I’ve said it in previous posts, but I’ll reiterate here; I love movies. And, to take it even further, I love movie soundtracks.
A couple of years ago, while watching The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies on opening night, I saw a teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. When the iconic Star Wars music started to play as the Millennium Falcon burst into the air, I promptly teared up. Then, last December, I saw The Force Awakens for the first time. I’ve never seen a Star Wars film in theaters before, and as soon as the familiar theme started to blast through the speakers over the opening credit scroll, I was in an emotional upheaval. It was such an awesome moment, to hear that iconic music blare as a new space adventure was prepared to begin.
Some soundtracks are just so evocative; so definitive of the work itself that it plays through your head whenever you call certain scenes or characters to mind. There are themes and soundtracks that everyone knows, even if they haven’t seen the movie it’s from. Jaws, anyone? I knew the “da-dum…..da-dum….da-dummm….DA-DUM DA-DUM DA-DUM” way before I ever mustered the courage to actually sit down and watch it.
In the Star Wars vein, everyone knows/recognizes the Imperial March. I recently saw Rogue One, and (MINOR SPOILER) when Vader appeared onscreen, his famed theme providing an ominous introduction, it set the scene and re-emphasized exactly the kind of character Vader is, even so many years after his initial appearance. Vader is the embodiment of that theme and vice versa. It’s a testament John Williams’s strength and prowess as a composer.
For me, the same goes for the theme from The Lord of the Rings; mainly the Shire theme. The tin-whistle and violin create a feeling of nostalgia and sense of “home,” and whenever it comes up, it’s easy to see and recognize how important that idea is to so many of the characters, especially Frodo and Sam. Sections of that legendary score translated seamlessly into The Hobbit series, which played on those familiar themes while simultaneously providing new ones, such as the “Misty Mountains” song and the instrumental motif that accompanies it. For all the flaws in the Hobbit films (while I personally enjoyed the films, I recognize the issues) the music was exceptional thanks to the genius of Howard Shore.
The theme from the Indiana Jones franchise is another example of a film’s music becoming essential to a character, much like the “Imperial March” and the “Jaws Theme.” I can’t think of Indy’s daring adventures, whether it be fleeing an immense boulder or taking a leap of faith for the Holy Grail, without also conjuring up that heroic theme. The music from Jurassic Park has a similar effect, but with a particular scene instead of a character. When Alan and Ellie first see the dinosaurs at the park and the music starts to play… it’s legendary. A brilliant movie moment that will go down as one of the best and most memorable, thanks to yet another marvelous theme from John Williams.
Disney films and their associated scores and composers (especially Menken, but also Hans Zimmer in the case of The Lion King) are also consistently fantastic, especially during the Disney Renaissance period. If I had to pick my favorites (as far as music is concerned), I’d probably have to say The Lion King – especially the track “Under the Stars” and the beautiful theme that plays when Simba officially becomes the King of Pride Rock. I also think the music to The Hunchback of Notre Dame is severely underrated, especially the music from the prologue, which has a haunting, almost dirge-like quality. But I don’t know if any Disney score can top the one from Beauty and the Beast. From the chilling piano in the prologue to the tune as old as time and the Beast’s magical transformation, the music definitely helps make the film pack an emotional wallop. When the familiar strains of the score started to play over-top the trailer for next year’s live-action remake, I legitimately teared up. It hit me right in the feels in the best way possible, as music should.
Whether it’s Daft Punk’s stellar and groundbreaking contribution to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack (“The Grid,” man… I am all about that movie and the music) or the gentle theme of Forrest Gump playing as a feather spirals into the air, movies are enhanced by their score on an emotional and visceral level that moving pictures and scenes typically cannot accomplish alone. For some, it might be the whimsical, fantastical themes from the Harry Potter franchise, or the swashbuckling theme from Pirates of the Caribbean, the music from some films can resonate in a person’s mind long after the film has ended. Sure, there are some notable and famed film scenes that occur in complete silence, but often, it’s the music that makes the movie, in a fusion of cinema and sound.
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