By Joseph Walter
If there's one element that many folks have expressed discontent with, however, is its musical score, supplied this time by maestro Danny Elfman.
Elfman, who brought us some truly legendary film scores, seemed like a perfect choice for the DCEU, but fans were disappointed (for whatever reason) to see Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL cut loose after Batman v. Superman. To be fair, I actually thoroughly enjoyed their work on the film, and it meshed perfectly with the tone, but aside from the fact that Zimmer is an egotistical hack, his admittedly-well-done score wouldn't have fit with the far more lighthearted tone of JL.
And, again, we were getting Danny Elfman. The man who brought us the ultimate Batman theme from his 1989 march. And he also said we were going to hear it in JL (among other iconic pieces) which blew my mind.
Sadly, Elfman's score for the finished product ended up much like the film itself: a collection of awesome ideas haphazardly cut and retooled into something that was only barely cohesive, if at all.
That's not to say that there weren't good ideas in his compositions. Because they were, and we're looking at two today: the theme for the Justice League itself, which mainly appears over the opening logos of the film, and the confusing "Hero's Theme."
The start of the piece is tentative, much like the fragile relationship the League has throughout the majority of the film, despite the noble horn that represents the hope at the core of the team. When the brass comes in with a more prominent rendition of the main motif, there's still an air of uncertainty but the theme builds into an enormous crescendo, and explodes into a full orchestral rendition, complete with choir. What remains incredible about the piece are its dynamics, even during the cohesive rendition of the theme, which suggest a healthy dose of apprehension between the team, but a sense that they will overcome it along with the otherworldly threats that they will face.
All in all, it's a beautiful piece and the dynamics are full and powerful. This is the kind of theme work that's needed to differentiate the DCEU from the cookie-cutter Marvel scores (except for Captain America: The First Avenger, which had an excellent score through and through.)
Sadly, this theme was not used to its full potential,barely making any appearances in the final product and, even then, it was almost indiscernible. That said, it's a far greater fate than what befell the "Hero's Theme."
Here, the '89 theme is the central motif, but expanded beyond its original trappings. Here, it's easy to see what Elfman was likely intending: Batman, now reluctantly the leader of a desperate movement to unite the world's meta-humans for an impossible task after being responsible for their only true hope's death, must move beyond his ruthless and maddened self-made prison to truly ascend to the role of a hero.
I'd imagine this would have been the main motif of the film, with Batman as the central component. Of course, that's all speculation, since, as far as I can tell, this piece in its full form never appears in the mishmash that Justice League's final cut was.
Sure, snippets of this idea as the Batman theme being a central motif were here and there, but much like the Logos Justice League motif, it was barely present enough to constitute an emotional impact or be expounded upon like the brilliant motifs of John Williams. At the very least, we did get the original Batman theme as promised, in full glory at a certain point, but it was a shame not to hear what could have been with this as the main motif. Regardless, let's give it a listen:
As the track goes on, you can practically see Bruce storming around trying to unite the team, find new members, and prepare them for the fight that will decide the fate of the Earth. It builds until we get to the bombast at 3:00, which, despite some generic comfort-food style orchestral hits, remains incredibly satisfying (like all good junk food.)
In the track's final minutes, we get another boisterous, drawn-out take on the Batman theme before it finally tapers off into the plodding that ushered the track in.
It's a sad reminder of what could have been had this (admittedly perceived) ideas been allowed to flourish. And if the film hadn't have cut up, retooled, reshot and so on and so forth.