The Importance of Film Scores

Now time for creth8, an absolute authority on film and film language who spends a lot of time in media relations and is quite a talent to boot.

—Written by creth8—

—Edited/formatted by Vagrantesque—

To the casual filmgoer, it’d likely be the acting, set pieces or tone that gets discussed after one’s latest cinematic encounter. It would rarely be the music score that would leave much of an impression – which is a great shame. As the saying goes, “Sound is 50 percent of the moviegoing experience.” Film scores (and sound effects) actually do a lot to enhance acting, set pieces and tone. Whilst Bernard Hermann (North By Northwest, Psycho, Taxi Driver) did much to revitalise the popularity of soundtracks, John Williams was arguably more influential. Most film lovers would be able to hum the themes to Star Wars, Indiana Jones and ET with great ease. Williams famously employed leitmotifs – themes for characters, locations and thematic ideas – into his scores. It’s a great pleasure to hear themes reoccur in different variations to suit the onscreen action.

The theme is in your head right now, isn’t it?

  Unfortunately in recent years, the importance of leitmotifs has been downplayed, for two reasons. Some say they are too intrusive, distracting the viewer from the film itself. The other reason is a production decision, usually for financial reasons, or the composer’s own ignorance. Directors enjoy working with their own composers and often bring them on to established franchises. The Marvel films, for example, have various sequels and thus multiple composers. Many complained that Iron Man ended up with four different themes over his four film appearances. However, John Williams’ Superman theme was used over five films, marrying the superhero with an established sound. Having composer Bryan Tyler on board for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, we will finally hear the Iron Man 3, Captain America and Thor: The Dark World themes utilized alongside the Avengers theme. Marvel has made a great choice to finally have some musical continuity within their own franchise.

Fighting cohesively, sounding cohesive.

Hans Zimmer, probably the most popular composer today, is also very controversial within the film score community. He has mentored a number of composers and now his influence can be heard in a great number of Hollywood films. Personally, I find Zimmer’s output hit and miss. Whilst I am a fan of the classic method of film scoring, Zimmer’s work on Rush and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was sublime. Many argued his dubstep sound for the villainous Electro will date the picture badly. Think of the number of 80’s films with a lot of synthetiser. Though there are a number of classic films, many do have dated scores. I recently experienced the Back to the Future trilogy for the first time. Alan Silvestri’s main theme is a classic, and I was surprised to learn the producers went down this classic route of scoring to impress Steven Spielberg. As a result, the film pretty much could have been made yesterday, but set in the 1980’s (and other times periods obviously!). Hopefully more composers begin to rely more on traditional film scoring to give a timeless feel. That said, I do appreciate when they experiment and a great example is Zimmer’s disturbing Joker theme.

It wasn’t just Heath Ledger’s performance that made this guy so memorable.

Hopefully your next film experience will be just that more enjoyable because of the amazing work film composers do. Music truly brings the whole level of any film up just that little bit more. People love and remember movie magic, and almost every time the music has a huge part to play in those special moments. Nearly every soundtrack has some gold in it, and if nothing else, scores make great study music!

2 responses to this post.

  1. Just happened to watch this yesterday. xD


  2. Posted by creth8 on Apr 20, 2015 at 4:58 am

    What did you watch? 🙂


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