DC Comics has published an interview with Danny Elfman in which he discusses scoring the soundtrack for the “Justice League” movie, coming back to DC Comics characters after so many years, and stepping in to work on a film that has existing themes in place. Here’s part of the interview…
Back in 1988, the superhero genre as a whole was still pretty new in film. That’s definitely not the case now. Did that change how you set about writing the score for Justice League?
Well, yeah. Styles change over the years. Back then I took it into what Tim used to call “the march.” Well, we wouldn’t do that now. That would be corny by today’s standards. So, I wrote stylistically how I would write now, not then, except for a few moments where Joss [Whedon] was very consciously like, “Let’s do the old thing right here!”
There are definitely nods throughout the movie to previous successors. I do use Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme a couple of times. Joss loves including a few of those moments in the music that you know the fans are going to love. So, there’s maybe, MAYBE one moment that’s dead-on 1989 Batman.
Is it a difficult thing to do as a composer to add existing themes into an original score? And does it push your score in a certain direction?
No, because they’re self-conscious moments. We’re doing this moment here, and that moment there, but that still leaves 100 minutes of music. The bigger challenge in Justice League was that I had all of these characters and I couldn’t just go and start writing big themes for everybody because you can only do so many themes in one movie. How to fit that puzzle together was really the tricky part.
I came up with two heroic themes, one which was just an overall Justice League theme and one which was a team theme. I’m using that more when the team is coming together. I also have an “Anti-Hero Theme” as well as a Steppenwolf theme. But then I tried to provide really simple little hooks for Cyborg, Flash and Aquaman, without going too far. There’s a certain point where you just get a mess of themes, and that’s just going to be a nightmare. So, I tried to simplify those characters to just a few notes, so that there’s something recognizable, and I tried to keep my new thematic action more involved around the entire group as a whole, so it didn’t get too fragmented. But it was still quite a huge jigsaw puzzle of how to do that in a way that wasn’t too messy and served the purposed of the film. So yeah, Justice League was really a challenging film, but I like challenges.