Justice League composer Danny Elfman spoke to DC All-Access recently and was able to shed some light on his process for scoring the long-awaited – but sadly troubled now it’s here – team-up movie. Perhaps the most talked-about aspect of his work is the decision to revisit familiar themes from DC’s past. Elfman was on hand to explain why he felt the need to do that, and said the following about it:
“The whole crazy jigsaw puzzle of Justice League was how to incorporate old and new and how to make it all work together. It was my feeling when I came on the project that DC already had these really cool [musical] elements and that they shouldn’t be ignored, that we should pull it all together, that we should make it part of the DC legacy.”
On paper, the idea to resurrect iconic themes of the past like John Williams’ 1978 Superman theme and Elfman’s own 1989 Batman theme is a brilliant one that should have garnered lots of praise. As it turns out, however, the composer’s work was not immune to the fiercely mixed reception that Justice League has earned. In particular, fans of Hans Zimmer’s previous scores for Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice are furious that Zimmer’s chosen successor, Junkie XL, was ousted from the project at Whedon’s command.
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Still, it hardly seems fair to blame Elfman – he was just doing his job, after all. Plus, if his score seems rushed or undercooked somewhat, then that’s because it was. He’s previously revealed that Whedon brought him on board the production very late in the day. Even then he had to base his work off storyboards and concept art rather than actual footage, as the film was still being made at the time.
Elfman also touched on why he decided not to create fresh themes for each of the new heroes properly introduced for the first time in Justice League. Like Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen, Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone and Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry.
“For Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg, I didn’t want to introduce a complex theme because there’s just too many themes [in the movie]… You really can’t have six themes running through the movie or you’re never not going to be playing somebody’s theme. So I tried to give them what you’d call a sound or motif, a real simple element.
Finally, the composer outlined what part of the score he’s most proud of: unsurprisingly, it’s the theme for the whole team. Titled “Hero’s Theme” on the soundtrack, fans also seem to have agreed that this is his best work in the movie.
“Then I tried to create a theme that is literally just a Justice League theme that is about the team. It’s about none of them individually but is about them all coming together… There is a sequence at the end that was the most fun for me where it ties all the characters, where you have a moment for each of the characters. Using a single throughline and tying them all together was, I felt, my best accomplishment.”
You can listen to Elfman’s full score over at WaterTower Music. Alternatively, you can also catch it in its proper context by watching Justice League, which is in cinemas now.