Review by Andrew Overfield
Edited by Sam Hughes
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Composer: Danny Elfman
Supervising Sound Editor(s): Scott Hecker / Chuck Michael
Reviewed on: Cinema
I’ve been really hoping that DC pull it out the hat when it comes to their cinematic universe. I genuinely loved Man of Steel, wasn’t the most impressed with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad was a huge let down which could have delivered much more and then Wonder Woman had the recipe just right!
Justice League, in my eyes, was meant to be this epic gathering of somewhat heroes to begin the franchise’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers world.
I had sat so much in anticipation once hearing the announcement that Justice League was on it’s way. Hoping to see a great big-screen depiction of one of my most favourite DC storylines; The Life & Death of Superman, I wasn’t quite expecting what I saw.
Maybe I set my expectations much higher than I should, but upon leaving the theatre I found myself torn between satisfied and disappointed with what DC had offered.
Spoliers The film follows on from the events of BvS: DoJ where Superman has unfortunately died at the hands of an odd interpretation of Doomsday, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince have joined together to discuss the gathering of defenders of the Earth and Lex Luthor is tucked away in prison. Oh and at least one “Martha” is still alive, completely unknown that her coincidental birth-name has saved the entire planet… Enough of my passive-aggressive ranting.
Earth is at threat once again, this time from Steppenwolf, who wants to mould the Earth into his own incarnation and make it pay for whatever his suffering may have been oh so many years ago when he got is backside handed to him. I’m being brash because it seemed like a very overused plot device. I’ll elaborate in my summary, but not everything in the film was wooden and copy-pasted together…
I will have to admit, I cannot remember a score by Danny Elfman that has lost my attention or not had me severely engaged. From Mars Attacks to The Nightmare Before Christmas and Batman, he has never ceased to capture my attention.
There’s something about Elfman’s composition that sets him apart from a lot of other composers I admire. He seems to write without repeating a single phrase or making repetitive melodic patterns the core of his composition. Not to say that other composers don’t pull off repeating patterns brilliantly, but there’s an awesome flourish and texture to his compositional style that sets him apart from everyone else. It’s unique and original without alienating the audience. He’s also a top bloke, I don’t normally get star-struck but when I finally met him after years of admiration, he courteously maintained the conversation without making me feel like a schoolgirl meeting her teen idol!
One thing I truly loved about Elfman’s approach to the score was the gentle use of previous (and hugely recognised) themes of his original Batman score and adding elements of John William’s beloved main theme for Superman. Recently in interviews such as with billboard.com, Elfman explained;
“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. And every time it comes back, the audience goes crazy.” – Elfman, D, Billboard.com, 2017.
Hearing the few snippets of Batman here and there, really helped identify with the character much more than the recent outing in BvS:DoJ. Really warming.
I must admit too, hearing the popular music additions to the soundtrack such as Sigrid’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows and the amazing rendition of The Beatle’s Come Together by Gary Clark Jr. and Junkie XL, is by far one of the best performances I’ve heard of this track.
I would have loved to have heard more of what Hans Zimmer brought to the new DC universe, as Man of Steel is one of my favourite film scores, so hearing at least snippets of What are You Going to do When You’re Not Saving the World? would have been the melodic icing on the cake of this beautiful score. Elfman certainly did the DC universe sonic justice (if you pardon the pun!) and I can’t wait to hear how his motifs are used in later additions to the franchise.
One word I would use that summed up the sound in this film is “individual”. Each character comes from their own landscape (or waterscape in Aquaman’s case!) and it certainly resonates throughout the flick.
Each character has their own set of carefully crafted sounds which offer an intricate detail as to what to focus on for each particular scene. Whether you need to be paying attention to Flash’s electricity, Aquaman’s manipulation of water, or Cyborg’s digital and mechanical presence, your can definitely ascertain which character is performing which action.
One sound I focused on was Steppenwolf’s axe. Electrically charged yet still packing such an organic metallic, pulsing punch. Aesthetically he was a disappointment but sonically he was a beast! And although Ciaran Hinds’ delivery of Steppenwolf’s dialogue seemed rustic and bare of emotion, he sounded raging and fearsome.
Nothing sounded overpowered, even with the introduction of the army of thousands of flying demons, the swarm sounded powerful yet easily depicted their on-screen presence without muddying the mix.
I think overall Hecker, Michael and the rest of the sound team did a great job, as far as audio goes Justice League is starting to create it’s own unique sonic universe, not having to lean on previous incarnations of DC hero franchises.
As a big DC fan, and in particular to the Superman story arcs I was eagerly anticipating a brilliant gathering of heroes to defend the world and compete with what Marvel has so brilliantly brought to the plate in terms of cinematic universes. However, I still feel that aesthetically and as far as story-lines, go it’s still missing the mark on some points.
In terms of audio – aside from some moments where I was 99.9% sure that a scene had been spliced together in an odd fashion, based on missing content from the trailer and the erratic camera changes – I found the sound and music spot on. Very happy to hear Elfman’s interpretation of the world and the sound design was not to harsh and distracting.
I feel there was a lot missing from the film, scenes from the previous trailers that had been cut from the film may have been removed to align with Joss Whedon’s ideas after Zack Snyder had to depart early from director duties.
If you don’t mind an action-packed flick and enjoy a good old bout of superhero war then I’d recommend going to see Justice League. If you’re a great fan of DC products then make sure you keep an open mind to the story and just enjoy the sound. It’s immensely beautiful.
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The Sound Architect