This week has turned out to be busier than anticipated, plus my wife has an increased need of the computer for work so I have not been able to post many blogs recently. I did however have the opportunity to see a couple of movies this week though and that’s what I want to talk about today!
Earlier this week the wife and I went to see Super 8 (while there we got a voucher for a free ticket so later that night I went to X-Men: First Class, but that has nothing to do with this). I’ve been very excited to see this movie and with good reason. J.J. Abrams has not disappointed me thus far, though he has had some projects that I don’t believe live up to the level of hype that surround them (Cloverfield and Star Trek), but I was extremely interested to see his take on a Spielberg-esque adventure flick. As far as I’m concerned this self proclaimed love letter to Steven Spielberg from J.J. Abrams really did a great job of highlighting both directors best qualities. The look, the feel, the sound, and even the way the movie was shot were very reminiscent of several of Spielberg’s early movies. As an aside I think other filmmakers out there should take note that even though we have CGI and other super advanced special effects techniques it still makes for a better movie to keep monsters/aliens/whatever hidden from the audience as long as possible in order to really ramp up anticipation and suspense. Too many movies these days love to have their CGI creatures out on parade throughout the entire length of the movie and after awhile you just lose interest as the movies devolve into a series of chase scenes or an unnatural and unrealistic volley of CGI fight scenes.
Anyway, enough about that. Going into the theater I knew a few things about the production of Super 8, but I hadn’t researched everything. Basically I read some interviews with Abrams and Spielberg about the movie and read a few details here and there on Ain’t It Cool News and Comic Book Movie.com. Just enough to keep my interest up, but not really studying the production in depth. I like to have a few surprises waiting for me when I finally sit down to watch a movie. Well knowing what I did about the movie I half expected to hear some John Williams scoring set behind the action on screen. I hadn’t read about Williams being involved, but then again I hadn’t really researched it that in-depth. Either way as the movie started I was excited to hear what the soundtrack would be like. A few minutes into it I realized it wasn’t John Williams, I’ve listened to enough of his work to be able to identify him a few bars in, but I wasn’t disappointed by the music that was there. For the most part I was enthralled by the movie and didn’t really notice much of the score that was mingled among it, as it should be. Then towards the end there were a few moments where I distinctly heard some unmistakable homages to Williams. As the intensity was ratcheting up near the finale of the film there are a few sections of music that are classic Williams, several distinctive chords that have been used most memorably in Jaws (not the main “Dun, dun” theme that everyone knows but some of the more menacing reactive music that really builds up tensions) and was also used well in his Jurassic Park score, and a few others. Also, given the nature of the plot of Super 8 it wasn’t unexpected to hear a few sections of music that sounded very similar to the theme from another certain Extra Terrestrial movie.
By the end of the movie I was very interested to know where the music came from, as much as I enjoyed Super 8, I was now very curious as to who had written the score. As the credits rolled it was one of the first names shown, and I could have kicked myself for not realizing who it was sooner, I really should have guessed. Michael Giacchino. For the past six years or so any time I come across a film score that intrigues me, but is unfamiliar to me, it turns out to be Michael Giacchino! His music contains such a mercurial quality and he possesses a style not his own. John Williams and Danny Elfman I can pick out within seconds of hearing them, but Giacchino is a chameleon when it comes to his arrangements, his music never has the same type of sound and his scores are always so well adapted to the production that it becomes nearly impossible to separate him, from the rest of the movie.
The downside to that is that Giacchino doesn’t really have many memorable moments musically. John Williams has countless memorable themes and melodies attributed to his work from Star Wars to Schindler’s List. Danny Elfman has given us an unshakeable Batman theme even after it has long been abandoned by modern film revamping. The great Howard Shore ramped up the heroic nature of the Lord of the Rings with his epic score and the iconic themes that are now just as familiar to Lord of the Rings fans as Bilbo Baggins is.
From my memory though Giacchino doesn’t really have such dramatic qualities about him, but that’s not to say that he is any less of a composer. His music can be memorable even without a lasting tune running through your head. In particular I recall his score for the Pixar flick the Incredibles which harkened back to jazzier film scores of the 1960’s, and I first really noticed his work during the Speed Racer movie. Though some might bad mouth that movie, I really liked it and Michael Giacchino’s score was fantastic. I was especially pleased that he didn’t overuse the classic Speed Racer theme, but instead teased it along through the majority of the movie until the very end. Overall Giacchino does what any good composer should do, he makes his music a part of the movie, he helps the director flesh out the emotions and action that are portrayed on the screen. Michael Giacchino, perhaps more than any other film composer today, seamlessly melds his music into the movies he works on in the same way the set designers have worked a building into a shot, or the costume designers have chosen the look for the actors. Giacchino’s scores seem to adapt to every movie he works on, and though occasionally that sound can get lost within the greater scope of things, he certainly does his part to make those movies more than they would have been without him. The best way I can describe his style would be to simply call it adaptive.
There are three things that tell me Micheal Giacchino is becoming a major property in Hollywood. 1) The dude’s already won an Oscar for his work on Up. 2) He seems to now be the exclusive go-to-guy for new Pixar properties, working on all the new titles since the Incredibles. 3) Like any good film composer he’s found himself a directorial partner. Lucas and Spielberg work exclusively with John Williams, Tim Burton relies heavily on Danny Elfman, and it appears that J.J. Abrams’ music man is now Michael Giacchino who has provided the score for all of his movies thus far.
Here’s a quick list of some of my favorite movies Giacchino has written music for:
Mission Impossible III
Several of the Pixar shorts
The television shows LOST and Fringe
Star Trek (the new rebooty one)
Let Me In
And also here’s one of my favorite sections from the Speed Racer soundtrack, have a listen.
That is all!