Lost Season Four (2008)

Composed by Michael Giacchino

Season four of Lost was the shortest of the seasons at 14 episodes. The producers were actually already planning for shorter seasons, but it would have been 18 episodes. A writer’s strike had forced them to cut things down, unfortunately resulting in underdeveloped new characters. Still, it’s an engaging season where the pace really picks up. Also, the shorter runtime means that it was easier for the album producers to select highlights for a full single disc. The soundtrack for season four is where Michael Giacchino’s music reached true cinematic levels, even though the booklet shows that he still had the same number of musicians. Some of the lengthier tracks sport four or five themes in interplay with each other, and some of the action cues are able to sustain themselves beyond one or two minutes. The higher level of emotion and intensity make this the best single disc presentation of music from the series. It’s definitely the first that can safely be accessed by people who have never watched the show.

This season also introduced the Oceanic Six theme for its three-part finale. This theme appears around the album’s halfway point in “There’s No Place Like Home.” As with many of Giacchino’s theme introductions, it starts on piano and then repeats on more dramatic strings. The construction of this theme is epic, and noticeably utilizes the first six notes of the main Lost theme at the end. “Of Mice and Ben” reuses the theme with heavy percussive elements for a cliffhanger. “Can’t Kill Keamy” brings in the theme for a very stirring moment, this time with the full Lost theme as counterpoint (0:46). “Landing Party” provides a final grand iteration, this one with a heart-tingling flourish of cello at the end (2:44). This theme is so notably epic that Giacchino used it as the main emotional identity for the series finale two years later. Continue reading

Lost Season Three (2006-2007)

Composed by Michael Giacchino

Season three of Lost was the last of the show to run for a full 20+ episodes. From what I recall it’s my favorite season, though it also sported the single worst episode in “Stranger in a Strange Land.” In this season the show digs deeper into the mysterious Others, the other inhabitants of the island. At the same time more aspects of the greater conflict start to appear, of course in mysterious tidbits. Giacchino’s music definitely went on an upswing this season. With the dramatic stakes escalating the emotional cues have more power. There’s also a lot more in the way of action scenes and a couple smoke monster attacks, so in contrast to season two there’s more excitement and intense rhythms to be had. In a welcome surprise, Varese Sarabande opted to release two jam-packed discs. There were so many musical highlights and thematic development that this was definitely a wise move. The first disc contains music from the first 20 episodes, while the second has the complete score for “Through the Looking Glass,” the season finale, and an abundance of material from the preceding episode.

The first disc is definitely superior, featuring selected highlights. By this time the music was much more lush and exciting and at certain points positively cinematic. The second disc is a different story. It is fascinating to get a complete score from one of the episodes, but the end result is a good amount of material that simply isn’t that engaging, from slow, underdeveloped emotional signatures to ambient suspense. There’s lots of slow string twanging and long pauses between notes. The sound quality on the second disc also seems to be somewhat like the tracks were hastily taken from the initial recording sessions. A better release would have had both discs be highlight-centric, with a few more cues from the first 20 episodes and a more rounded 40-50 minute presentation of music from the last 3. Still, it’s hard to complain when one considers how much great material would have been left off a single disc. Continue reading

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Composed by John Powell

The next Star Wars movie spin-off from Disney was also, at the time of this review, the last. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a prequel chronicling the start of Han Solo’s smuggling career. Producer Kathleen Kennedy was so disgusted with the original directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller that she fired them and hired safe choice Ron Howard to reshoot nearly the entire movie. An origin story, the film sees Harrison Ford’s beloved smuggler played by a younger actor, Alden Ehrenreich. Solo meets Chewbacca, gets into the smuggling business, and tries to woo back his old flame despite her affiliation with the crime syndicate Crimson Sun. Thanks to fan backlash after The Last Jedi, the heavy cost of reshooting the film, and the unwise decision to release the film in close proximity to Avengers: Infinity War, Solo became the first Star Wars film to bomb at the box office. Ironically, this is my favorite entry of the Disney era, something of a guilty pleasure. Han’s character development doesn’t gel with where he is at the start of the original trilogy (in how he’s already going out of his way to help heroic resistance fighters instead of looking out for himself) and there are still some annoying moments of shoehorned fan service and prequelitis. But the movie is just fun and avoids the emotional baggage of the Skywalker saga. The composer this time is John Powell, who has been acclaimed for his work on the How To Train Your Dragon franchise. Having hired the likes of Alexander Desplat (whose Rogue One score was lost to post-production), Michael Giacchino, and then Powell, Disney’s Star Wars has had a good habit of selecting from the small pool of composers who can still deliver big on thematic scores.

Powell’s score has Williamsesque brass flourishes, yet the composer maintains his style with his electronic accompaniments and rhythmic-based action and suspense cues (though in less quantities than he would in, say, one of his Jason Bourne scores). Powell’s use of themes is masterful. He makes them distinctive, but more importantly, to account for today’s noisy action films and tight post-production schedules, able to maintain their power and dramatic effect when used in brief bursts. In fact small pieces of the various themes often occur around each other. For example, Chewbacca and Beckett’s themes will take turns in an action cue that also contains the first motif of Han’s theme. In short Powell’s themes are liberally thrown into the score in small increments without losing their effect. Continue reading

Godzilla (2014)

Image result for godzilla 2014 soundtrack amazon

Composed by: Alexandre Desplat

The Americans had another shot at Godzilla with Legendary Pictures’ 2014 film. Compared to Roland Emmerich’s 1997 disaster, this film is definitely more respectful. The plot is basically Godzilla awakens and is on the hunt for the a pair of new monsters, the Mutos. The Mutos are planning to mate and flood the earth with nuclear fueled monsters. Director Gareth Edwards did an incredible job giving viewers a sense of Godzilla’s scale. That being said, the film does have a couple major flaws that prevent it from being great. The human characters, aside from Bryan Cranston’s scientist, are woefully dull. This wouldn’t be  too severe a problem if it wasn’t for the lack of monster scenes. Perhaps taking his cue from Jaws, Edwards went too far in holding off the appearance of Godzilla, to the point that the film cuts away just when an action scene starts! Godzilla doesn’t always appear that much in the Japanese films, but when he does the directors at least know to give him full scenes. At least the final battle in the 2014 film is great. Of course Godzilla fans were very curious which Hollywood composer would get a crack at the Big G. Instead of going for an aestabliseh daciton-adventure composer, Edwards brought in Alexandre Desplat, a highly acclaimed composer. This was a great choice, thankfully saving the Godzilla franchise from today’s mostly pedestrian action scores. Continue reading

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Composed by: Keith Emerson, Nobuhiko Morino, & Daisuke Yano

Unfortunately, despite some pretty good films, the Shinsei Godzilla series was not proving as financially successful as hoped. As it happened Godzilla’s 50th birthday was coming up, so Toho decided to once again take a break from the franchise (their longest) with a big extravaganza. The final result, Godzilla Final Wars is at best a guilty pleasure. Like Destroy All Monsters decades earlier, the film boasts a large cast of monsters, but gives almost none of the them significant screentime. Also like that earlier film the plot involves aliens using mind control to invade the earth with monsters. The director Ryuhei Kitamura, known for his over-the-top and violent action films, expresses too much interest in the Matrix-inspired human fight scenes. The film’s saving grace is that it gets so ridiculous and bad that it gets good again. Highlights include a literal Japanese Keanu Reeves serving as a Neo expy, a scenery-chewing alien commander, and martial artist/pro wrestler Don Frye as a badass American. Needless to say, the film is divisive in Godzilla fandom.

Also divisive is the musical score, composed by Keith Emerson. Instead of getting Michiru Oshima, Takayuki Hattori, or another traditionally orchestral composer, Kitamura went in a completely different direction by hiring British progressive rock artist Keith Emerson. Emerson only had a couple weeks in his schedule to create music. In fact after the first act of the album he largely disappears from the track credits. Japanese composers Nobuhiko Morino and Daisuke Yano stepped in to complete the music, ensuring that the composers’ material lined up stylistically. The result is a score that somewhat matches the over-the-top film, but is wholly unsuited to represent the gravitas of Godzilla. The music is rock and techno-laden, though thankfully there are a few legitimately good pieces. Overall the music sounds like it comes from an early 2000s video game. Continue reading

Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992)

Godzilla vs. Mothra (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Having learned with Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah that bringing back classic monsters would draw larger audiences, Toho thought it only natural to resurrect their second most popular creation: Mothra. Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth as an alright movie. The general plotline is too much of a mash-up of Mothra and Mothra vs. Godzilla. Once again an unscrupulous corporation wants the Mothra egg and once again they abduct the giant butterfly’s twin fairy priestesses. This again prompts their goddess to go on a justified rampage. Godzilla himself is pretty much a secondary monster character in his own movie, showing up once early on and then reemerging for the last act. The one aspect that gives the film a good injection of creativity is the addition of Battra, Mothra’s darker twin. As with King Ghidorah, Ifukube already had plenty of pre-created themes to use, but he does show more originality with this entry. Continue reading

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Masaru Satoh

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster is odd in that it was originally supposed to be a King Kong vehicle. Rankin-Bass, which was planning a King Kong cartoon, decided they wanted something different to promote their upcoming work (resulting in King Kong Escapes), and Godzilla was quickly inserted into the big ape’s place. This is why Godzilla’s foes seem underwhelming in terms of power levels and also why he gets a sudden fixation on an island beauty (thankfully this oddball moment is contained to one scene). The plot concerns a group of friends searching for a lost brother. They end up on an island where an expy of Communist China is using slave labor to manufacture heavy water as well as a yellow substance that keeps the giant shrimp Ebirah away. It’s a fun film that’s definitely less ambitious than its predecessors.

Masaru Satoh returned for his second film. His material is widely different from his score for Godzilla Raids Again. It’s more jazzy, exotic, and upbeat, fitting the tone of an island romp. The music is thus more entertaining, though bereft of outstanding tunes that stick in your head. The strongest thematic addition is “Mothra Song.” This piece graces the main title after some island percussion. It thereafter gets turned into another fairy song for the giant butterfly. It’s not as powerful as her more well-known songs, but it’s pretty nice. On the subject of Mothra there is a neat short cue towards the end called “Arrival of Mothra” with a sparkling heroic rhythm.

The music in general would fit a 60s spy show with all the percussion and some very jazzy moments. Ebirah’s theme is basically a guitar riff that is only slightly sinister. “Endurance Dance Rally” is a groovy source cue that could fit in the Adam West Batman show. In addition to the themes there are some pleasant travel and island cues. Standouts include “Transportation by Yahlen II” and “Departure of Boat to Lech Island,” the latter another instrumental of “Mothra Song.” Ironically one of the weakest aspects is Godzilla’s material. There is sinister motif that appears in “Sleeping Godzilla” and another rolling motif introduced in “Rebirth of Godzilla.” Oddly his fight with the villains’ planes is literally scored like a beach party. Satoh just does not convey the presence and majesty required for the character.

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster is a very different score. Given the nature of the film, it’s not wrong for Satoh to have ditched the more ponderous and sinister tone of Ifukube’s work. However, he might have gone too far. There is some good music here, but outside of “Mothra Song” it lacks a strong thematic base. Satoh himself may have realized this judging by how his next two scores went.

Rating: 4/10

Tracklisting

  1. Main Title
  2. Young Go Go
  3. Appearance Of Yoshimura
  4. Transportation By Yaren I
  5. Transportation By Yaren II
  6. Yacht And Hurricane And Monster
  7. Lech Island
  8. Red Bamboo
  9. Fierce Ebirah
  10. No Way To Survive
  11. Wish Of Dayo I
  12. Mothra Song
  13. Sleeping Godzilla
  14. Infiltration Of The Enemy Base I
  15. Infiltration Of The Enemy Base II
  16. Escape
  17. Fly Away Balloon – Southern Sea Horizon
  18. Wish Of Dayo II
  19. Mothra Song II
  20. Crisis In The Pasture
  21. Sleeping Godzilla
  22. Godzilla’s Wakening
  23. Departure Of Boat To Lech Island
  24. Rebirth Of Godzilla
  25. Godzilla vs. Ebirah
  26. Red Bamboo Base
  27. Retreat from Base
  28. Godzilla vs. Big Condor
  29. The Demolition Of Red Bamboo Base
  30. Godzilla vs. Ebirah II
  31. Godzilla vs. Ebirah III
  32. The Wish Of The People On Infant Island
  33. Mothra’s Song
  34. Godzilla vs. Ebirah IV
  35. The Arrival Of Mothra
  36. Before Nuclear Explosion
  37. Ending

Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965)

Invasion of Astro-Monster (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

In 1965 the idea of aliens and space adventures was not new to Toho, being a central element in several non-Godzilla films. Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, while having no actual aliens aside from the titular space dragon, did have one of its characters possessed by the psychic energy of a Venusian survivor (Martian in the American cut). This made Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (also known as Invasion of the Astro-Monster) the first of many times the Big G would come up against extraterrestrials. Inhabitants of Planet X agree to give Earth the cure for cancer in exchange for using Godzilla and Rodan to drive off Monster Zero, revealed as King Ghidorah. Of course, they are not as benevolent as they seem and the monsters are used as pawns in a bid for conquest. The human drama in this film is good for a Godzilla film (Nick Adams actually puts in a decent performance as an American astronaut), but I don’t find the overall movie as strong as its predecessors. The final battle itself is just a shorter rematch from the previous film sans Mothra. Continue reading

Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster Original Soundtrack - YouTube

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Right off the heels of two cross-over successes, Toho went further, combining Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan, a popular giant pterosaur. This time, though, the three monsters would eventually have to stop fighting each other and instead focus on taking down the three-headed space dragon King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah is one of the most iconic Godzilla foes. Towering over the Big G, he is armed with laser beams, powerful wings, and an eerie cackling sound. Ghidorah was a turning point in the franchise, where it started to move in a goofy direction. The monsters are much more humanized. One scene even has Mothra’s fairies narrating a three-sided conversation, in which Mothra comes off like a school counselor and Godzilla and Rodan two troublesome kids. That being said, it’s still a strong entry with one of the best monster battles of the series. Continue reading

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Cue By Cue: Film Music Narratives: Godzilla vs. The Thing (Mothra ...

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

With King Kong vs. Godzilla a roaring success, Toho had another epic crossover duel. Instead of grabbing a popular foreign character like King Kong, they went for their other homegrown mon-star, the giant butterfly Mothra. Unlike the other members of Toho’s growing stable of titans, Mothra was a good guy (or good girl?), only causing havoc when her faithful foot tall twin fairy priestesses are abducted by an unscrupulous businessman. Mothra vs. Godzilla concerns her egg washing ashore on a Japanese beach. Quickly the egg is claimed by a corporation, despite the pleas of the twin fairies. Days later Godzilla emerges and, despite the flaws of modern man, Mothra rushes out to defend Japan from the dinosaur’s latest rampage. Mothra vs. Godzilla is often considered one of the greatest films after the original. It’s not hard to see why. Godzilla is really built up as a threat, there is some actual depth to the story, and the battles with Mothra are satisfying in that she is a total underdog using her wits and specialized powers. Continue reading