THERE ARE SOME GREAT MOVIE SCORES OUT THERE ATTACHED TO SOME REAL DUDS.
I am a huge fan of Film, TV and Video Game scores; easily 90% of my music is made up of them. I have several composers that I will listen to no matter what they do, and I have even watched films based on the music they composed for them. What I have come to notice throughout all of this is that some films do not deserve the music composed for them.
When it comes to music in films it is usually the last thing that is done. The film is almost out of money and people are brought in to create incredible compositions to compliment the visual feast of what is on screen. That’s not always the case, however. Sometimes the music doesn’t compliment the visuals, but rather supersedes them because the visuals just aren’t that good to begin with. The music in a film can create emotional responses as well as physical. I remember sitting in the cinema watching Avengers: Infinity War and the moment where Thor arrived in Wakanda brought a huge smile to my face. A huge part of that excitement came from that bombastic orchestral score. I have listened to it numerous times but I will repeatedly listen to a track called “The Forge” which contains the moment that Thor arrived in Wakanda. When that music kicks in I feel like I can do anything. Music has a way of instilling these raw emotional responses and film music is charged with doing that whilst also complimenting the visuals.
Because of my love of film scores I take note of particular composers and seek out their work without ever having watched the film they are written for. Sometimes when I finally get around to watching the film it’s…well, to put it politely…not good. I’m left with a sense of disappointment, not because the film is bad, but because the music I listened to was far too good to be associated with the terrible film I just watched. And that, my friends, is disappointing.
A perfect example of this phenomenon was the 2012 feature remake of The Sweeney. Lorne Balfe composed the score and at the time I had only heard his Assassin’s Creed III score, which was spectacular. When I listened to the music from The Sweeney I was blown away by how good it was. The experience was intense, ratcheting up the tension before opening up and becoming a bombastic action score that to me rivaled some of the biggest names in Film Composition. It was so good that I thought the film would be worth watching. So, I did just that, for about 40 minutes. What an awful mess with terrible dialogue and acting. The only saving grace was the music but I didn’t have to watch the terrible film to listen to the incredible music. I went back to listening to the music and tried to forget about the terrible film it was associated with, and in my mind made up a much better one.
This was the first time I had thought about the quality of the music vs the quality of the film. In recent years, big budget blockbuster films have had incredible scores composed for them while the films themselves have been by the numbers summer VFX films. Hans Zimmer has a name as a big blockbuster composer and it’s interesting listening to the music he composes for big budget blockbusters compared to the stuff he composes for the more story-driven films. Films like Interstellar and more recently Blade Runner 2049 feel like they have more thought put into the music, whereas his action scores are, whilst exciting, very much by the numbers, much like the films they are written for.
The most recent example of a bad movie having a great film score was the 2017 reboot of The Mummy. Brian Tyler composed a unique and interesting score that mixed Middle Eastern instruments with traditional orchestra, all of which lead to a very original sound. Mixing the two cultures expertly in the music created something that was much better than the film it was supposed to accompany. What was also extraordinary about Tyler’s score was that for the most part it was a live orchestra which is becoming more of a rarity with the advances in music synthesizers and the need to cut costs wherever possible.
Terrible films aren’t going away any time soon, but at the very least their scores will be top notch. These composers who are putting in the work will go on to bigger and “hopefully” better things, almost like some kind of composer rite of passage. If they can compose amazing music for these terrible films, then imagine what they could do with something of a higher caliber. Without terrible films needing talented but unknown composers, people like Brian Tyler, Lorne Balfe and Ramin Djawadi may not have been able to build a portfolio of work that got them their well deserved A-List assignments.