When Warner Bros. decided to bring in Joss Whedon to take over directing for Justice League, the film lost not only its director, but its original composer, Tom Holkenborg. Also known as “Junkie XL”, Holkenborg had collaborated with Hans Zimmer for the preceding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, helping Zimmer expand the established themes from Man of Steel. Holkenborg had already completed around 40 minutes of music for Justice League before being replaced by Danny Elfman after Snyder’s departure. Under time constraints, Elfman’s score was mostly unmemorable. Eschewing the established Superman and Batman themes from previous DCEU films, Elfman opted to bring back John Williams’ Superman theme as well has his iconic Batman theme, a decision that brought much divisiveness among fans.
Holkenborg holds the reins for Zack Snyder’s Justice League— this time (with Snyder’s blessing), the composer decided to completely start over, accomplishing a rarity it the filmmaking world–an almost four-hour score. Holkenborg spent months during the pandemic incorporating the previously conceived DCEU ideas with new orchestrational and electronic music which triumphs over Elfman’s efforts. The result is an epic journey consisting of operatic orchestra, rock, synthesizers and “ancient lamentation” vocals featuring Iranian soprano Delaram Kamareh (yes, I watch with closed captions).
Since the film introduced three new superheros to the roster, Holkenborg wrote new themes: a hauntingly beautiful piano and strings arrangement highlighting Cyborg’s struggles and his journey (“Cyborg Becoming / Human All Too Human”); a bombastic and exhilarating masterpiece for The Flash (“At the Speed of Force”); and a brass-filled and imposing theme for Aquaman. Holkenborg also chose to give Batman a new theme while Wonder Woman’s theme also received an upgrade with Kamareh’s vocals. And of course, Superman’s theme from “Man of Steel” returns, sorely lacking from the theatrical cut, and now all is right with the world. Snyder also requested “a national anthem” for the Justice League (“The Crew at Warpower”), which makes its appearance towards the end and as badass and heroic as anticipated (it has moments that also reminds you of the animated Justice League theme).
Tom Holkenborg’s return as composer was highly anticipated and his music absolutely delivered, justifying fans’ praise for the long awaited score. The score immerses you in every moment, whether it’s a quiet and tender character moment or an imploding action sequence, showcasing the composer’s eclectic choices and his creative ingenuity.