This year, on the 60th anniversary of Ishiro Honda’s landmark film, we’ll get to see Gareth Edwards’ reinvention of the world-famous Toho monster. In the subsequent decades since Godzilla first lumbered out of the water we’ve see other mightily impressive creatures (with some equally impressive firepower) blaze across the screen yet of the biggest and baddest Gojira reigns supreme. Over the years he’s retained the title of “King of the Monsters” but he didn’t earn his moniker easily – there are some memorable, and equally gargantuan, baddies who can and have gone toe-to-toe with Toho’s big screen icon.
Today we look up, way up, like into the clouds up to see once and for all who can rightly be called the Colossus of Clout. Yet we’re not interested in who can punt the most train cars or leave the biggest foot print. No, in this FourScore battle we want to find out who packs the biggest punch in a musical sense. So which of these silver screen titans will gain bragging rights as a result of today’s showdown? Is it the orphaned alien searching for a safe haven deep in the heart of the Big Apple? Is it the gang of robo-jocks who are cancelling the apocalypse? Is it the super-sized simian with a heart as big as his heft? Or is it the original Japanese powerhouse known simply by his roar? Find out below…
Cloverfield – In the vein, style and grandeur of composers like John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, Michael Giacchino writes a superb suite for this Americanized take on Godzilla and you know what? It is amazing! Showing reverence for and taking inspiration from Akira Ifukube’s classic composition, Michael offers the unassuming citizens of New York a pensive and driving sound from which it seems there is no escape. Heavy brass and a persistent (menacing is more like it) drum beat conjure images of a looming creature just waiting to strike…and when it does…well the name of the suite, “Roar!”, really says it all. Also it shows that for as short and simple as the (found footage) film is itself you don’t need much more than to take a powerful suite and pepper it throughout the film for maximum effectiveness.
(Favorite Track: Roar!)
Pacific Rim – To give this already action heavy film a little more kick Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man) enlists the help of legendary lead guitarist, Tom Morello and singer Priscilla Ahn. His bombastic score features these two artists as soloists and the result gives the film a gritty sound that also has some haunting and human-sized beats as well. The two vastly different artists play off one another in different parts of the film to entirely different but effective and affecting emotional notes. But when it’s time to get down and dirty Djawadi unleashes a barrage of heavy rocking cues that just don’t quit. Even from the very first track, titled “Pacific Rim”, Djawadi shows he means business; all you aspiring musicians take note of that track…that’s how you make an entrance.
(Favorite Tracks: Pacific Rim, Jaeger Tech, Double Event and Go Big Or Go Extinct)
King Kong – Supporting the picture is one thing, most composers can do that in their sleep, but what separates the men from the boys is the ability to find the beauty and the power in each project and make it seem effortless. There’s plenty of that in each of Howard’s scores and when he’s on, he’s one of the best you’ll ever hear. The music itself is what gives a picture its true vitality and presence and like Kong itself James Newton Howard‘s music can be entirely gentle (like in Central Park) but then turn and go wild when provoked. As expected from this legendary composer the cues in Peter Jackson’s film dance as delicately as an ape on ice and then swiftly pound with the ferocity of its mighty hands. There’s a lot of back and forth and Howard stays with the picture every step of the way offering beauty amid the destruction and eye-popping action.
(Favorite Tracks: Something Monstrous… Neither Beast Nor Man, Tooth and Claw and Beauty Killed the Beast II & III)
Godzilla – While the first Godzilla doesn’t have a whole lot of music (well it does but it’s not the driving or overpowering anthems we’ve come to expect in modern cinema) it was meant to call attention to more than the carnage the nuclear-born nemesis was unleashing. Considering the time in which Ifukube wrote the score it is, even by today’s standards, an impressive and rousing piece – one that sets the stage for Godzilla but also highlights to the human plight and conflict. It was ahead of its time but the universal themes (both music and plot) ring true to this day which helps explain why the film and its music have held up decades later. As Godzilla was a product of the years following WWII (specifically the H-bomb testing) Akira Ifukube‘s music actually speaks more to the human themes than it does Godzilla and his city-wide destruction. But that said it’s tough to ignore or argue with the impact and resonance of the one theme that has helped make Godzilla so iconic.
(Favorite Tracks: Main Title, Storm on Odo Island and Fury of Godzilla)
Many of these films above highlight the human element instead of simply focusing on the monster de jour. In King Kong we feel for Kong (it was man who took him out of his element) and lament that it was not the airplanes but beauty that killed the beast. In the case of something like Godzilla there’s an underlying idea that we created him (yeah science!) and even after his death if we may yet again invite destruction upon us if we continue to experiment with nuclear power. “Clover” is a different sort of monster as he, whether purposely sent here or just dropped off by mistake, is also a foreigner in a strange land…need we be so rude to strangers?
But in the case of Pacific Rim, these invading monstrosities are life threatening a-holes who need some smacking around. There’s no sympathy for the kaiju in del Toro’s story nor is it found in Djawadi’s hard-hitting score. Beauty and tragedy of the other three scores aside it is Ramin Djawadi’s score that helps make 2013’s Pacific Rim the musical king of the monster movies.
You feel like going toe-to-toe with Gypsy Danger and Ramin Djawadi? Then get ready to face 2500 amps of awesome!!