Mark Mothersbaugh, is a composer that has worked steadily over a period of many years, I first noticed his name on the opening credits to animated series such as RUGRATS, years ago, but his career began long before that as the composer worked on low budget movies such as REVENGE OF THE NERDS ll, SLAUGHTER HOUSE ROCK, and episodes of The Pee Wee Hermann show, Mothersbaugh is a composer who has an impressive list of credits to his name, but also sadly is a composer that is not a name that is regularly discussed amongst collectors of film and TV music, I was always impressed by his musical prowess and his adaptability whilst he worked on THE RUGRATS as his music would often change direction, style and sound over 30 times in one episode the composer altering his style and approach and being highly inventive and creative writing music to suit every situation in the sometimes 5 or 10 minute episode. He managed to create scores that were expressive and also recognisable as in the people watching (the adults that is) would get it straight away, he would often mimic well known themes in a similar way to composer Alf Clausen did when working on THE SIMPSONS, creating little parodies and pastiches to enhance certain situations, This I think is a true talent and a sign that the composer is capable of thinking on his feet and adapting quickly, it also displayed that Mothersbaugh had a good knowledge of music. His name then began to appear on numerous TV shows and he would scores series of programmes such as SOUTH BEACH, HOTEL MALIBU, SECOND CHANCES and BEAKMANS WORLD during the 1990’s. Bigger projects soon followed, and the composer made a more permanent move into scoring feature films and worked on productions such as, 21 JUMP STREET, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE LEGO MOVIE, 22 JUMP STREET etc, and even returned to scoring THE RUGRATS when they made their big screen appearances. Recently he has written the scores to, PITCH PERFECT 2, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS-THE ROAD CHIP, LEGO THE NINJANGO MOVIE, ME GUSTA, PERA ME ASUSTA and is working on HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3. He also stepped into the shoes of composers such as Patrick Doyle and Brian Tyler for the latest Marvel films production, THOR RAGNAROK. For this he has delivered an invigorating score, the work is a mix of both symphonic and electronic, it contains some pretty impressive epic sounding material but also has to it a more contemporary side, with the composer employing, up tempo percussion and Giorgio Moroder like syths and electric guitars to enhance the action, at the outset of the score, I felt that maybe the producers had done the right thing allowing this composer to score the film, but mid-way through, I have to admit I began to get a little tired of the synthetic sounding material.
A lot of collectors have complained that Marvel movies do not actually contain enough solid themes, well with THOR RAGNAROK, the themes are there well at least there are hints of themes present, but the composer is either not allowed to develop them more fully or does not see the need for them to be developed. Ok don’t get me wrong here, I love the way Mothersbaugh, infuses his score with a kind of mini homage to Brian Tyler, and allows a theme not dissimilar to that of Tyler’s THOR theme to run throughout the work, but again it is just a hint of a theme, where as if he were to have allowed it to grow and develop there might have been something special here to listen to. Towards the end of the score it again begins to return to a more structured and symphonic sounding work, with proud brass flourishes and stirring strings being carried along on a sea of percussive elements that are commanding and thundering. There is even a Jerry Goldsmith sounding cue, that rears its dramatic head in the form of ASGARD IS A PEOPLE, booming percussion, interspersed with jagged brass and underlined by driving strings and choir are fused into an action cue, that is exciting and tense, with a hint of the THOR theme by Tyler being brought in and out of the proceedings as it moves towards its powerful sounding crescendo of a conclusion. After this we are treated to WHERE TO? Which is an uplifting and proud sounding piece again for strings, percussion and brass. But personally, there is too much electronic, too much upbeat nothingness and not enough symphonic, many of the cues sounding like obscure tracks from a KRAFTWERK album. Mixed feelings on this one, which is a shame as Mothersbaugh is in my opinion normally a composer that delivers.