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What makes a definitive superhero theme? #JusticeLeague


With Justice League set to arrive in Cineworld on the 17th of November this year, we cannot wait to see our favourite superheroes unite and fight crime on the big screen.

But when you’re a part of a team of equally amazing superheroes like the Justice League how can you stand out from the crowd? Rather than investing in a glittery costume or flashy car, it might be better to get yourself a super superhero theme.

What exactly makes the definitive superhero theme, though? Let’s have a closer look at what characteristics are required to sound like a hero.

1. It's got to be catchy

To stand out from the crowd, a superhero theme should be a snappy tune that will get stuck in the heads of whoever hears it. It’s not just enough to defeat your enemies, you want to have them humming your theme so they will never forget just how badly you defeated them.

Superhero/family crimefighting team The Incredibles have the right idea. Their super-spy styled theme composed by Rogue One's Michael Giacchino is upbeat, fun, and infuriatingly catchy. When you hear the opening few bars of this one, you’ll find yourself singing it out in public places without even realising.

2. We must FEEL the power

Unlike regular heroes superheroes usually have some sort of extraordinary powers, so their theme should give their foes an impression of just how powerful they are when they dramatically drop-in on their nemesis’s evil schemes.

In other words, a superhero theme should be a warning to the bad guys that let them know they are in some serious trouble. Wonder Woman’s theme (Batman v Superman) is the perfect example of a theme with some serious power behind it. Screeching electric guitar riffs and a driving percussive beat make this theme more like a war charge than a superhero theme. If you hear this one in the middle of the night, you better run!

3. It has to be a force for good

Remember: a superhero is one of the good guys and their theme should reflect this. We wouldn’t want anybody mistaking them for a super-villain because their theme gave the wrong impression.

The 'Flying Home' theme from Kick-Ass by Henry Jackman and John Murphy is exactly the kind of heroic that makes for the definitive superhero theme. With its triumphant combination of strings and horns supported by electric guitar, it’s impossible to listen to this and not feel heroic. Listening to this on your way to work or school will make you feel like you’re off to save the day.

4. It must be inspirational

Vanquishing evil, though an important part of the job, is still not the only thing a superhero needs to do. A superhero should also be an inspirational figure; a symbol that good will always triumph over evil.

Hearing a superhero theme should be like the hero telling you that everything is going to be okay. And what theme is a better symbol of inspiration than John William’s theme for the 1978 version of Superman.

Literally a heroic fanfare, it’s instantly recognisable and has become a symbol of inspiration itself. Still as impactful as it was in 1978, this music is testament to the inspiration it carries.

5. There needs to be a hint of mystery

Whilst a superhero theme should primarily be a showcase of strength and heroism, it doesn’t hurt to throw in a touch of intrigue too.

Superheroes don’t just wear their costumes for the fun of it, they need to keep their secret identities secret so why shouldn’t they use their theme to give themselves an air of intrigue as crowds wonder just who could their mysterious saviour be.

Take Danny Elfman's main theme from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man for example. It has all the heroic aspects you would expect but through the addition of an almost gothic sounding choir and spiralling strings, Spidey now seems more dramatic than just a student in red spandex. That’s the power of film music for you.

6. There must be a hint of a darker side...

Life isn’t so great for superheroes you know. Sure, they might be able to fly or swing around New York but superheroes often decide to become superheroes after a tragic event in their past (almost always involving dead parents) and that’s not even factoring in the stress that comes with the job.

It’s no surprise that a lot of superhero themes allude to the hero having a darker more brooding side to their character. And you can’t get any more brooding than Christopher Nolan's take on Batman with his Dark Knight trilogy.

A grittier take than Tim Burton's Batman, this theme by Hans Zimmer reflected the updated version of the character with the use of large dramatic chords and harsh sounding brass that put the “dark” in Dark Knight. He might come across more brooding and angst-ridden, but that doesn’t make Bats any less super.

7. It needs to have a distinct personality

What’s the point of having a superhero theme if you don’t make it your own? A theme song is a hero’s opportunity to exhibit everything they stand for and is just as important to their superhero image as their costume or catchphrase.

A superhero theme should be instantly recognisable and associated with one hero only to avoid any awkward mix-ups. This could be done subtly, or you can use it as an opportunity to have a group of people sing your superhero alias repeatedly along to a psychedelic groove.

It’s probably not the most dramatic, but it worked for Batman back in the 1960s and if it’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for us.

There you have it: the characteristics that make for the definitive super superhero theme. When you see Justice League on November 17th, take a moment to listen to each hero’s theme on Junkie XL's score and see which one stands out to you more. Just maybe they will each have a definitive superhero theme.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.