Musings About Music In Film

The Wax Cylinder #4


By Karol Krok maze runnerThe Maze Runner

Remaking Battle Royale all over again, with emerging teen actors, seems to be the new thing in Hollywood. The Maze Runner is another, after Hunger Games and Divergent, interpretation of teen survival action, with an apparent hint Lord of the Flies thrown in for good measure. John Paesano, a relative newcomer to film scoring and previous assistant to many big names in the business, creates a sensitive and textured score.

On a surface it might seem quite unremarkable and easy to dismiss. All the usual suspects are there - big drums, heavy on synthesizers, light on melody. ‘The Maze Runner’ opening track seems to recall many current action scores. However, there is a definite orchestral stamp to it all, that separates it from many similar genre entries. The occasional horn or woodwind solo passage and string writing - all that is a mark of someone who knows a thing or two about orchestra. At times, synthetic backing recalls TRON: Legacy, especially in the main opening piece. The music offers some really exciting and well orchestrated action cues with solid brass writing (‘Maze Rearrange’ and ‘Final Fight’), tender character portraits (‘Chat With Chuck’), and quite stylishly executed suspense sequences (‘Section 7’). The architecture behind all of it is subtle but definitely present - themes gradually emerge and not announce themselves right from the outset. There is a definite James Newton Howard-like ambience to the entire work and gentle ‘Finale’, complete with ghostly choral effects, is a great example of that.

The music is satisfying on a textural level, with nice instrumental touches recalling great composers. It cerainly creates a nice misty and ghostly atmosphere for its film. However, it still falls prey to blockbuster requirements of stylistically diluted scores to modern action cinema. John Paesano is a name to watch but we need to hear something less restrained by blockbuster temp-tracking curse from him. Only then we’ll be able to make a final judgement on his talents. As it stands, The Maze Runner is crafted with great care but not terribly memorable.

The Maze Runner is out now from Sony Classical.



Dolphin Tale 2

Rachel Portman would be a go-to composer when it comes to warm cosy family film scoring. And while she’s great at what she does, one couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if her great talent was applied to something else, like horror, s-f or thriller. I hope that one day we find out and hear her undeniable talents applied to those genres.

In Dolphin Tale 2, Portman follows the footsteps of Mark Isham, who delivered a similarly bright and optimistic work three years ago. The main theme, introduced in the opening ‘Reconciliation Ballet’ seems to recall the late Michael Kamen and his warm, kind-hearted gentle scores. And, truth be told, this melody is this score’s only distinct feature. Even the more tense, percussion-punctuated action tracks (‘Mandy’s Rescue’) are a bit too tame to make an impression.

While certainly lovely from start to finish, the music makes no attempt to distinct itself from other scores likes this, which was also the sin of its predecessor. If, however, you’re seeking 49 minutes of undemanding background relaxation scores, this one will do very well. But then, you could as well pick Marco Beltrami’s superior Soul Surfer.

Dolphin Tale 2 digital album is out now from Lakeshore Records and the CD will be released on October the 7th.


tmtnTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It’s amazing when we realise that this iconic franchise never received a proper screen adaptations that would do justice to the original comic book. The three old films, while doing justice to turtles’ appearance, ended up being too goofy and silly and didn’t age well at all. When Michael Bay announced this new project, few people expressed excitement. Ultimately, the film ended up being better than expected. But that doesn't really say much. In any case, one of its strengths is Brian Tyler’ score, a first really decent composition to accompany these characters.

Unlike many of this composer’s action scores, this one sounds more mature and assured, curious given its association with Michael Bay production. The main theme, introduced in the first track, is typical display of masculinity for the composers, somewhat reminiscent of 90’s action music by Zimmer and Mark Mancina but an increased orchestral presence. The composers employs his idea frequently throughout his music and it’s quite a memorable tune. The film, as one could imagine, is absolutely flooded with noisy action cues and they are all fun - ‘Splinter vs. Shredder’ and 'Shortcut' being particular highlights. There are occasional quieter passages as well - the gentle ‘Origins’ brings a necessary tone of mythical wonder.

Ultimately, and quite unexpectedly, Brian Tyler has crafted his best action score in years for this project. Not hugely ambitious on compositional level, but much better than this unfortunate piece of cinema deserved. The brass sounds more natural, choir adds wondrous elements - the score has heroic quality that goes beyond his contributions to Marvel films. The potentially over-long 72-minute album is an easy, and often fun, listen.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles digital album is out now from Atlantic Records