May 30th, 2006

Stryker (X-Men)

If there's one thing I know better than anybody, it's my own work.

The entry for the current version can be found here.

It was inevitable that I would compile an X-Men disc, although even I was surprised at how quickly it took shape. Yes, I only just saw the third movie on Thursday, but I'd been listening to the score since I first gotten ahold of it and was rather familiar with it once I saw the film.

I have always had extremely mixed feelings about the first film's score. It is a complete mess and the main theme sounds always sounds like it is building into a more confident statement than it ever actually does. However, there are some elements to it that I enjoy very much; I love Michael Kamen's slashing, relentless theme for Magneto (which is... um... reflected in the mix), and the gorgeous melody heard in "Jean and Logan" (track 10) and "Logan and Rogue" (track 17) is one of the most beautiful pieces that Kamen had ever written. Affection for the film (only strengthened with the added gravitas the sequels give it) has soften my harsher assesments of the score, though in preparing this album I concentrated on the more symphonic elements to make it fit more easily with the other two scores.

I have to admit that I like the score for X2 for all the wrong reasons. It is a score by a film score fan, not a film score composer, but John Ottman and I have the same taste in film scores. As a result the music is flavored heavily by 70s and 80s Goldsmith, Williams and early Horner. It isn't afraid to get dirty and dissonant, either. And I have to say that Ottman's scores for Bryan Singer have a specific quality to them; Ottman also serves as supervising film editor for Singer, and so is intimate with every nuance of the film by the time he scores it, and the music has a relationship to the images that is absolutely marvelous. Perhaps my favorite example of this is "It's Time" (track 15). An aspect of the score I found interesting (and I noted in my initial reflection on the film), is that it subtly acknowledges Kamen's work. The easiest example is the violin heard in Mystique's theme in "Sneaky Mystique" (track 12) which echoes the electronic drone that signified her in X-Men.

I felt this quality much more strongly in John Powell's score for X-Men: The Last Stand, and when I read the liner notes for the CD I saw that this was entirely intentional. Brett Ratner notes that "I was less concerned about putting my 'mark' on The Last Stand than creating a film that was a seamless part of an important trilogy." To that end, "Powell's music expanded upon the original two X-Men scores and brings emphasis not only to the plot of 'the Cure' and 'Dark Phoenix,' but completes the main characters' arcs as well." In some ways, Powell is actually reconciling the different approaches by the two other scores, or drawing the most effective elements. His theme for Magneto is strongly reminiscent of Kamen's in structure, but Ottman's in orchestration. Powell's pop background works well here in fashioning his thematic material, which gives a nice melodic 'hook' to the more apocalyptic aspects of the story.

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