WHAT’S THE SCORE?
by Brian George
Over the past five years, my collection of original movie soundtracks has increased from just three to around 100. I am not talking about the compilations of popular music from your favorite rock-and-roll bands and pop artists, like the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 from Guardians of the Galaxy… I’m talking about original orchestral scores. While popular music can effectively capture the mood of a particular scene, a solid orchestral score can cohesively connect an entire film with perfectly-timed character leitmotifs, unnerving ambient noises, heart-pounding battle music, and unforgettable title themes.
In this article, and hopefully in future contributions, I will provide reviews for some of my favorite super hero/comic book-based movie scores. Let me first preface by stating that the number of original scores that I have not listened to is staggering. Nonetheless, I’ve become a bit of an original score connoisseur. Of the 100 soundtracks that I have purchased, around twenty or so are from comic book-inspired movies, such as 2016’s Suicide Squad.
The original movie score for Suicide Squad was composed by Steven Price. This is the first score by Price that I’ve listened to. Of note, he composed the score for Gravity, which he won the Academy Award for in 2013. The Suicide Squad score opens with the hard-driving and ass-kicking “Task Force X.” In my opinion, this is the quintessential action movie leadoff track. Price masterfully provides an inherent edge and gritty overtone to the heroic theme. It is that melodic balancing act that excellently delivers the challenging juxtaposition of portraying hardened criminals as heroes.
The intensity of this soundtrack is perpetuated throughout as many tracks feature variations on the main theme. In contrast to the hard-hitting power pieces, Price also interweaves a hauntingly ominous and slow-tempo melody into the score. This theme dominates the fifth track, “I Want to Assemble a Task Force,” and is later introduced as Harley Quinn and Joker’s theme in Track 12, “Harley and Joker.” As rigidly aggressive and satisfying the main theme is, it is the enchanting beauty and tragic eeriness of Harley and Joker’s theme that holds the entire soundtrack together. In the final three tracks—“One Bullet Is All I Need,” “I Thought I’d Kill You” and “The Worst of the Worst”—Price provides flawlessly fitting, downtempo pieces of music to delicately, yet climatically portray the movie’s defining victory and final scenes.
The Suicide Squad score impeccably balances orchestral sounds, synthesized sounds and choral vocals. I highly recommend checking out this score if you enjoy original movie soundtrack music. My only critique—and this may sound contradictory—is that I wish it included Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens.” It is not uncommon for an original score to incorporate a selection from a contributing popular artist.