Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg), the founder of NERVE and part of a new breed of film composers that merges electronic with symphonic (“Divergent,” “300: Rise of an Empire”), found the perfect blend for George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Think rock opera meets “Vertigo.” It’s this high-octane, retro revitalization that has also landed him “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (he’s scoring the Dark Knight in contrast to Hans Zimmer’s Man of Steel) and the remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s iconic “Point Break” thriller.
In fact, it’s all about going to musical extremes for Holkenborg: “It’s an extraordinary world that [George] created and it needs something that’s so crazy. At the same time, there are parts of the movie where all madness, all that gruesome dictatorship disappears and we are left with five people that come together with human interactions that we would now see as normal in our world. But they’re not normal in that world, which is the survival of the fittest. That is the point where it becomes really human and that’s where the score gets really small and really intimate.”
But for the most part, “Fury Road’s” vast landscape — the Outback from hell — provided Holkenborg the opportunity to utilize nearly 200 instruments and an 80-voice choir in a frenzy of beating drums, sweeping strings and growling electric guitars (pretty much anything he could get his hands on).
The hard part was pleasing Miller, who doesn’t like to be emotionally led by music or have the music get ahead of the narrative. “We did a lot of experimenting to find the right tone and to express love and affection. The thing about the scores of the ’50s is that they were pretty shameless about starting the love theme full on when a woman enters the room. That’s a different approach to what we do now in 2015 where we go at it slightly,” the composer offered.
While Holkenborg won’t openly discuss “Dawn of Justice” (March 25, 2016), he has a hard time denying that the contrast between darkness (Batman) and light (Superman) makes for a great operatic-like fusion. Likewise, he’s also tight-lipped about DP/director Ericson Core’s extreme sports take on “Point Break” (opening Christmas), so all we can presume is that he going to new musical extremes for that one, too.