When we talk about film the conversation usually focuses upon the story, the cast, the effects, and even the budget — these are obviously crucial factors when it comes to engaging with and appreciating our favorite movies. And yet, in the days, months, and years that follow, it’s often the soundtracks and theme music that stands out the most.
Close your eyes listen to a few moments of John Williams indelible theme music for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) or Star Wars (1977), and you’re instantly transported back to the Peruvian jungles or the deserts of Tatooine, perhaps even more so than via a video clip or still image could hope to achieve. Theme music defines our movies in a universal way; for example, The Godfather (1972) theme is instantly recognizable almost anywhere in the world. Does your pulse race just a bit when you hear impending monster beats of Jaws (1975) or Halloween (1978)?
Theme music also illustrates and underscores the values of the charcters in a film, particularly superhero movies that trade in truth, justice, and heroism — tough concepts to sell through visuals alone. Hans Zimmer’s swelling horns in The Dark Knight (2008) or Junkie XL’s otherworldly strings announcing Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman (2016). But these pale in comparison to John Williams’ classic, iconic Superman (1978) theme music from Richard Donner’s groundbreaking film — still sends a chill down my spine every time I hear it.
Oddly, Williams theme wasn’t used in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013) or Superman v Batman. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL scored those films instead. Snyder famously chose to pivot from the Williams theme to help differentiate Henry Cavill’s performance from Christopher Reeve. While there’s merit in Snyder’s approach, it felt like something important was lost along the way.
According to Comic Book Movie, when Joss Whedon came aboard Justice League earlier this year, he enlisted Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) composer, Danny Elfman, to step in and adjust the film’s tone. Elfman explains:
“There are a few little fan moments. I instated a moment of the Wonder Woman theme that Hans Zimmer did for Batman Vs. Superman, but I also had two minutes where I had the pleasure of saying, ‘Let’s do John Williams’ Superman.’ and that for me was heaven, because now I have a melody to twist, and I’m using it in an actually very dark way, in a dark moment.”
Whew, that’s a lot to unpack. We know Superman perished in Batman v Superman, so perhaps the William’s music plays into his rebirth, which seems totally appropriate. However, Elfman’s “dark moment” remark is a bit of a head-scratcher. We don’t yet know how Superman returns (no pun intended), but Elfman suggests that he’s not the same person, at least not initially.
Elfman also explained his rationale for the inclusion of Williams’ theme:
“The people at DC are starting to understand we’ve got these iconic bits from our past and that’s part of us, that’s part of our heritage — we shouldn’t run away from that. Contemporary thinking is, every time they reboot something, you have to start completely from scratch — which, of course, audiences will tell us again and again, is bullshit. Because the single-most surviving and loved theme in the world is Star Wars, which they had the good sense to not dump for the reboots.”
Justice League hits theaters on November 17, 2017.
SOURCE: Comic Book Movie