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Justice League‘s post-production period was, to put it bluntly, a huge mess. Seven months after Zack Snyder completed principal photography, Joss Whedon began extensive reshoots after rewriting the script. The result was something that looked radically different from the initial trailers, creating problems like Henry Cavill’s CGI-ed mustache and Ben Affleck visibly swapping wigs mid-scene.
Oh, and Warner Bros. replaced Justice League‘s composer at the last moment.
Junkie XL (Deadpool, Batman v Superman) was originally hired to write Justice League‘s score, but Warner Bros. replaced him with Danny Elfman in June. Like many other aspects of the film, it was a rush job. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Elfman said, “I got the call from Joss very last-second,” adding that he was told to make the decision immediately and start work the next day.
Elfman had to write the music without seeing the final movie, highlighting the film’s unfinished state during reshoots.
“I had a lot of storyboards in place of action. There would be full scenes and then a five-minute sequence of storyboards. Honestly, it was like working on an animated film. I didn’t score any of the unused footage — the movie that came out is the movie I scored, it was just in very rough form.”
It’s unclear why Junkie XL was replaced, or whether the decision came from Whedon or the studio. Elfman’s score includes nostalgic callbacks to the 1978 Superman and Elfman’s 1989 Batman theme, but it earned mixed feedback from fans. By comparison, Junkie XL’s original Justice League theme is less orchestral—and arguably better suited to Zack Snyder’s style.
Back in June, Junkie XL tweeted a statement about his departure from Justice League, quoting some advice from his mentor Hans Zimmer: “You haven’t made it in Hollywood as a composer until you get replaced on a project.”
Neither he nor Whedon have explained why XL left the movie, although we can provide a plausible theory. Warner Bros. wanted to move away from the grim tone of Batman v Superman, and that involved cutting some of Zack Snyder’s scenes, reshooting more lighthearted material with Joss Whedon, and (possibly) replacing Junkie XL’s high-octane music with a more traditional score from Danny Elfman.
As of now, 85,000 fans have signed a petition asking Warner Bros. to release a “Zack Snyder cut” of Justice League, along with Junkie XL’s score.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor