Tag Archives: rise of the guardians

Argo (2012) – Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat is a composer who I haven’t been familiar with for long, but it’s no secret that I really enjoy his film scores especially those of the past couple of years (see my reviews of his scores to The King’s Speech and Rise of the Guardians). His score for last year’s Ben Affleck film, Argo, is no exception…it’s nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Desplat’s music has always been characterized by a beauty unparalleled by his contemporaries. This beauty is apparent from the very first track, “Argo,” which opens with a lovely solo on the ney (a flute-like instrument known for its use in Middle Eastern music), backed by soft, harmonious strings and an ominous drone on the tonic, leading to a faster-paced melody on an oud (a guitar-like instrument that also features in Middle Eastern music), with a sort of anxious undertone. This background anxiety is present throughout most of the score, which is fitting due to the fact that anxiety is a large part of the action in the film. Anxiety is not the only emotion expressed in this score, though; we also hear longing (such as in the track “Missing Home”), despair (“Sweatshop”), and relief (“Cleared Iranian Airspace”)…Desplat’s talent for emulating emotion through his music is evident.

One of my favorite parts of this score is that Desplat composes differently depending on the setting of the action on screen. For example, throughout most of the soundtrack we are treated to a style of music that brings to mind the Middle Eastern culture, which makes sense because most of the story takes place in Iran…this is why such instruments as the previously mentioned ney and oud are used so prominently. However, in “The Mission,” we hear a completely different style more reminiscent of traditional American film scores, with a sweeping string orchestra and quite typical harmonies. This theme is later heard in the track “Cleared Iranian Airspace,” but the genius of it all is that neither of these tracks are completely “American”…”The Mission” ends with the return of the ney, hinting at the journey that the main character will soon be taking, and “Cleared Iranian Airspace” starts with dissonance, representing the tension of the situation, eventually clearing out into the American-style theme mentioned before.

Parts of Argo sound similar to some of Desplat’s previous compositions, though not in a way that is frustrating (I’m looking at you two, Zimmer and Elfman!). The main instance of similarity (that I heard) is in the track “Held Up by Guards,” which sounds faintly like a theme from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, heard here in “Showdown.” Like I said, they don’t sound exactly alike, but definitely noticeable (to me, at least). Also worth noting is the fact that both the scores to Argo and Life of Pi (composed by Mychael Danna), which is also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, feature beatboxing (Argo – “Hotel Messages”Life of Pi – “Piscine Molitor Patel”), which isn’t typical of usual film scores. However, it works well in both cases.

Alexandre Desplat is one of the best composers of our day, a fact supported by his fantastic score for an equally fantastic film, Argo…it certainly deserves its nomination for Best Original Score at this year’s Academy Awards. Will it win? I’m not sure, but with his top-notch emulations of emotion and beauty and his appropriate usage of Middle Eastern music to reflect the setting of the film, Desplat’s score for Argo is one of the best of 2012.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

1. “Argo”     3:38

2. “A Spy In Tehran”     4:18

3. “Scent of Death”     3:26

4. “The Mission”     2:08

5. “Hotel Messages”     2:04

6. “Held Up By Guards”     5:32

7. “The Business Card”     2:56

8. “Breaking Through the Gates”     3:51

9. “Tony Grills the Six”     3:30

10. “The Six Are Missing”     3:22

11. “Sweatshop”     1:32

12. “Drive to the Airport”     3:45

13. “Missing Home”     3:00

14. “Istanbul (The Blue Mosque)”     2:18

15. “Bazaar”     3:46

16. “Cleared Iranian Airspace”     6:02

17. “Hace Tuto Guagua” (performed by Familion)     3:40

Total Length: app. 59 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. Read my review of this film here!


Rise of the Guardians (2012)

I first read the plot summary of Rise of the Guardians somewhere in the beginning months of 2012, and I thought that it was one of the most ridiculous plot summaries that I had ever read. However, that all changed when I saw the trailer for the first time a few months later; the animation was beautiful and the idea of putting twists on all of these supernatural beings that we grew up believing in seemed like a lot of fun, and I suddenly became extremely excited to see this movie. Unfortunately, when I was finally able to see the film a couple of days before Christmas, I was highly disappointed.

The failure of the film isn’t in its re-imagining of beloved childhood heroes, which I thought was done rather well (Alec Baldwin’s Russian-inspired Santa Claus was particularly amusing), but rather in its inability to tell the story implied by its title. Instead of being treated to a story of how the Guardians – Santa, Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Tooth Fairy – came into existence, or at least how they joined together to protect the children of the world, we’re introduced to Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, who can’t be seen by people because they don’t believe in him. Throughout the movie, Jack is searching for his past, which he can’t remember, and it’s his search for answers that becomes the focus of the film. The actual Guardians take a backseat to this quest, and it often seems forced, especially in the film’s relatively short run time of an hour and a half.

Regrettably, even if you take Jack Frost out of the picture and focus solely on the Guardians and on the antagonist, Pitch (i.e. The Boogeyman), there are plenty of problems. The Guardians rely on children believing in them to fuel their powers, so when Pitch interferes with the Guardians’ duties and causes children to stop believing in them, they start to lose their power. This is all fine and dandy and makes sense, but the problem I have is that the film implies that disbelief in one Guardian results in disbelief in the others…which doesn’t even make sense. For example, Pitch prevents the Tooth Fairy from collecting teeth and leaving coins, so the children not only stop believing in the Tooth Fairy (as if every child in the world was waiting for their teeth to be taken anyway), but also in the other Guardians. Personally, I don’t think that disbelief in the Tooth Fairy or in the Sandman would affect my belief in a being like Santa, who plays such a huge part in our popular culture. Aside from that problem, which particularly bothered me, Santa’s helpers, which comprise of elves and yetis, seem to be just cheap imitations of the Minions from Universal’s Despicable Me.

I had high hopes for this film, perhaps too high, which made my disappointment all the more upsetting. The film boasts an all-star cast, wonderful animation, and a beautiful score by composer Alexandre Desplat, but none of that is enough to save itself from a plot that is far less inspired than what was promised by both the trailers and the title. I wish that things had turned out differently, but, as much as it pains me to say it, Rise of the Guardians failed to captivate me like I had hoped, but, to a less critical person, it may be decent enough to entertain.

-Chad

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for thematic elements and some mildly scary action

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, here!


Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Alexandre Desplat

I had never listened to an Alexandre Desplat score before 2010’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, and I’ve been hooked ever since. His scores for The King’s Speech was simple and wonderful, and I’m still astounded by the fact that his score to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2, was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, as it is one of the most beautiful, emotional scores I’ve ever listened to. That being said, when I saw that his score for Rise of the Guardians, a film that I’ve been excited for for quite some time now, was available, I purchased it without hesitation.

*possible spoilers due to track titles; I haven’t seen the film*

The score starts out with a very Harry Potter-esque track titled “Calling the Guardians;” in particular, the first few seconds remind me of the track “Snape to Malfoy Manor” from the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, soundtrack, mixed with a little of Danny Elfman’s theme to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film. It’s quite an exciting entrance which quickly transitions into something more typical of Desplat’s music – a sweeping string melody accompanied by a charming piano countermelody. The brass eventually come in with a triumphant fanfare fitting of the track title, suggesting a different kind of superhero than we are accustomed to…which certainly seems to be the case with this film.

Throughout the score, we are treated to quiet, tender tracks such as “Alone in the World” and “Jamie Believes,” the latter of which contains what I would consider to be the main theme of the film, taken from the track “Still Dream,” composed by Desplat with lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and sung by Renée Fleming. We also hear fast-paced, raucous tracks such as “Tooth Collection” and “Pitch At North Pole,” as well as tracks that seem to emanate hope and magic, including “Sandman Returns” and “Oath of the Guardians.”

When I think of Desplat’s music, I think of beauty; his score to Rise of the Guardians only helps to reinforce this association. Every bit as colorful as the album artwork, Desplat’s music soars and never bores. His rich strings and powerful brass will leave you refreshed and wishing for more – it makes me even more excited for the film!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1.

“Still Dream” (performed by Renée Fleming)

3:12

2.

“Calling the Guardians”

2:06

3.

“Alone in the World”

2:04

4.

“Fanfare of the Elves”

0:53

5.

“Wind Take Me Home!”

1:28

6.

“Dreamsand”

2:03

7.

“Pitch on the Globe”

0:57

8.

“The Moon”

1:32

9.

“Snowballs”

1:31

10.

“Busy Workshop”

1:33

11.

“Sleigh Launch”

1:45

12.

“Nightmares Attack”

7:17

13.

“Tooth Collection”

2:22

14.

“Jamie’s Bedroom”

2:31

15.

“Jack & Sandman”

4:18

16.

“Memorial”

1:21

17.

“Guardians Regroup”

0:58

18.

“Easter”

3:39

19.

“Jack Betrays”

3:20

20.

“Kids Stop Believing”

2:35

21.

“Jack’s Memories”

2:24

22.

“Pitch at North Pole”

2:00

23.

“Jamie Believes”

3:01

24.

“Jack’s Center”

4:52

25.

“Sandman Returns”

2:36

26.

“Dreamsand Miracles”

2:18

27.

“Oath of the Guardians”

3:11

Total Length: app. 69 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!