Month: October 2019

Joker’s soundtrack couldn’t resist going full Batman movie

The Joker score is straight out of a Batman movie. That may be an obvious option for a DC villain standalone movie; however, Todd Phillips, the writer-director of the movie, made one thing clear in the lead up to release: he did not set out to make a comic book movie.

But by the end, Joker takes a hard left into Batman territory, as if pushed there by the booming orchestra of Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. The choice speaks to the conundrum faced by Todd Phillips’ referential drama, and future imitators that hope to have their massive win at the box office: what a prestige comic book movie sounds like?

Until the climax, the score of Joker leans on drawn-out strings in order to build a sense of dread. Although a few lilts up and down provide the barest thread of a melody, the music comes across as a drone. Because the unfolding events reach a critical mass, these almost formless sounds give way to a rhythmic echo and beat that bears a striking resemblance to the theme for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy that also tried to bill itself as anything but a comic book movie.

James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer concocted the first sounds for the caped crusader of Nolan in 2005’s Batman Begins, departing from the motifs and themes that defined the work of Danny Elfman in the 1989 Batman with a more operatic sound. They reinvented the sound of the Joker three years later with Zimmer composing a theme that was built around just two notes which defied any sense of melody for over a full minute.

The callback is all the stranger given that there are movies which Joker is trying to emulate that seem to have been ignored when it comes to musical influence. The jazzy score to Taxi Driver of Herrmann is nowhere to be heard, as is the sparseness of the music in The King of Comedy. The music plays almost like a parody of Zimmer’s work, aping his most famous scores by peeling out the loud, sustained noises and simple themes.

Trying to shy away from more obviously melodic themes, Joker reminds the viewers of its origins in comics as well as the history of Batman on screen. When Batman is inserted hamfistedly into Arthur Fleck’s story, it is no surprise – the soundtrack has been signaled the inevitable from the very first note.

Soundtracks that were just as awesome or even better than the movies

A great soundtrack can make the worst film out there a little more tolerable. There are times when a soundtrack can stand toe-to-toe in greatness with a movie.

Here’s our take on the movies featuring soundtracks as good or even more successful than the films that they’re associated with.

The Graduate (1968)

Considered as one of the greatest movies of all time, The Graduate boasts a soundtrack that is hard to beat. It’s loaded with some of Simon & Garfunkel’s most famous tunes like “The Sound of Silence” (used 3 times in the movie). Song placement is also critical to the movie and direction used by Mike Nichols, the Academy Award-winning director.

Cooley High (1975)

This bittersweet movie of black youth in Chicago paved the way for television hits of the same ilk such as “What’s Happening!!” and “Good Times”. From a soundtrack standpoint, it get nothing much better. It’s a Motown mix tape that features the likes of Diana Ross & The Supremes and the Four Tops (“Reach Out I’ll Be There”). Maybe the movie’s most poignant moment is led in by “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” of G.C. Cameron.

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

The disco-themed film was a huge commercial smash that made John Travolta an international star. It also produced the second-best-selling soundtrack in the history with more than $50 million units of the double-album soundtrack being sold. Moreover, it won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Composed, produced and mostly performed by the Bee Gees, the movie is noted for the group’s lasting disco classics such as “Jive Talkin,”” Stayin’ Alive,”  and “Night Fever.”

The Last American Virgin (1982)

Although this early-1980s flick tends to get lost in the shuffle among more famous teen vehicles of the time, it is surprisingly poignant in spite of the overall theme of trying to score. For adolescent males, equally relatable. A stellar early-1980s soundtrack courtesy lends credibility to the picture. Other 1980s classics such as REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You” and Journey’s “Open Arms” also give the film a boost.