In the domain of movie music, there are several standard maxims. Romantic scores must be syrupy and weepy. Dramatic attempts can combine a little of both while maintaining a certain aura of seriousness. Comedy can be crazy, confused, cocky, cheeky, or a specialized combination of both, and action films mandate a certain over-adrenalized approach to sound. Last, and almost always least, horror has to be hackneyed, giving into specific aural contrivances that someone is convinced scares the bejesus out of the dread demo. Certain subgenres have their own unique rules as well, while those unsure of how to proceed typically toss the Billboard Charts at the backdrop and hope the combination of hits and cinematic histrionics gives the viewer the necessary sonic structure.
Call it composer cliché or stereo-typing, but in general, Hollywood rarely deviates from the formulas that have found success in the past. It’s even true for periods of time, the era cementing the auditory approach – and lo the filmmaker who fudges with that motion picture paradigm (right, Sophia Marie Antoinette Coppola?”). This time around, SE&L‘s Surround Sound delves deeply into the realm of redundancy, looking at three soundtracks who mimic their main theme (the ’60s, fright, and the comic book superhero) to a fault. However, as we soon learn, there is really nothing wrong with embracing the obvious, especially when you have the talent and tenacity to perfect the particulars. Indeed, when you run the risk of revolution and attempt to reinvent the type (a Batman musical???), the results can sometimes be more laughable than the chestnuts you’re avoiding.
Taking Woodstock: Original Motion Picture Score [rating: 7]
By its very nature, a movie centering on the “Three Days” of communal hippy consciousness-raising would be filled with sonic references to the era, and for the most part, Elfman covers all the bases. We get faux Hendrix riffing (“Titles”) and fancy folk nods (“Elliot’s Place”, “At Ease Men”), all the while, fuzzy electric guitars sneak in to accent the ambience. Most of the tracks here are mere snippets, the melancholy of “Welcome Home” barely making itself known before it slowly fades away, while “Life Goes On” and “In the Mud” suffer from the same brevity issues. The longer form numbers work much better, the excellent “Groovy Thing (Office #1)” sounding like a Summer of Love outtake, while “Woodstock Wildtrack #1” is a nice bit of acoustic atmosphere. Elfman repeats themes and melodic sequences here and there, giving the entire score a unity and cohesiveness that mirrors the mindset of the original concert attendees. While the film was unfairly ignored during its brief theatrical run, at least the music remains.
Trick ‘r Treat: Original Motion Picture Score [rating: 8]
The psycho orchestra leanings are there from the “Main Titles”, followed quickly by brief tone poems that set up characters (“Meet Charlie”), relationships (“Father and Son”), and situations (“To the Quarry”). By the time we get to the eloquent, eerie “The Halloween School Bus Massacre”, we believe in the power of old school scoring. The compositions here are meant to evoke a mood, to prepare us for moments we already expect from the genre while giving in to their decidedly archaic charms. This is especially true of later tracks like “Laurie’s First Time” and “Old Mr. Kreeg”, where the storyline and sentiment merge flawlessly. As the closing theme reminds us of the glorious edge-of-your-seat experience we’ve just gone through, we suddenly see why so many of these compositional truisms continue to be practiced: they work, and when done with reverence and respect, none work better.
Green Lantern: First Flight: Music from the DC Universe Animated Original Movie [rating: 7]
Kral has been here before. He’s worked wonders for other animated titles like Batman: Gotham Knight and Superman/Doomsday. Even though he’s mainly known for his work on TV shows like Duck Dodgers, Angel, and Miracles, he has a unique way of mixing classical with contemporary to bring a cross generational approach to the score. It’s obvious from the moment Track 3, “Labell’s Club” comes on. Before, we have the standard hard driving orchestration that amps up the scope toward something (“The Ring Chooses Hal”, “Hal Meets the Laterns/The Flight of Oa”) close to epic. From then on, anything goes, from more chase scene stylings (“Going After Cuch”, “The Corps Fight Sinestro”) to moments of sublime subtle significance (“Brutal Attack/The Fate of Kanjar Ro”). All the while, Kral keeps one foot in tradition, never letting technology or electronic tweaks destroy what is meant to be an auditory celebration of right over wrong, cosmic morality over insufferable evil. With the thematically similar “Green Lantern Pledge”, we are ready to sign up to fight the good fight.
Batman – The Brave and the Bold: Mayhem of the Music Meister: Music from Animated Television Show [rating: 6]