11 юли 2012 г.

9 The Dark Score Sinks



The one million dollar question 10 days before The Dark Knight to Rise for the last time is whether or not Nolan would do the unthinkable and kill off Bruce Wayne. Well, we already know the answer to that question: Batman will die and his murderer is Hans Zimmer. Empire gave us full access to TDKR score, which can be found here, and it just confirmed that my worst nightmare is actually going to happen. The awful deterioration of music quality in Nolan's trilogy is mind-blowing. It's actually depressing to hear how progressively worse those scores has become. The saving grace of Batman Begins' soundtrack was James Newton Howard and his three tracks - Eptesicus, Macrotus and Nycteris, all of them infinitely better than the pulsating boredom that surrounds them. Sadly, after his role in The Dark Knight score has been reduced to a footnote (even the beautiful Harvey theme was underused in the film), Rises is now a one man show. As a result, the entire soundtrack for the saga's conclusion is basically a set of painfully formulaic progressions, recycled from the worst parts of TDK. You just cannot call this music anymore.

A Storm Is Coming naturally starts with the flapping wings, which is probably the only good idea Zimmer contributed to the trilogy during those 7 years. Then in On Thin Ice we hear the two-note stoic Batman theme in one of its more tolerable and melancholic interpretations. Of course, the moment (around 2:00) which James Newton Howard could have developed into something truly extraordinary, now goes in the most predictable direction in the hands of Zimmer. And, what the worst thing is, a second later he drown us in the low register, just because this is the only way this guy can invoke a sense of drama - not with subtle instrumentation and clever interplay between the instruments but with heavy bass line.

The next track - Gotham's Reckoning, is surely the piece Zimmer is most proud of. He asked the fans to send him audio recordings of a few-syllables chant, and later he incorporated those thousands of voices into the tracks that cover Bane's actions. I am absolutely sure Zimmer regards this as another genius idea of his (after he decided to rob Batman of an actual musical theme in the first movie; and in the second one represented a complex character like the Joker with a single note - stretched and distorted to a practically intolerable level) and I can easily see how the fanboys will fall for this shallow sensationalism. Sure, there is some logic for this character to be represented by a piece of sound which is as simple, powerful and dumb as he is, but the real problem is this card was already played to a great effect in the trailers. And it seems the most epic part is not even in the movie (at least it is not in the soundtrack).

Mind If I Cut In? is most probably Selina's theme and is one of the places where an intervention by Newton Howard would be most welcome. Alas... This piece of music (yes, surprisingly this can be classified as music) is removed by just one step from The Pink Panther and two steps from the same simple constructs in The Pirates series and Sherlock Holmes. The only difference is that here it is played by a piano, instead of the usual distorted brass-section. The entire piece is an example of how bad and unimaginative Zimmer is when he tries to be a thematic composer. The worst part is this "theme" has nothing to do with the rest of the score - it doesn't connect with past themes, it has no further development, and no coherent connection (tonal or conceptual) with anything that follows. It's just a random filler.

Underground Army is an irritating rumble (those two notes again) for 10 seconds, then for another 10 seconds Zimmer foists something resembling the rhythm of Scorponok from the first Transformers... then, for the rest of its three minutes is again an irritating rumble without a single interesting moment.

Born In Darkness is recycled from TDK with a pinch of Gladiator drama (again, concentrated in the low register - surprise, surprise). The Fire Rises just cannot be composed by a human being, it sounds like it is generated by a computer program. I can't bear to listen through it again in order to write something coherent. The finale is overtaken by the same stupid chanting, but the underlying theme is something so ridiculously simple and abrasive, that even the most untalented Zimmer hacks (Djawadi and Jablonsky) would be ashamed to produce something at this level of awfulness. If you want to understand in just 10 seconds why TDKR score is probably the worst piece of film music in recent history, just try to survive the ending of this track.

Nothing Out There - old material recycled. Despair - again the whooshing sound of the wings. The two notes. Boring rumble. Fear Will Find You - recycled material. From King Arthur, for fuck's sake. Why Dо We Fall? - another build so typical of Zimmer. The two notes. Death By Exile - some random noise from a cheap horror movie. Imagine The Fire - haven't we listened to this crap about 10 times already? O, no, we haven't - the previous 9 times we were spared the horrible 80s' synthetic this track starts with. Then we have another, more brutal Scorponok rip-off... No, I just can't take it anymore.

There are two extremely saddening things in this entire unfolding grotesque: The first one is that TDKR will be yet another great movie ruined by Zimmer (and the clones he grows in his studio - Remote Control) in a long list of great movies ruined by Zimmer. The second one is that most probably Nolan will continue to work with this asshole, which automatically means that his clever cinematic mind-fucks will be downgraded to the level of random Transformers-like mindless flick. I sincerely hope to be proven wrong on this point and that Nolan will kick this clown out of his future plans, but I fear the beginning of a Spileberg/Williams or Burton/Elfman-like relationship, which is really quite depressing.

I've always hated this guy, but never so much as I do now. In all previous times someone was there to wipe his ass and clean the mess: the most emotional part in Rango (crossing the highway) was left in the hands of Elfman (from The Kingdom); Johnny Marr's guitar made up for the usual droning in Inception; the intervention by one of Zimmer's minions - Lorne Balfe actually made the music for Megamind quite a pleasant and thematically rich listening experience; the same happened in the Kung-Fu Panda animations due to John Powell involvement... And so on. In TDKR, however, Zimmer doesn't share credit with anyone (that doesn't mean that there aren't tens of of his slaves behind him), which is perfectly understandable given the size of his paycheck for this one. And why does he need to collaborate with someone when the only thing he has to do is press one button on his Mac in order to generate 2 hours of random droning?

I'm not sure if it's worth explaining in details why Zimmer is the worst thing that happened to Hollywood industry, but let me try - otherwise I risk sounding like a random troll, which I am not. Zimmer always "composes" in the same manner, no matter if it is for Pearl Harbor, Gladiator, The Rock, The Pirates, Da Vinci or Batman. It's always the same repetitive synthetic loops and progressions he introduced as a modern style of scoring movies in the middle of the 90s. You can call that his style, and you're right, but please note how very different the movies listed above are thematically. Moreover, Zimmer totally lacks a sense of how the sound of the orchestra should be mixed with the electronic elements. In any random John Williams' score you can hear the position and the function of each instrument, no matter how overloaded the composition is. You can hear even the acoustic of the hall in which the recording takes place. Zimmer on the other hand digitally alters the orchestral sound to match the pumping electronics, and at the end everything starts to sound extremely artificial - like a MIDI library from the last century. On top of that, his compositions are loop-based with heavy, almost unbearable bass-lines, so even if the sound of the orchestra was not distorted, it would be lost anyway. So why then hire a real orchestra to perform the score? There is already stock music you can buy for $10 apiece and that sounds way more natural than anything Zimmer ever touched.

The second problem with Zimmer is his lack of classical musical background, which totally limits his ability to compose with orchestra. It is not surprising that John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams started their careers under Zimmer's wing, and then quickly proved themselves to be far superior. Even in their first attempts (Face/Off, Enemy of the State) along with the brutal synthetics there was a lot of good music. Then Gregson-Williamns wrote what must be one of the best film scores of the decade - Kingdom of Heaven; and Powell demonstrated flawlessly in How to Train Your Dragon that the zimmerish approach can be channeled in something truly remarkable. And here's the difference - both Powell and Gregson-Williams studied music theory. They are classically trained composers, who understand how this genre works. Zimmer is just a guy who can play with guitar and synthesizers.

Thirdly, Zimmer is just unable to work alone and almost never does. Behind all of his scores hides an army of ghost composers from his studio - just look at the additional music in random end credits. The entire horrific soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean was generated in no time by a bunch of morons at Remote Control. The best moments in Angels and Daemons were the solos of Joshua Bell. The best part in Thin Red Line was written by John Powell. The best part in Gladiator was actually by Klaus Badelt and Lisa Gerard (or ripped off from Gustav Holst). This list can continue forever. There is always someone who is helping Zimmer to put together his scores, to such an extent that it makes the word "helps" sound as a huge underestimation. May be even now, when all the credit for TDKR goes to him, dozens of unknown slaves worked under his shadow. I wouldn't mind if this was an exception to the rule, but in Zimmer's case this is the rule. It all resembles a pipe line for generic action music without a sense of an auteur's touch.


And finally - the most important point: Zimmer shamelessly recycles his own work to unmatchable extent. The base of TDK score is absolutely identical with that of King Arthur, which in turn has its roots back in The Rock and Crimson Tide. Zimmer never makes an attempt to adapt his style to fit the movie. He always does exactly the opposite - compromises the sound of the movie to fit his own limitations and his complete inability to write diverse music. No matter if the movie in question is about pirates, or the Holy Grail, or gladiators, or WWII, or men dressed as bats... it all sounds like Bruce Willis is putting a bomb inside an asteroid with the size of Texas. I can swap the scores of TDK(R) and The Pirates or The Island or King Arthur and no one will able to tell the difference. This is the very definition of bad film music. Music without identity.

The worst thing is that all those points are completely ignored by the audience, which explains why Zimmer is so popular - probably the most popular film composer now-days. People don't care about a fresh soundscape tailored specifically for the movie anymore, neither about subtlety and original approach. It's like a reflex - if the movie is an action, then it is enough for its music to be just loud and powerful in the most primitive sense. (And it's not really that difficult to make a score to sound loud and powerful without sacrificing the subtlety and the originality - see what Dario Marianelli did for V for Vendetta.) As a result Zimmer is the highest paid composer at the moment and the first choice of the studio when someone is needed to score another dumb action or animation (if they can't afford him, he sends one of his slaves - see Game of Thrones if you look for recent example). It is really a horrible, horrible trend which now extends even beyond the movie industry - Zimmer's name on the cover is enough to sell the soundtracks for Call of Duty: Modern Whatever and Crysis 2 even if his work on the actual music is marginal and all the material is written in the first case by Lorne Balfe, and in the second one - by two unknown game composers from Bulgaria and Romania.

Well, unfortunately TDK(R) is not another stupid action. Or at least it was not supposed to sound like one. Nolan's Batman was something really special and unique for the genre movies. Everyone involved did their best to make it so. Everyone except Zimmer, who shat all over the good intentions and made the trilogy sound like another Bruckheimer-produced piece of shit directed by Michael Bay. No, I haven't seen the closing chapter yet, but I absolutely exclude the possibility that this "music" will look good in the movie itself. It is just so predictable and derivative that it doesn't matter how well it will follow the editing and match the tone. Every other approach would be infinitely better than Zimmer's. Here is yet another movie that we will have to like in spite of the involvement of this talentless hack.


Please, someone, make him stop!



P.S. Thanks to Beast for the corrections.

9 коментара:

  1. Цимър отново произвежда фон за руски програми за фигурно пързаляне:)

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  2. Още от трейлърите беше ясно, че музиката ще е пълен шит.

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  3. http://youtu.be/vACkkDxr41U
    Fantômas - The Director's Cut (2001) [Full Album] - кавъри на филмова класика, изпълнени от възможно най-добрите музиканти.

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  4. Защо си тровиш нервите с imdb?

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    1. Всъщност е доста интересно в какво се е превърнал imdb board-а за филма.

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  5. http://www.filmtracks.com/titles/dark_knight_rises.html

    "Untalented hack" 1 out of 5 stars :)

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    1. The composer needs to shut his yap, dump the ghostwriters, shift to F major, conjure a fluid theme, and drop a wicked oboe solo on us. Perhaps then he'd deserve an interview.

      Lol

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  6. Оказва се, че има 5-6 парчета, под названието "bonus tracks" в интернет пространството, които не са чак толкова трагични (ама не гарантирам де; за малко ги преслушах). Разпитах доколкото можах дали не са фенски, и ме увериха, че са на Цимър. Сега ще ги преслушам по-внимателно.

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