pieces on this soundtrack rival those of the Justice League / Unlimited television series in terms of grandeur and epic tone, while at other times it seems like it could have been lifted from the series itself. It’s a really wonderfully crafted soundtrack that I only appreciate more as I listen to it.

The CD itself comes packaged in a standard clear jewel disc amaray case with a full color booklet and inserts. I honestly think the packaging is one of the weakest elements of this release. Something about it just screams “cheesy”, whether it’s the strange cover (comic book drawings over what looks like a real-life shot of Earth doesn’t pair up too well) that has blue residue around Superman’s hands and cape (as well as inside Black Canary’s motorcycle wheels) give off an unprofessional air about it all. The back cover is nice looking and honestly would have worked better as the front cover. Inside the packaging is a backdrop for the disc that works well, but something about the disc art looks a little…homemade. I don’t know how to describe it, I think it has something do with the black lettering and the image choice. I’m no professional artist or anything, I’m just commenting on what my eyes are telling me.

The nicest thing about this CD, aside from the music itself of course, is the full color booklet. For ten pages we get to hear from composer Kevin Manthei talk about the composition of the score as well as his choices for individual characters and how the score itself was put together. We also hear from supervising producer Michael Goguen who talks about the strict and demanding schedule they had Manthei working under, constantly asking him to amp up the action for the films pivotal third act. This little booklet acts as a commentary of sorts on the soundtrack and it’s really a wonderful addition to the overall package. Of course my complaints about the packaging are simple minor things that really have no impact on the overall product—they could have given me a label-less CD-R and I wouldn’t have really cared, as what’s on the disc itself is what’s really worth listening to.

Overall the soundtrack itself is nothing else short of a true delight to listen to. I cannot believe that we’re getting soundtrack releases for each of the DC Universe films—music from the series and productions is something fans have been clamoring for years to get at and La-La Land Records is doing a superb job at delivering what the fans want (even if I complain about the products packaging—I’m picky, what can I say?). Now with this CD on shelves, fans can close their eyes and imagine the action taking place and with Manthei’s score at just the right volume, the goosebumps you receive from the music will be just as strong, if not stronger, as they were when you first watched The New Frontier. The more I listen to this soundtrack the more I love it and I’m sure any fan of DC Animation and, indeed, of film scores in general will feel the same way. Highly Recommended.

Review (James Harvey)
I really like how this soundtrack opens. The "Main Titles" track remains one of my favorite pieces of music to come from DC Animation, without a doubt. It has such a stirring quality to it, and it perfectly compliments both the movie and the main title designs, too. While it's not technically the first track of the movie, it's a smart way to open up the CD, and sets the mood for the twenty remaining tracks to be found.

A new comer to the world of DC Animation, Kevin Manthei is able to seamlessly blend his style into this comic-filled universe, leaving his own unique mark on such large DC properties. Fans of the movie will be able to hear the music and easily place the era he's trying to invoke, the accompanied action sequences, and the various characters he had to juggle when creating what can be seen as a complicated project to score. It's a departure from the Superman Doomsday score, and shows that each of these projects will be unique in both terms of the content and the music that will be accompanying these original animated movies.

Now, the soundtrack itself doesn’t unfold in a manner you'd expect. It seems, to me, that even thought here are some very rousing scores to be found, it all seems to be build, built toward a massive explosion of exhilaration and sound. Now, like I said, there are some incredibly rousing tracks, like "The Flash Saves Las Vegas." What I like about some tracks is the additional instruments that Manthei to emphasize a sequence or character and then, as you listen to track five, it seamlessly shifts to an ominous tone, which highlights an appearance by The Centre, the big villain of the feature. Then, amazingly, and without skipping a beat, it jumps back into the super heroics.

Of course, all of this is coupled between this very noir, 1950's sounding detective theme, highlighting the adventures of J'onn J'onzz in the movie. Track four, "J'onn Watches TV," and track six, "J'onn Becomes John," sounds amazing. Track six, in particularly, is paired with the "Church Brawl," a fun, almost Batman: The Animated Series reminiscent track focusing on John experiencing The Batman in action. And yes, there's a touch of The Centre in there, as well. I guess the point I'm poorly trying to make is how Manthei is able to mix everything together, making everything sound unique, but also giving a flow to it. Nothing particularly pops out, but it builds. As the soundtrack continues, the music continues to build toward the inevitable showdown in the movie's finale.

Manthei had to do a lot of work to create music reminiscent of the era, and he makes it work without making anything sound out of place or disjointed. Again, we get some pretty unique sounding tracks, like the super heroic-theme Manthei gives a lot for Green Lantern's music cues. Hal Jordan's character and his ongoing storyline has this larger than life sound to it, something that only builds and builds until toward the end of the soundtrack.

But, for every noir sounding track, for the super heroic, for the pure evil, Manthei also manages to emphasize some of these with an almost dark and upsetting tone, particularly for most of the tracks featuring J'onn J'onzz. If you want to hear how these sound back to back, track nine is an excellent example. The track, "Hal's Mission Revealed/Batman Surprises J'onzz/The Flash Fights Gorilla," mixes all of these together, all adding an ominous tone, but doesn't lose the unique touch that each of these different themes and storylines represent. What I like is that as different as some of these themes can be, they are all obviously heading toward something - something big. Manthei is able to build tension throughout the soundtrack. While there are a couple tracks that seem to stand out on their own, they all lead in the same direction. And they are successfully able to emphasize some deep emotion, too. The track "J'onn Contemplates/J'onn is Leaving" has such a tragic undertone to it, while the next track, "To Space," mixes both Jordan's excitement to head to space mixed with J'onn's botched attempt to get into space himself. All of this leads to track thirteen, "Mars Mission Mess," which is such a tense and exhilarating track.

And that great tambourine sound in track thirteen, the sense of utter doom and failure, and then the "choir of angels" sound when Superman appears? Just a perfect track, and one of my favorites in the soundtrack. After all of this excitement, we're given room to breathe with the understated, military-esque "New Hal Jordan" track.

From here, the tracks seem to lead into the big finale, with a slow build of tension coupled with the establishments of assorted bonds and relationships. Now, don't get me wrong, the entire CD builds up to this, but here, we're finally thrown into the big finale, and everything that was build before is included, leading into just an epic sounding final twenty minutes or so to the soundtrack. And it's something that I believe Manthei handles perfectly. He's able to really evoke the sense of doom, able to evoke emotion when a hero falls, and just perfectly telegraphs the massive threat that stands before all humanity. And he does this by building to it, making almost all the tracks blend together, yet never betraying what each track is trying to evoke, whether it's a noir feel, a super heroic feel, or whatever. It's expertly handled from start to finish.

And track seventeen? Incredibly heroic and just epic sounding, and it gets better from there. Take my word. It just gets to intense and so over-the-top exciting!

As for the presentation of the CD itself, it's another success on the part of La-La-Land Records, although I do have a tiny qualm. The first track seems to start off too fast, and it feels like the first second, or less than that, is missing. Perhaps it's the player I listened to this soundtrack on, but it seems to just jump into the track.

Now, the physical CD collection looks great, save for a couple errors here and there. First off, the cover art, there seems to be an obvious copy & paste mistake on the artwork. The assorted super-heroes, cut from the one-disc DVD release artwork, which itself was taken from the actual DC: The New Frontier comic, seem to have a bit of the original blue background left on the artwork itself, particularly around Superman and Wonder Woman. A bit sloppy, but nothing damaging. The disc art looks great, and the booklet itself seems to be in good order. There's a couple great write-ups, one from the composer and the other from the Justice League: The New Frontier supervising producer, that provide some nice additional insight into the creation of the soundtrack. Overall it's a nice, if imperfect, physical representation of what's found on the actual soundtrack.

Like the Superman Doomsday soundtrack that has come before it, this is a release that deserves to be in any DC Animation fan's collection. It's a great experience that perfectly compliments the DVD release of Justice League: The New Frontier and even the original graphic novel. It builds itself to such a great, exciting finale and the composer, Kevin Manthei, really outdoes himself here, adding additional instruments to highlight a plethora of emotions. You just can't beat the excitement he builds until it just explodes in the end, all the while giving a lot of characters their own underlying music cues that just form such a complete and vibrant score. It's a no-brainer that this soundtrack comes Highly Recommended, and it has me excited to see what else will be coming down the pipe-line, soundtrack-wise. It's a great soundtrack that builds on the plot's excitement and just delivers in the end. It's a great listen, fun listen, and just a great score, plain and simple.
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