Marvel, I think are now becoming a little predictable when it comes to music for their superheroes, the latest excursion for Thor has a musical score by Michael Giacchino,(with additional music by Nami Malumad). Giacchino has worked his way steadily to the top of the film music game, scoring numerous big box office hits Star Trek, The Batman etc and also provided great music for a few turkeys-remember John Carter. Thor Love and Thunder I felt was just a re-hash of so many of his past scores, there is for me at least nothing new here, nothing fresh and certainly nothing that is remotely innovative or inventive. I do know that each composer has their own sound their own style and also their own little quirks of orchestration or a favourite instrument which is included in the majority of their works for the big screen, but this is just a fusion of everything he has done before and maybe also a few nods to the likes of Horner, Tyler, Debney and even Goldsmith, but these just seem to jar and grate on the listener (at least this one). The Thor series has had a different composer for each adventure, all composers including Giacchino are of course interesting and have produced so many great scores, but for this latest adventure with the Nordic God of thunder is for this reviewer tired and not very interesting whatsoever. The inclusion of a rock orientated guitar finished it for me, although granted the composer did throw in a few bold sounding brass flourishes here and there and frenzied strings that bang out a theme that I thought was rather like a watered down Masters of the Universe, compare this to the music for say Moon Knight and it pales in comparison, and purveys quite a lack luster persona and sound, there are some saving graces and these include the cello solo that can be heard in a handful of cues, which is romantic, mystical and melancholy, and co-composer Nami Malumad’s The Zeus Fanfares which evoke the golden age of Hollywood in epic movies such as Ben Hur and The Robe. As for the remainder of the score, predictable, uninspiring, and even flat at times, with just the occasional high created by the fusion of soprano, choir and orchestra, but there are not enough of these moments and passages that have this aura to them. Its like one is waiting for the score to develop or a theme erupt , but neither happens. So, it’s a no from me on this one, but that is just my opinion, check it out now on digital platforms.
More superhero themed antics leapt onto our cinema screens recently in the form of ace crime fighter and all-round good guy, Spider Man in his latest adventure SPIDER-MAN FAR FROM HOME. All superheroes we know need a stirring and inspiring musical score to assist them in their ongoing battle with the forces of evil and the putting down of the bad guys. Well. I am pleased to announce that composer Michael Giacchino has done a superb job and given Spidey a wonderfully vibrant, brilliantly pulsating and relentless thematic soundtrack to carry out his day to day crime busting in a global scenario for this movie at least. Giacchino in my opinion has for this score in-particular been more inventive and also more flexible in his approach, maybe it is the various international locations that have inspired the composer on this, but all I am saying is that the score is literally unstoppable, simply because it is a return to something that resembles what super hero scores were like a couple of decades ago, as in rich with drama full of colour and overflowing with a rich and compelling plethora of driving action cues that are laced with even more dominant themes throughout. Giacchino has managed to do on SPIDER-MAN what he did on the STAR TREK franchise, he has re-invented the sound and the musical stature and given it a powerful and commanding persona, that is great within the movie but is also full of life and strength. It is an action score for the majority of its running time, but we are treated to a few romantic or emotive interludes, which are at times a welcome respite from the driving but at the same time tuneful and catchy sounding compositions that accompany the on screen action. All I will say is I am not going to analyse the score, I am not going to examine the music or the way in which it is placed etc, all I am going to say is this is excellent and every film music fan in the world should own it. It ranks up there with the likes of Chris Young, James Horner, Danny Elman etc all of whom have worked on Spidey instalments. Go buy it and enjoy. Don’t think, just indulge in pure escapism musically.
It’s that time again folks, summer time and along with high temperatures, ice cream cones and cold drinks comes the summer blockbuster movies. Well I say blockbusters, but are there any real blockbusters currently, maybe not. Well two big movies that have caused a little excitement and interest are SPIDER MAN THE HOMECOMING and WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, so a crimefighting hero and a chilling look at what the future might hold for our planet earth. The two films although very different in mood and subject have one common denominator and that is composer Michael Giacchino. When I first saw the original planet of the apes I was blown away by the storyline the makeup and most of all the now iconic musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, he captured perfectly the upside-down world in which humans were the pets or slaves and hunted parties and the apes were the superior creatures who were intelligent and able to speak. Later in the original series I felt the storylines became a little over the top and even silly, but the scores for these simian tales always seemed to be creative and original no matter which composer was at the musical helm. The reboot of the series which now comprises of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and now WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, have been scored by just two composers, the first RISE, being given its musical identity by Scottish born composer Patrick Doyle, who for me personally did a brilliant job creating a soundtrack that at times paid homage to the original movies but still contained more than enough original material to stand on its own two feet. DAWN and WAR have scores by American composer Michael Giacchino, DAWN was an ok score, but I found that it was not that original, at times moving into a more STAR TREK sounding territory, the reboot of this series also being scored by Giacchino. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is somewhat different, the composer has created a score that is not only foreboding and dramatic in places but also has within it a softer and more emotive side, a gentle and calming musical persona is presented by Giacchino. I however am not saying this is the best thing since sliced bananas, as I felt after initially listening to it the score at times lacked something, I can’t really put my finger on it at the moment but it sounded strange and maybe out of place for a PLANET OF THE APES movie, maybe I am just accustomed to the original scores and because of the high quality of Goldsmith’s original work specifically, nothing else will do, if you understand what I mean. I suppose I felt a little disappointed in Giacchino’s contributions to the movie, as I was expecting something that was special and powerful, at times the thematic quality of the work is a little sparse and underdeveloped, and then suddenly we get a flurry of harsh sounding activity which soon subsides leaving this listener for one bewildered and even waiting for it to continue or develop into a bigger and bolder piece.
As I say this is just personal preference here, check the score out and make up your own mind. The work includes some choral work as well as fully symphonic passages, but even here I was a little underwhelmed, I personally thought the chanting or grunting voices could have been a throwback from a rejected track from a Morricone western, the scores saving grace comes from its more subdued and delicate sounding cues such as APES TOGETHER STRONG, but even this smacks at being something akin to the watch melody from a few dollars more, it is charming enough and yes Giacchino does develop the central theme of the melody adding swelling strings and lilting woodwind which eventually melt away and give way to strings taking the core melody on and upwards supported by faraway and melancholy sounding horns. But, just as this fragile sounding piece has developed and is beginning to invade one’s mind, it comes to an abrupt end, with booming percussion heralding scratchy sounding violin and tense strings that are moved along by fierce brass flourishes enhanced by fearsome use of more percussion and low swirling strings that create a mod of apprehension and uncertainty. Please don’t think I am dis-respecting Mr Giacchino, that is not the case, in fact alongside the subdued cues such as THE HATING GAME, PARADISE FOUND and MIGRATION, there were also a couple that caught my ear, PLANET OF ESCAPES for example and also the END CREDITS, which I suppose is an overture of sorts but at the end of the movie, and one that contains a number of the scores principal themes. I have no doubt that WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES will be a great success at the box office and will also do well when it is eventually issued on DVD around Christmas time, but I am not sure that soundtrack fans will remember much of Giacchino’s score, I don’t think in 50 years’ time or even in 5 years’ hence we will be talking about it and giving it the same respect as Goldsmiths work within the original ape movie series. So, as I say listen and make up your own mind, but I was not bowled over at all.
THE BOOK OF HENRY is a movie that is basically a bit chaotic and messy, the plot is somewhat unbelievable, or is it? This is a movie that deals with a child who is intelligent beyond his years who lives with his younger brother and Mother, in fact Henry is so organised and intelligent that he even organises the house finances whilst his Mother sits and plays video games, see unbelievable don’t you think, anyway, it is a film that attempts to encompass so many emotions and scenarios it very soon becomes a little bit of a mish mash and is filled with confusion for the watching audience, the plot thickens and darkens as a new neighbour arrives with his stepdaughter who befriends Henry and then we find out her stepfather who also just happens to be Police commissioner and has a brother who is head of child protection, is abusing her. Henry decides he must help her and enlists the help of his Mother, who is guided step by step by her super intelligent Son to confront the abuser and eventually murder him without getting caught. So are you following, no well sit up and wake it its quite simple, I think. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the Mother is guided by her Son to act as a hit person to wipe out this abuser. Ok, I think I will leave it there and go to the music for the movie which is the work of the ever industrious and in demand movie music Maestro Michael Giacchino. His score is like the movie something of a fusion of styles and sounds, that are both symphonic and synthetic, the latter not really standing out, but more like acting as a complimenting underscore to the conventional instrumentation. The difference between the mish mash movie itself and the score being that Mr Giacchino manages to control his music a lot better than the director did his plot or actors. It is a score that contains some beautifully poignant and emotive tone poems, but also has a shadier and more foreboding and sinister persona in the guise of slow burning, smouldering, pot boiler cues that are gradually building and rising the temperature all the time without reaching any sort of crescendo in most cases, as in the cue, THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS this fearful and driven side to the score is in a word menacing and at times becomes uneasy, which causes the listener feel somewhat uncomfortable and apprehensive. Dark and richly ominous sounding piano acts as a foundation to the almost virulent atmosphere, add to this tense tremolo strings and low basses that are enhanced by subdued percussive elements and at times a lone scratchy sounding violin that is totally. The composer utilises delicate piano and sorrowful cello with punctuations from harp and woodwind within the quieter interludes of the score.
I think that the most emotive and beautiful examples of the scores lighter attributes are demonstrated within the cues TARGET PRACTISE and PETER THE GREAT, these are lilting and haunting pieces for a small ensemble of strings, harp, piano and heartrending cello, which combine to create a wonderfully lyrical and mesmerising theme, that I know you will return to many times. Another cue that is simple but effective is CHRISTINAS DANCE, which is performed by piano and strings, with the composer purveying a more classical sound maybe in the style of the great romantic composers such as Rachmaninov, it is a gracious and affecting piece. I found the score a lot more appealing than the film it was intended to support and enhance, it is dramatic, fragile, unnerving, driving, poignant and strikingly beautiful and eerie in places. One to check out.
ROGUE ONE-A STAR WARS STORY opened in cinemas this weekend in the UK, the film has never been out of the news or so it seems. It is they say the first STAR WARS movie that is basically a spin off from the main films in the series, but there were of course a couple of other spin off pictures when the Ewoks were given their own stories in THE BATTLE OF ENDOR and THE CARAVAN OF COURAGE. Which I must say I quite enjoyed and I still have the videos and the soundtrack LP music courtesy of Peter Bernstein. ROGUE ONE of course is a little more sophisticated than the Ewok adventures and I suspect it had a larger budget than both of the aforementioned combined. The music for ROGUE ONE has also not been out of the news as far as film music collectors are concerned. Composer Alexandre Desplat was originally named for the project but this altered recently and American composer Michael Giacchino was announced as the man for the job. In a very short period of time the composer completed the score and I have to say has managed to create a score that is not only in keeping with the John Williams style (after all Star Wars film without this type of music would not be Star Wars, would it?) but it also has to it a style and sound that is for the most part original or at least has certain musical trademarks and quirks of orchestration that is now something that we as collectors associate with Michael Giacchino. Like his score for JURRASIC WORLD the composer has built his themes around the ever-familiar foundation of motifs created by John Williams, i.e. THE IMPERIAL MARCH, DARTH VADER’S THEME and THE CENTRAL THEME etc. This a powerful and high octane work filled to bursting with adventurous and pulsating thematic material and has more twists, turns and gut wrenching moments than the most volatile rollercoaster ride. Plus, it has its fair share of emotive and romantic sounding pieces, lush and sweeping strings creating lavish and opulent sounding passages, thundering percussion underlining the urgency and action, commanding and threatening brass demanding you listen to it and then there is the wistful and flyaway sounding woodwinds that dart here there and everywhere bringing a certain magical or delicate layer to the score. These elements and more combine to create a sound and purvey a score that is robust, entertaining, and highly exhilarating. The score opens with HE’S HERE FOR US, the style of John Williams shines through here more or less straight away, but as I have already said Giacchino fashions the music to incorporate this style and then kind of turns it around and integrates his own musical character and sound to bring us a piece that is exciting and filled with an up-tempo urgency, yet at the same time oozes with apprehension, and foreboding. At times one can hear little snippets of his Star Trek action music or at least the action pieces within ROGUE ONE do resemble the full-on cues that we heard earlier this year in BEYOND. Does this make ROGUE less enjoyable, No, certainly not.
I think that one of the more prominent tracks within the score is also one of the shortest, HOPE (track number 16) has a duration of less than two minutes, but it very quickly establishes itself and sets the scene for the remainder of the cue, swirling strings and choir combine to make a grand opening statement, these elements are supported by the brass section, the initial opening collaboration soon fades and the brass section intervene with a short lived but strong fanfare of sorts which has the beginnings of THE IMPERIAL MARCH, again brief but affecting. Frome the one of the shortest cues to one of the lengthiest which is track number 9, CONFRONTATION ON EADU. This is pure action and classic Star Wars material, Giacchino bringing into play rasping and growling brass, dramatic and driving strings, with booming percussion and woods to add a touch of intensity. However, after the powerful and tense atmosphere there is a calm and melodic interlude as the composer introduces a wonderfully lyrical but tragic sounding theme which is performed by heartfelt strings and powerful horns that complement and embellish perfectly the string section. Another highlight is THE IMPERIAL SUITE, this is magnificent, timpani backed brass lead the proceedings and are joined by strings which punctuate and augment the central thematic material of the piece, this is Giacchino’s IMPERIAL MARCH or at least his take on it and I must say he does a good job. ROGUE ONE is in my opinion a good score, and any STAR WARS fan will not be disappointed. It is tense, fast paced, action led, romantic and has themes new and old which Giacchino masterfully fuses. Recommended.
1. He’s Here For Us
2. A Long Ride Ahead
3. Wobani Imperial Labor Camp
4. Trust Goes Both Ways
5. When Has Become Now
6. Jedha Arrival
7. Jedha City Ambush
9. Confrontation on Eadu
10. Krennic’s Aspirations
11. Rebellions Are Built on Hope
12. Rogue One
13. Cargo Shuttle SW-0608
14. Scrambling the Rebel Fleet
15. AT-ACT Assault
16. The Master Switch
17. Your Father Would Be Proud
19. Jyn Erso & Hope Suite
20. The Imperial Suite
21. Guardians of the Whills Suite