One of the complaints that I continue to hear in some quarters regarding Gareth Edwards' “Godzilla” is that Alexandre Desplat's score is an overbearing one. I couldn't quite wrap my head around that idea given that we're dealing with a monster film here and a monstrous score certainly makes a lot of sense. Our own Drew McWeeny in his otherwise positive review, for instance, said the work was “heavy-handed and obvious in a way that really doesn't seem like [Desplat],” and that last bit maybe hits on why some people aren't liking what they're hearing.
Desplat has picked up a slew of Oscar-nominations in a relatively short amount of time. He is easily the most ubiquitous composer working today, and he's become known for some really delicate, lovely work. Movies like “The Queen,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The King's Speech” are great examples, or even non-Oscar-nominated work like “Birth” and “Zero Dark Thirty” (which gets some slight call-backs in his “Godzilla” work).
But what's exciting about the man, who we've talked to here at In Contention countless times over the last seven or eight years as his career has blossomed on these shores (and as he's become a mainstay on the awards circuit), is that even with such a consistently massive workload, he never manages to repeat himself. And he always finds exciting new projects to work on, projects you might not necessarily expect to be up his alley.
“Godzilla” is a perfect example, and what Desplat has conjured is indeed bombastic, but in the best possible way, at least in my humble opinion. “I think 'Godzilla' needed to keep something very organic,” the composer says in the featurette embedded at the top of this post. “That's why I decided to put together an orchestra that was also really stupidly big, as big as Godzilla, because otherwise if the orchestra was not big enough I would have to stuff the score with a lot of electronics, which I didn't want to do.”
He continues, “It's very important to me that the music would emphasize these characters' broken souls. That's why we have a huge set-up with a strings section, first violins, second violins, left-right, so they can do some very strong stereo movements. And I've doubled the brass, doubled the horns, and that's also left-right, so even though there will be a lot of explosions and things going on, we'll have a lot of space created by the score.”
Others have also noted that they wish the original, iconic Akira Ifukube score had been re-purposed in some way. But I think this score is properly reverent of that work. There's something about it that's of another time, while not falling into the trap of cheesy serial music.
At the end of the featurette, director Gareth Edwards notes that Desplat's work “elevates” the film, and I think that's absolutely true. It's big but has a proper delicacy to it at times (though never relinquishing a sense of foreboding – notice the ominous brass lurking under the softer string elements around the 1:00 mark in the video). I walked away from this movie with the music thumping in my head for a day afterwards, so it certainly stuck with me, and I think it doesn't show Desplat out of his range. Rather, I think it offers further evidence that he is simply capable of anything.
And the best part? You get a heaping dose of his work right from the start as the central suite plays over one of the coolest opening credits sequences we've had in some time.
You can make up your own mind when the film hits theaters tomorrow (or tonight at midnight, if you're super eager). For now, have a look and listen to Desplat's process in the video above and consider it an appetizer for the main course. You can also buy the score now via iTunes or Amazon.
“Godzilla” stomps on theaters tomorrow.