Hans Zimmer’s a good guy. One of the most successful and influential film composers of the last 20 years (his style’s even aped in Taco Bell’s “The Legend of…” ads), and he’s still modest, self-deprecating, and amused by the business he’s in. I’m not the biggest fan of Zimmer’s music, but I like Zimmer the man.
I also like that he’s mentored quite a few good composers. Means I can happily listen to Mark Mancina and Mike Russell can happily listen to John Powell, who each got early aid from Zimmer. (And yes, they’ve sometimes ghostwritten for him – Mancina scored more of True Romance than you’d think – but Zimmer has returned the favor other times.) Harry Jackman got into film scoring thanks to Hans, his first big solo Hollywood credit being the animated B-movie homage Monsters Vs Aliens. Lakeshore Records’ CD offers about 40 minutes of his work alongside songs.
The score’s pure fun, befitting the film’s fun. It didn’t need to be a grand statement, and I like that purity of purpose. Maybe the film will get analyzed later to try to dissect what the heck we were thinking this decade, the way people have certainly analyzed The Blob (once I even saw an essay imagining how Nietzsche would’ve reacted to Speed), but that can wait while we laugh at monsters and aliens Godzilla-ing San Francisco. There’s that frequent Zimmer touch of brass with the hint of synthesizers augmenting that brass. It almost but never quite swings into Space-Age Bachelor Pad music, though it flirts with some of the instrumentation Danny Elfman used for 1996’s Mars Attacks! It’s very Fifties/early Sixties in its flavor of musical cheese.
The track “The Grand Tour” opens sounding much like Elfman’s music for wide-eyed Will Smith seeing MIB HQ in Men In Black, but otherwise thankfully the Elfman-isms aren’t too blatant. (It wouldn’t make sense to ape Men In Black more than that, as those scores are more influenced by the cool-dudes-coolly-doin’-cool-stuff “walking” tunes Henry Mancini, John “007” Barry and others wrote in the Sixties, while Monsters Vs. Aliens is much more influenced by the Fifties and its B-movies.) The melodies feel more like brighter and busier versions of Zimmer’s tunes, with a female vocalist’s wailing on top for the opening track “A Giant Transformation”. And they’re fun.
I have trouble telling the “shape” of this score, though. The score feels like it has a few Big Climaxes too many: maybe that fits the film’s over-the-top style, but the last few tracks seem to be ending without “quite” ending. “Big Climax! Oh, here’s some other stuff, and there’s music for that.” That sort of thing. (Even Michael Giacchino’s score to the hugely fun new Star Trek, to my ear so far, has that issue.) I wonder if Jackman’s score works better as an overall piece of music in the movie than re-ordered on disc.
Also, apparently I’m not in the audience for goofy songs about aliens, unless they’re by “Weird Al” Yankovic (like 1985’s “Slime Creatures From Outer Space”, basically Independence Day as a song!), because I found the novelty tunes – the Buchanan Brothers’ country ditty about how flying saucers may be a sign of the apocalypse, The B-52s’s “Planet Claire” – cringe-causing. Better, likely-amusing-in-context song choices are “Tell Him” by the Exciters, “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and the Little River Band’s soft-rock favorite “Reminiscing”.
The last score cut, the set-dialogue-snippets-to-dance-music “Monster Mojo”, deserves the last word in it, which is “Lame.” Don’t remind me of Paul Oakenfold’s pointless remix of music and dialogue from that bad and pretentious Planet of the Apes remake. Please. (That track’s followed by Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater”, and boy, THAT song doesn’t hold up except as a weird little time capsule. An alien in a rock band? Was that even clever in ’58?)
But the result is fun: no deeper a word than that is needed.
Review by Chris Walsh