When filmmakers tell a story, the visual fantasy is only about as good as the auditory one. It seems the only way to move the story and the characters along with an engaging pace is to really take the audience along for the ride. Annnd how is that accomplished? By composing a score so amazing and moving but at the same time fun and catchy that it is has the ability to make you feel part of the film. But which of these really pulls that off?? Is it the return to Neverland, the long strides for the short legged Willow, the arduous travel from The Shire to Mount Doom, or the seemingly simple task of walking into your own closet? Well I don’t want to spoil it for you, so find out after the jump…
Hook – This is just me talking but I think Williams’ score for Hook is just as fantastic and imaginative as his work for Star Wars. Sure people pretty much pan (no pun intended) the sequel to/re-imagining of Peter Pan but the movie really isn’t terrible. Even with top drawer talent (Hoffman specifically) it was still made for kids. However the score is something any film buff should be able to appreciate. Again this is trademark Williams over-scoring and because of it, the film has a weighty and more sophisticated feel…even if it is about kids who never grow up. Laughable though the so-called action on screen may be, Williams is inventive and playful and at the same time showcases some of his best work ever. Here Williams creates something so special with a sophisticated feel that can be taken out of Hook and inserted in any number of epic films and still work.
Willow – James Horner again gets points for creating a score that fits the movie, but his over use of repetition and “calling card” instruments actually detracts from the film itself. Sure I didn’t notice it growing up but now it takes a lot not to recall half a dozen films where he does the same exact thing both musical riffs and the tell tale themes. He heavily relies on what I am led to believe is some sort of Native American flute. It is evidenced in any scene where it looks like the bad guys are winning. It’s always preceded by a build up of brass (like a roller coaster) and then theres this long drawn out flute which is almost like a howl. You hear that once and you’ll never forget it and easily pick it out of The Mask of Zorro, The Land Before Time, Volunteers, Star Trek II, Enemy at the Gates, and Avatar. See, there’s your half dozen. This is a fine score, but I guess it was more for the kids. That said, the good news is the fun factor is set to high, the bad news it that this sounds like he phoned it in.
(Favorite Tracks: Elora Danan and Tir Asleen)
The Fellowship of the Ring – Howard Shore created probably the mightiest, and most mythically familiar score of the last decade. Horns that seemed grander than the landscape of Mordoor, a precision section that dwarfed Mount Doom and made the Balarog seem like a fire ant as well as strings soft enough to make stone statues cry. Yes I don’t think I’ve heard a more rousing score to get me into a film and make me feel part of the action. His work is underdone in soft forest scenes and flashbacks but maybe that’s done on purpose. Either way, Shore did it all here going from soft and touching, to quick and engaging, to sweeping and emotional to down right funny and playful. In the end delivered the goods and gave an epic score that was both symbiotic and fitting to the high adventure on screen…all 10 hours of it.
(Favorite Tracks: The Bridge Of Khazad Dum and The Breaking Of The Fellowship)
Chronicles of Narnia – While the film itself didn’t do much for me I was very impressed with the work of Gregson-Williams. His talent to find ways to bring depth and complexity to the events on screen. With a light and whimsical but still sophisticated score, the story of 4 children battling the forces of The White Which feels very mature and grown up. I’m not sure it was intended but like Howard Shore above (who beautifully continued his score across three epic chapters), the themes here feel so much larger than this one film could ever hope to contain. While the follow up film is out of order as far as the series goes, Gregson-Williams’ score for that feels very continuous without sounding recycled. Not as gripping as the others here but still maintains a worldly feel and a very underrated effort that like the other Williams here is masterfully over-scored.
While I absolutely adore the Hook soundtrack (probably my top 3 scores of all time) I am pleased to give the win to Howard Shore. In what was unanimously billed as the “unmakeable” trilogy, the Herculean efforts Peter Jackson and his crew were perfectly complimented by the hefty and moving score from Howard Shore. It is rare that so few notes can be so memorable, energetic, majestic and similarly sum up the feel of the film so concisely…if you can’t tell I’m talking about click this and skip to minute 3:39. I can’t tell you when a film got me as into the story as it did giving the feeling I was very nearly running along with Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas.
“They have a cave troll“…yeah, but we have Howard Shore.