Batman, Battle Los Angeles, Brian Tyler, Daft Punk, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Inception, Iron Man 3, James Newton Howard, John Carter, John Williams, Last Airbender, Michael Giacchino, Prince, Scores, Soundtracks, Tron Legacy, Underworld Awakening, Wendy Carlos
I love scores.
I’m a big fan of them. Movies, video games, tv shows- I do it all. I love the sound of an orchestra in the morning! The rush of a string ostinato, the power of a pounding timpani beat… hell, I’ll even take a repetitive Hans Zimmer two-note motif if it serves the moment. Before going any further, let’s be clear about the difference between soundtracks and scores. Soundtracks are the songs that play during a movie; scores are the orchestrated music written specifically for the film that highlights and adds depth to the scenes. Best example I can give is this one here:
In fact, you may have noticed how the songs from soundtracks nowadays barely ever make their way into the movies they’re attached to. You’re lucky to hear even one during the closing credits or while a character is buying cigarettes in a bodega. Hollywood knows they’re just trying to squeeze extra cash out of you, but even they can’t outright lie about what they’re doing, so the albums are packaged as “Music from and Inspired By…”. Which is not untrue; the central themes and elements that the movie reflects and explores influence the song selection. Two good examples of this are Underworld: Awakening and Iron Man 3: Heroes Fall, particularly the latter. Right from the outset the first track by Imagine Dragons- Ready, Aim, Fire- got you hyped for the flick and laid out what the movie was all about.
I’m fortunate enough to have grown up during the John Williams Era- when movie scores became cool and something you could talk about with your friends and not look like a dork. Trust me; back then being known as a geek or a nerd was not something you wanted. Reading comic books was ok, though.
Sadly, nowadays the quality of movie scores has fallen off dramatically. There’s a clear reason for this, an undeniable turning point- *cough*HansZimmer*cough*- but that’s a subject for another post as this one’s already running long. For now, here’s a few examples of scoring brilliance for your listening pleasure.
The Last Airbender by James Newton Howard– if you’re a fan of the Avatar cartoons, this one is a must have. And yeah, it blew the movie out the water. Should’ve been Best Score instead of Trent Reznor’s music for the Facebook movie- The Social Network. See, you didn’t even remember that one.
TRON: Legacy by Daft Punk– Loved what was done with Wendy Carlos’ iconic theme and it kicked plenty of ass in its own right. And even though it was all kinds of repetitive and the mix was kind of off, it’s still a winner- especially if you can find a bootleg expanded set, i.e.- recording sessions.
Inception by Hans Zimmer– One of the best examples of how music compliments and supports a movie you’ll ever find. Everyone loves it for ‘Dream is Collapsing’, but the best tracks were ‘Radical Notions’, ‘Mombasa’ and ‘Time’.
Battle: Los Angeles by Brian Tyler– This has simply the best percussion cue since Brad Fidel’s Terminator motif. A bombastic, militaristic good time for all. Lower the volume to preserve your hearing.
John Carter by Michael Giacchino: Everyone- self included- was really disappointed in the movie, but the score was fantastic, absolutely fantastic! His sources of inspiration were pretty recognizable and he did a awesome job of putting it all together.
Honorable Mention: King Arthur by Hans Zimmer. Love this one; it underscores everything wrong and right with Zimmer’s music in one shot, but it’s still one of my all-time favorites. The theme for Arthur and his knights is the stuff of high adventure. Another one you should try to find the bootleg version/recording sessions for. It’s well worth the effort.