Tag Archives: vangelis

Blade Runner (1982)

Note: This film was the main topic of discussion on Episode 4 of my podcast, The Cinescope Podcast. Give it a listen for a more in-depth discussion!

blade-runner-eye

*very mild spoilers*

What is the appeal of the sci-fi genre? Certainly the potential of catching a possible glimpse of the future is a draw, and people are always glad to see the exciting action sequences that are typical in sci-fi works. But I would argue that what sci-fi does well, often better than other genre films, is ask questions, present new ideas, and generally give us life questions to ponder after the credits roll. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner accomplishes all of the above.

In 2019 Los Angeles, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is brought in by his former supervisor Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh) and briefed on a new assignment: four Replicants – illegal androids – have escaped to Earth from off-planet human colonies, and they must now be killed. You see, Deckard used to be what they call a “Blade Runner”, a sort of bounty hunter tasked with tracking down these Replicants and “retiring” them. With Replicants being nearly indistinguishable from humans, Deckard has his work cut out for him, and he may just lose his humanity or even his life along the way.

The plot of the movie is relatively simple: good guy needs to hunt down robot bad guys and kill them before bad things happen. But, as I mentioned, the real highlights here are the questions…are the bad guys actually bad guys? Are the good guys actually good guys? What is right? What is wrong? What does it mean to be human? All of these questions carry quite a bit of heft and really drive the momentum of the film. I won’t attempt to answer any of these questions here – namely because my answers might be different than yours, as they’re meant to be.

Though the whole cast shines, there are three in particular that stand out in my mind when I watch this movie. The obvious choice is Harrison Ford as Deckard. As our primary human character, he brings us an interesting mix of the empathy we expect in a human but also the coldness and moral distance you would expect from a machine or, in this case, a Replicant. One of the biggest – if not the biggest – questions from this movie is whether Deckard is a human or a Replicant, and Ford masterfully plays along that fine line without definitively revealing anything either way. Another standout is Rutger Hauer as the Replicant Roy, who has perhaps the biggest character arc in the film, or at least the most interesting one. He possesses a strange energy that both endears and frightens, especially through the vibrancy of his bright blue eyes, but he also often shows more human traits than Deckard does: compassion, empathy, sadness, happiness, and he delivers one of the finest speeches to be found in any sci-fi film, or to be honest, in any film at all (and partially improvised, at that!). The last one I’ll mention here is Sean Young as the Replicant Rachael, who is particularly fascinating because her character initially believes herself to be a human thanks to implanted memories. Where Deckard is a human with many Replicant qualities, Rachael is just the opposite, and watching her cry as she learns that the memories of the life she thought she had were forgeries is heartbreaking. Throughout the rest of the movie, she expresses conflict between which faction she owes her allegiance to – the humans who created her or the Replicants who share her origin.

Vangelis, of Chariots of Fire fame, sets the tone of the film with another synth-based score that works extremely well in this futuristic dystopian setting; there’s a technological energy in the music as the film opens, but this eventually gives way to a strong feeling of melancholy and despair that matches the state of the world and the conflict going on within our characters’ minds.

The questions and the themes found in this movie could be talked about and written about for ages to come (and probably will be), but for now I’ll leave you to watch the film for yourself and ponder over everything on your own. If you do, I highly recommend checking out the basis for the film as well, Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Reading the book really helped me to get into Deckard’s head and to understand some of his motivations and internal struggles. Once you have watched the movie and maybe read the book, talk about it with others! Blade Runner is a film that demands discussion because of the complex questions found within, but, for the more casual moviegoer, it still has a lot to offer in the way of good sci-fi worldbuilding and action. However you take it on, enjoy the ride and consider: what does it mean to live?

-Chad

(P.S. – Watch the Final Cut.)

RECOMMEND!

MPAA: R – for violence and brief nudity


Oblivion (2013) – M83

In 2010, electronic music group Daft Punk collaborated with Joseph Trapanese on the score for director Joseph Kosinski’s first directorial effort, TRON: Legacy. This year, Trapanese is back with a new collaboration for a Kosinski film, this time with Anthony Gonzalez of M83. Like the score to TRON: Legacy (my review), the focus is on a more electronic sound mixed with traditional orchestration, and the result is quite satisfactory.

 The second track of the album, “Waking Up,” perfectly communicates the grandeur of the film, albeit an empty grandeur, if that makes sense. In fact, much of this score gives us a glimpse into the largeness of the world and the hugely epic moments, such as in “Drone Attack” and “Canyon Battle.” Tracks like “Losing Control” are a bit more muted, but the anxious undertones of low strings and electronic pulse with the overlaying high strings become more and more aggressive before being joined by the brass in a dramatic sort of fanfare that seems to emulate all of Jack Harper’s questions and doubts as he struggles to find his place in this world. “Radiation Zone” is incredibly dissonant and becomes more and more agitated, representing the conflict Jack faces in crossing into the radiation zone and the surprises he encounters there.

One thing I liked about this film, though, was its ability to move effortlessly from big, majestic sets and action scenes to the more intimate moments of contemplation and searching for answers, which the score does great as well. The opening track of the album, “Jack’s Dream,” sounds appropriately ethereal, representing the fuzziness of Jack’s “memories,” and “Horatius,” is filled with a constant pulse that drives it forward, but the quieter nature of the track fuels Harper’s question-asking. The following track, “StarWaves,” is much more personal, acting as background music to a scene between Jack and Victoria in the swimming pool. One of the final tracks on the album, “Undimmed By Time, Unbound By Death,” seems to almost be a reference to the title track from Chariots of Fire, composed by Vangelis; both tracks feature an electronic opening before transitioning into a piano-based theme, though the Oblivion track is decidedly more muted (and less likely to be the go-to song for clips of people running).

Those of you who have read my previous soundtrack reviews know that one thing I always harp on is composers who reuse themes from their previous film scores. While Daft Punk and M83 were credited as the main composers for TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, respectively, Joseph Trapanese had a hand in both compositions, and you can hear some similarities between the two. Thankfully, though, nothing is blatant enough to point out, with the fact that TRON: Legacy‘s score is a bit more electronic-based and Oblivion‘s is more orchestra-based, effectively distancing the two to make them stand out on their own merits.

A film score’s goal is to make the film it accompanies even better and to enhance the emotions and action shown on screen; for the most part, the score to Oblivion does its job. There were one or two instances while watching the film when I thought that the music could have taken a little bit more of a backseat to the visuals and dialogue, but those thoughts never lasted long because of how fun the music is. The bonus goal of a film score is to be entertaining when listened to outside of the film, and there’s no doubt that Gonzales and Trapanese have accomplished that here as well. M83’s score to Oblivion manages to continue the recent positive trend of famous music groups composing for films in a great way.

Note: I purchased the Deluxe Edition of the album on iTunes. For only $3 more, you get more than 45 additional minutes of music. Completely worth it!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Jack’s Dream”     1:30
2. “Waking Up”     4:18
3. “Supercell”     4:19
4. “Tech 49”     6:01
5. “The Library”     3:27
6. “Horatius”     2:31
7. “StarWaves”     3:41
8. “Hydrorig”     2:23
9. “Crater Lake”     1:28
10. “Unidentified Object”     2:32
11. “Odyssey Rescue”     4:12
12. “Return from Delta”     2:22
13. “Retrieval”     6:48
14. “Earth 2077”     2:23
15. “Revelations”     1:43
16. “Drone Attack”     3:26
17. “Return to Empire State”     6:41
18. “Losing Control”     3:57
19. “Canyon Battle”     5:58
20. “Radiation Zone”     4:12
21. “You Can’t Save Her”     4:59
22. “Welcome Back”     1:47
23. “Raven Rock”     4:35
24. “Knife Fight In a Phone Booth”     4:39
25. “I’m Sending You Away”     5:40
26. “Ashes of Our Fathers”     3:32
27. “Temples of Our Gods”     3:16
28. “Fearful Odds”     3:11
29. “Undimmed By Time, Unbound By Death”     2:27
30. “Oblivion (feat. Susanne Sundfør)”     5:57

Total Length: app. 114 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

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


TRON: Legacy (2010) – Daft Punk

I think that the high quality of Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy was unexpected for most people, but, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense: get a musical duo famous for their electronic music to compose the score to a film whose setting takes place primarily in an electronic world.

And it’s the electronic music featured in this score that makes it so great. From the Vangelis-esque “Overture” to the infectious club groove “End of Line” (the title a reference to the original TRON film) to the aggressive “Disc Wars”, Daft Punk has managed to create a score that works well as both a companion to the film it was written for and as a standalone work of art. However, there is plenty of traditional film music – that is to say, orchestral rather than electronic – that is just as good, such as in the tracks “Recognizer”, which sort of emulates the feel of electronic music, the beautiful “Nocturne”, and “Finale”, which features some excellent brass as well as some soaring strings.

While it’s not the greatest film score of all time, it’s definitely one of the better scores composed by a musical group not known for its film scores. Daft Punk’s music for TRON: Legacy fits the setting tremendously well, enhancing the crisp visuals with an exciting soundtrack that combines traditional film scoring with newer ideas to create something unique and satisfying.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Overture” 2:28
2. “The Grid” 1:37
3. “The Son of Flynn” 1:35
4. “Recognizer” 2:38
5. “Armory” 2:03
6. “Arena” 1:33
7. “Rinzler” 2:18
8. “The Game Has Changed” 3:25
9. “Outlands” 2:42
10. “Adagio for Tron” 4:11
11. “Nocturne” 1:42
12. “End of Line” 2:36
13. “Derezzed” 1:44
14. “Fall” 1:23
15. “Solar Sailer” 2:42
16. “Rectifier” 2:14
17. “Disc Wars” 4:11
18. “C.L.U.” 4:39
19. “Arrival” 2:00
20. “Flynn Lives” 3:22
21. “Tron Legacy (End Titles)” 3:18
22. “Finale” 4:23

Total Length: app. 59 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad