Oh dear. That pretty much sums up this score by Danny Elfman – and the film itself.
Danny Elfman. Now that is a name revered in the soundtrack industry. Personally, I don’t have a lot of his scores but I am well aware that a great many people hold Elfman as one of the best composers around at the moment. I for example have his Batman and Spider-Man scores and I think they are fantastic. That being said however, I have yet to hear an Elfman score nowadays (particularly a superhero one) that I like. Avengers: Age of Ultron for example was mediocre at best, and contained quite a bad reimagining of the originally fantastic Avengers theme by Alan Silvestri. The action cues were also underwhelming, and I along with a fair amount of others were disatisfied with the score as a whole. This was one of the many reasons why I wasn’t very pleased when it was announced that Junkie XL (the co-composer for Batman V Superman) was being replaced on Justice League by Danny Elfman. The Justice League is my absolute favourite superhero team and for their first time on the big screen they really needed a memorable, kick-ass score to accompany an (hopefully) amazing movie. After Age of Ultron I didn’t believe Elfman was the man for job, but I accepted it and waited for the score to come out before I cast any more judgement. Maybe it’ll be great.
The score for Justice League is absolutely awful, and that is putting it mildly. Take the first score track for instance: Justice League Theme. It is just over 45 seconds long, and that should already cast doubt on it. That amount of time is nowhere near long enough for the amazing Justice League theme Elfman has composed to really shine. And sure enough, it doesn’t. The track starts off well, using choirs and brass starting quietly which slowly build up into some fairly epic music – that stops just before it sounds like it would get really good. The theme also doesn’t appear at all in the rest of the album, so it gets no development whatsoever. It just suddenly ends as quickly as it began, never to be heard again – which is such a shame.
The next track is Hero’s Theme. Now, credit where credit is due this is actually not bad at all. It is four minutes long and builds up quite nicely into an epic sounding heroic piece of music. Lots of brass is used and it is quite similar in style to Elfman’s older superhero music. One thing it really isn’t however, is memorable. Certainly not on the level of say Batman or Spider-Man. Considering this is Danny Elfman’s work, it really is underwhelming. Hero’s Theme is also not heard in the film itself at all, and the music is never heard again on the score.
And that brings us onto the third track: Batman On The Roof. This is going to be a fun paragraph, for one reason – this track contains Elfman’s ’89 Batman theme.
Re-using old superhero themes was one of the few things that was revealed about the score prior to its release. A lot of people praised this decision, but I was one of the few that didn’t. I felt that those themes had their time, and bringing them back was pointless. Also, Superman and Batman have their own established themes in the new movies, and while they may not be as memorable as the classic ones they certainly don’t deserve to be shoved aside and forgotten while the classics just come back for no particular reason other than fan service. Take the new Superman theme from Man Of Steel, for example –
This piece of music is a hopeful, heroic cue that perfectly captures the essence of the Man of Steel Superman. It has been well established in the new DC Cinematic Universe, and is a great theme. And yet for Justice League it was cast aside in favour of the classic Superman theme. While I do agree that the classic theme is a better composition, it doesn’t in any way fit with the darker, more realistic Superman from the new films. Hearing it in the cinema accompanying that character felt out of place and frankly wrong, and the same goes for Batman. Using Elfman’s own ’89 Batman theme also felt misused, especially since Junkie XL composed a theme for the character in the previous film: Batman V Superman. It doesn’t hold a candle to Elfman’s iconic theme of course, but it does fit the new Batman whereas Elfman’s doesn’t.
Anyway, enough ranting about this. But you get my point.
Next up on the list of significant cues, we have track 6: Wonder Woman Rescue. Now this is the only track to reuse a theme from the DC Cinematic Universe; Wonder Woman‘s theme. It was a fantastic track composed by Hans Zimmer and later adapted by Rupert Gregson-Williams for the movie Wonder Woman. The theme uses electronics to make a really kickass theme, but in this track for Justice League it is butchered by Elfman. The electronics are replaced by plain orchestra, which completely ruins the music. The kickass theme now sounds softer and much less epic than Zimmer’s and Gregson-Williams’ versions, as well as being lackluster in general.
Over the course of the next few tracks, we hear small themes for Aquaman and Cyborg. Like their appearances in the movie itself, the themes are short and very bland – especially so considering they are in a movie with the ’89 Batman and John Williams Superman themes. There is also a small villain theme for Steppenwolf in The Story Of Steppenwolf, but it too is dull and far too generically dark and villainous to really stand out in this score.
At this point I’m going to skip the next few tracks as they are filled with well…filler. Dull and boring music. That brings us onto the first proper action cue of the score: The Tunnel Fight. This sounds OK, at least for fight music, but it lacks memorable themes (other than a couple short renditions of the ’89 Batman theme). Particularly, it lacks a Justice League theme. Since the first track not a peep has been heard in regards to a team theme, and it really shows in action cues like this where one is frankly desperately needed to help the music stand out. But no, this track is just six minutes of generic action.
The next track of significance is track 15: Spark of the Flash. It is significant because it is a complete ripoff of Blake Neely’s Flash theme from the CW television series of the same name. I’m not even exaggerating, it sounds exactly the same. How Elfman got away with that without anybody noticing I have no idea. Spark of the Flash is a great piece of music, it’s just not done by Elfman. No credit is given to Neely at any point either.
Track 16, Friends and Foes contains the first rendition on this score of the Williams Superman theme. Not only is it completely out of place with the character, but it is also a really bad rendition that doesn’t give an inch of justice to the original composition. It is bland and sounds really awful at times. Considering this theme is one of the best musical compositions ever (or at least I think so), it is hard to believe Elfman could make it sound this bad.
Now the next track actually upset me. Justice League United is an epic title that sounds like we may finally be getting that kickass memorable theme this score really needs. And we do, kind of. The track spends a good 30 seconds of its 90 second runtime building up, and then unleashes a pretty epic theme for 10 seconds before resuming generic action music that encompasses 95% of the score. The epic theme however is never used again on the score, nor is it very clear exactly what its purpose is. This theme is completely different to the Justice League theme at the start of the score, so is this a Justice League theme too? Are there two themes for the team? Why? And more importantly, why are neither of them used again? Neither track is anywhere near as memorable as Batman or The Avengers, but their presence in some of the action cues would have been greatly appreciated and frankly was badly needed. These two themes serve absolutely no purpose on the score, and it frustrates me to no end. What’s the point of making good music if you don’t use it?
Skipping over a few more generic superhero music cues, we come onto the next big action cue of the score – The Final Battle. This brings the classic Batman and Superman themes together in one pretty epic track, which would be great if the themes actually fit the characters or were warranted in the film for any reason at all. That aside, the Batman rendition itself isn’t bad at all, but the Superman one is worse than in Friends and Foes. It is such an injustice to Williams’ original composition, being just plain awful.
Also present in this track is yet another theme for the Justice League, that like the others is short and never appears again. There is also for some bizarre reason some music from Avengers: Age of Ultron at some points, which I can only assume Elfman carried over to this film hoping nobody would notice. Well, we did. The rest of The Final Battle is just boring generic superhero music with nothing memorable whatsover.
Overall this score is such a disappointment, especially considering this is the greatest superhero team OF ALL TIME in their first movie debut. They needed- no they deserved a great score, and not only did they not get a good one, they got a really crap one. Never in all my time listening to movie scores have I ever encountered one that I hated as much as this one. Maybe it’s just the fact that I feel the Justice League didn’t get the justice they deserved musically here, or maybe it’s because this crap score just piled onto the even crapper film to make one giant pile of god awful. Or maybe, just maybe it’s the fact that there are actually small pieces of great Justice League themes here, they are just never expanded on or used again after their debuts, which to be honest is even more frustrating than just having a score of generic superhero music.
Potential. That is what this score had. But did it use it? My God, how it didn’t.
Standout Cue: 3. Hero’s Theme