Back when I was a lad I absolutely adored listening to my LPs of the Star Wars and Superman: The Movie soundtracks. Back in the days prior to home video (and being able to relive films just by literally rewatching them), I used to recapture favourite films by listening to their soundtracks and running the films just in my head. Sometimes the music would be so good it would launch all new films that never were, becoming soundtracks for my teenage daydreams (the Superman score was perfect for just that). Symphonies of adventurous music, these double-album grandiose soundtracks would soon lose favour and be consigned to history- by the time Return Of The Jedi was released in 1983, the album was just a single-disc vinyl affair missing the best music!
This past week I’ve been driving to work and back listening to the soundtrack album of Michael Giacchino’s John Carter score. I bought the album almost immediately after seeing the film on Blu-ray, and I have to say it still looks like being the score of the year for me. Lush, sweeping and romantic, its a fantastic score. Maybe my age has something to do with this, as, just like the movie, the score harks back to that other era of big symphonic soundtracks with proper themes and melodies as compared to the Media Ventures/Hans Zimmer sound that dominates the cinema so much these days. I don’t particularly hate the ‘Hans Zimmer sound’ that is so popular these days as his scores, when good, can be really good (Thin Red Line, Gladiator, Inception) but really, generally most of the time the scores all blur, and the style (so many films aim for that Zimmer ‘sound’) pervades so many big budget blockbusters they all tend to sound the same. Do any of the Pirates of the Carribean films have an individual score? Do any of the Transformers films sound any different?
The John Carter score is a glorious (and I’m sure deliberate) throwback to the scores for films like Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, Superman: The Movie. I honestly think the John Carter score is that good.
It helps that I’m such a big fan of the John Carter movie. A commercial and critical bomb, I think it was a fantastic film, the most fun I’ve had all year. The film is everything the Star Wars prequels should have been, and far, far superior. Its also a far better film than many of the blockbusters that followed it this summer. Maybe in ten years it will be subject of a reappraisal (not that its should take ten years in this day and age). Anyway, I simply adored it. It was like being swept back to the films of my youth, back when Lucas and Spielberg and John Williams were in their prime, back when it seemed we were destined for Star Wars and Indiana Jones adventures forever. Back before the well dried up. I guess maybe John Carter will appeal to my generation more than current audiences.
But yes, the soundtrack is a stunner. Big bombastic action cues share space with rich, tender themes. Probably the best such score since The Empire Strikes Back; it really is that good. Bold orchestral flourishes, rich use of choir, a memorable main theme, touching love theme…. its all here. It helps that so much of the score is here, as the CD is generous, with something like 74 minutes of music, truly recapturing the feel of those great old double-album vinyls of my youth. The kind of music so few films get these days (and I guess few others will as this films perceived failure may well nix future filmscores such as this). Great score, great album.
Just occurred to me: “This past week I’ve been driving to work and back listening to the soundtrack album of Michael Giacchino’s John Carter score“. I bet there’s very few people on the entire planet that can say they’ve done that this week. ..