A vital part of any movie – especially blockbuster tentpoles – is the musical score. Cues and themes can instantly invoke certain feelings in the audience, becoming just as memorable as the films they are a part of. As such, it’s important for the composer to come up with tracks that compliment the scenes and elevates it to another level. It’s impossible to think of classics like Star Wars or E.T. without John Williams coming to mind. This is a challenge that composers face every time they work on a project.
The task becomes all the more unenviable when a film deals with some of the most iconic characters in popular culture. Zack Snyder’s upcoming Justice League movie most certainly fits that description, as Batman and Wonder Woman will join forces with the likes of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Tom Holkenborg, a.k.a. Junkie XL, is the man responsible for providing the music in DC Comics’ epic team-up event, and he understands the magnitude of the situation.
Junkie XL was on the panel during the Musical Anatomy of a Superhero at San Diego Comic-Con 2016. He spoke with Screen Rant at a roundtable following the presentation, where he discussed the challenges of writing music for an entire team of superheroes, explaining his approach to the film:
“It is challenging and Hans [Zimmer] and I faced the same issue when we worked on Batman V Superman. Sometimes, every character has a specific theme, but sometimes you make a piece of music that captures the vibe of what’s going on. For Batman V Superman, we only picked Wonder Woman as a unique theme for her. But yes, it’s complicated. If you have six guys in one scene battling another guy and there’s 10,000 things going on at the same time, you’ve got to pick and choose. No matter how you look at it, the music is always supporting the film. It’s not music on its own, it’s always in support of what’s going on the screen.”
Justice League will mark the first time many of these superheroes make a true appearance on the big screen (not counting the Batman V Superman cameos), and fans of each will likely come in with expectations about what they’d like to hear. From the sound of it, the primary objective of Junkie XL isn’t to give each member their own special theme song, just find the best way for the music to compliment the narrative. That isn’t to say none of the newcomers won’t have one, but it’s likely something that’s being saved for the forthcoming solo vehicles that will place the various characters front and center. Ultimately, that might be for the best, since Justice League will be a different animal from The Flash or Aquaman. In the filmmaker driven environment of the DCEU, each installment will have its own tone and require its own score.
Holkenberg seems to be on the right track here. Instead of forcing things to give each hero a “cool” theme, he’s using a far more natural method to give Justice League the music it needs and deserves. Junkie XL is right in saying that a movie score is meant to serve the film it’s attached to, and the Justice League soundtrack will largely depend on what Snyder has in mind. Holkenberg has not started to work on the score just yet (he has Dark Tower to tackle first), so there’s still plenty of time to figure it all out. After impressing viewers with his work on films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Deadpool, Junkie XL has definitely earned the benefit of the doubt and he’ll probably come up with something memorable for the first live-action Justice League film.
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman is slated for release on June 2, 2017; followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash is currently without a release date.