THE WOLVERINE REVIEW

The Wolverine is a movie of two voices. One is a more restrained, personal, character driven side where we explore our most popular mutant’s past actions and his attempts to do right by protecting a young woman. The other is the outlandish superhero shenanigans we’ve seen in other X-Men movies, where giant samurai robots swing flaming swords and snake-women literally spit venom.

In most cases these separate ideals would clash with each other to the point of failure and while there are a few things that suffer, Christopher McQuarrie’s sure script and James Mangold’s experienced directing make The Wolverine into the comprehensive standalone movie the character needs and a good bit of fun too.

Instead of saving entire cities, countries, or planets, The Wolverine deals with the saving of our main character. Such personal stakes are a refreshing change of pace from the usual wham-bang epicness that’s become commonplace these days and plays off the strengths of other recent character-based blockbuster successes like Skyfall. Stripping away the parade of mutants we normally see and putting Logan mostly on his own helps to generate some focus and avoid the clutter of oh, say, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

If nothing else, it gives us another superb outing from Hugh Jackman as Logan — perhaps his best yet. This character was ripe for a thoughtful study and dare I say that this is the movie that delivers it.

Some may not care for the thematic through-line with Logan’s former romantic interest, Jean Grey, but it succeeds here as a strong representation of Logan’s inner conflict and as a necessary look at the consequences on him as a character after The Last Stand.

This more character-driven side of the movie only really falters in the pacing of the movie — there’s simply too much mid-way time spent in Nagasaki that air out of the picture. With that exception, this is what makes the movie such an interesting watch that we haven’t seen before.

The cheesy aspects of the movie, conversely, can be a double edged sword. Sometimes we get a thrilling battle with the Yakuza on top a speeding bullet-train or manual heart surgery; sometimes we get a poorly written fight between Wolverine and Shingen (the only instance in the movie where the direction trumps the writing).

We are given a taste of what’s to come early on in the movie with a CGI grizzly bear and a cringe-worthy bathtub scene but once the “pincushion” scene happens, it’s apparent that two different forces are at work and one of them may be making you laugh unintentionally. Ineffectual snake-ladies, massive robots leaping about, knife throwing, an oddly filmed running sequence — all these things snowball into a last act that is fun but one trippy ride.

Despite the pastiche of weirdness that becomes the final act, The Wolverine did what it needed to and more — scale things back and focus not just on what a badass Logan is but show his weaknesses to see just how resilient a character he can be. The fact that the movie is one of the more fun and resonant blockbusters to hit screens this summer puts it high up in the ranks of movies this season and X-Men movies in general.

If the post-credits stinger is any indication, The Wolverine could be the wind up for something truly amazing in the X-Men universe. But for now, we can breathe a sigh of relief that we got something that was really freaking good.

8/10

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5 MOST EXCITING COMIC CON REVEALS

Comic Con was last weekend and that’s ok. It’s completely acceptable that money is a thing to me and, as such, I didn’t find myself in San Diego recently, soaking in the gorgeous 70 degree weather and nerd radiation emanating from the convention center. 
I’m fine with that. I’m fine, I said! Stop giving me that look!!!! Damnit, reality is a harsh mistress.
There’s always next year, I guess (maybe more of a possibility than I was thinking). But even though I was thousands of miles away from the epicenter of all things geek-gasm, word still finds it’s way from there to here rather quickly and Thursday to Sunday was still a blur of geek joy for me. There were many announcements, reveals, discussions, etc. that got my curiosity piqued but none quite like these five.


5. 20th Century Fox panel impresses

As far as I’m concerned, 2011 was Fox’s year when it comes to movies.

In addition to delivering the terrific dramedy, The Descendants, the studio produced two of the three best blockbusters that summer: the much needed spark of life for the popular X-Men series, X-Men: First Class, and the new entry to the Planet of the Apes series, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Both were prequels to their respective franchises, both had the odds stacked against them before release and both came out wildly on top.

Now we’ve been given our first looks at the sequels to both.

After Hugh Jackman finished his panel showcasing clips from and questions about The Wolverine, the majority of the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past was brought to the stage. I say the majority because DOFP ties together the original X-Men universe and the First Class universe, all while introducing some new characters while they’re at it so finding a stage to handle all the members of the equal rights/tolerance paralleling series would be a task indeed.

Footage was shown of the Bryan Singer directed mesh-quel, featuring Wolverine jumping back in time and a future Patrick Stewart Professor X coming face to face with past, disheveled James McAvoy Professor X. The audience reportedly went nuts for the footage, as one does.

Between the descriptions of the footage, the accumulation of the cast members and the sneak peeks at the dreaded Sentinel robots at the convention, my anticipation of this movie went from “we’ll see how it turns out” to “we’ll keep a guarded but really excited eye on it.” The movie already secured it’s spot as the most ambitious X-Men outing from the start and as long as it had a good basis and guidance behind it, it could very well usurp First Class as the greatest X-Men movie yet.

May 23 has a big RSVP marked on it in my book.

As if that wasn’t too much to take in, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes‘ mere presence at the panel was enough to go from excitement to elation. Not much footage was complete at the time due to the intricate effects work needed for the apes but a short teaser trailer for the film was reportedly revealed, featuring an ominous Gary Oldman voiceover, a winded Jason Clark running away and a final reveal of an older Caesar, played once again by the irreplaceable Andy Serkis.

DOFP and Apes recently switched release spots, which seems like a better move than not. X-Men can now ride a little more of the good word The Wolverine looks to be getting and Apes can now have an extra two months to brush up on those apes effects and fulfill that late July release spot. Let’s see if they reclaim their throne from two years ago.




4. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” announced

Marvel Studio has a pretty good grasp on this whole “make a gigantic announcement at Comic Con” thing down. Even so, they didn’t fail to surprise this year.

Before the big panels on Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and a surprise Guardians of the Galaxy presentation), geek deity Joss Whedon took the stage to make an announcement regarding the Avengers sequel. We already knew it was hitting in summer 2015 and that Whedon and the core cast would return. What we didn’t know was what the focus of the movie would be or who the main antagonist is. This reveal seems to answer those questions more than adequately.

Trying to tackle Ultron in the next movie is an interesting challenge indeed, especially when the malevolent A.I.’s creator, Hank Pym/Antman, has been confirmed to be absent from the movie. It wasn’t a massive reveal of plot details or other spoilers but unveiling this subtitle alone gives the best first idea of how the next Marvel movies are going to turn to reach this point in the universe and reassurance that they’ve got a few surprises up their sleeves by not going with the Thanos route (at least immediately).

Well played, once again Marvel.




3. “Legend of Korra” returning in September


The absolute best example of animated storytelling on television today is finally returning. Sure, it’s only been 11 months since it finished its debut season but one does not simply get enough of The Legend of Korra.

Since the very instant the first season ended I’ve been waiting for the next to start. The emotional story, the gorgeous animation stylings, the vocal talent, the top-notch music — it’s amazingly addictive how well they mesh to make a show so stellar.

And now we’re getting more!

No exact date has been announced for the premier date but we do know that September is the month to watch and that Korra’s next adventure will take a turn for the spiritual side and feature new voice cast additions like Grey DeLisle, Aubrey Plaza, James Remar, and Lisa Edelstein.





2. Hans Zimmer scoring “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”


There’s a lot to be excited for in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The origin story is out of the way now, Electro looks to be an ominous and imposing foe along with some talk of Goblins, and we get to watch this Peter Parker progress in the more relateable way this series presents.

However, nothing tops this development. Nothing.

First, I will add that there’s a part of me that’s sad to see James Horner go. Horner’s music added so much to the first movie and in all fairness his score was probably the best of last summer. Much respect to the man for his superb contribution.

Now then, did you hear the part about the next Spidey movie being scored Hans Zimmer?  Is that not amazing, pardon the pun? The man has certainly been busy monopolizing the sound of nearly every superhero  movie around lately. I’m bursting at the seams waiting to hear the soundscape Zimmer will use to capture a sound that’s unique to the webslinger. I honestly thought I couldn’t be any more excited for ASM 2. I was wrong.




1. This s*** is happening. For real.


So, um… yeah. The Man of Steel sequel is going to have Batman in it. I’m sure you heard that correctly but just in case the reality of the situation hasn’t sunk in yet, THE MAN OF STEEL SEQUEL IS GOING TO HAVE BATMAN IN IT!!!!!

Cavill’s back as Superman. Goyer’s back on writing duties. Nolan’s back producing. Snyder’s behind camera once again. This is confirmed.

Oh, but there’s so many questions to be answered. Will Batman outshine Superman in his own sequel? How antagonistic will their interactions be? Will there be consequences after Man of Steel‘s ending? What if they don’t cast Karl Urban as Batman?

And yet, I’m perfectly content waiting to hear the answers to these questions over the next few months. This has been so long in the waiting that simply hearing that it’s 100% happening was enough to set me (and apparently many others) on high.

Let the slow, steady stream of info roll on through!

UPCOMING HOME VIDEO RELEASES (MAY 2013 RELEASES)

It’s baaaack.

Yes, glad to hear this segment went over so well and because it did, I’m glad to continue bringing the home video deets as soon as I can and continue to update this page with more official info as it becomes available.

Iron Man 3 (September 24 — Rental, October 22)

What is arguably the best superhero movie, and movie in general of the summer makes it home video debut in the regular late September slot. There was some early word that it may street in the last week of August but it seems Disney/Marvel is quite comfortable sticking to the plan (especially when the likes of Pain and Gain and another later entry are also going with that day).

Shane Black’s take on the armored Avenger is much different from what’s come before and that’s a good thing. It’s still got a stellar cast and the zippy humor is better than ever but more importantly the character focuses are even stronger. For once it feels like you’re allowed to care about Tony and the gang, even if it’s still fairly certain they’ll make it out unscathed in the end. Villains could still use some work, with the Extremis aspect of the show being rather underplotted and a twist with The Mandarin that’s still sitting in the 50/50 range.

Even with these gripes Iron Man 3 has held up as the most enjoyable superhero movie of the year and my personal favorite of both the summer and 2013 in general. I’d be more than happy to purchase it on Blu-Ray (which I’m sure will look and sound magical), and with the bonus features added here, it may be one of the most acclaimed disc sets of this year. Included are several deleted scenes (a must because who doesn’t love more RDJ), a Marvel-One Shot featuring one of the best things about Captain America: TFA, Peggy Carter; a sneak peek at Thor: The Dark World, and, as they say, more!

This is definitely on to add to the collection, post haste!

Must Own!


The Great Gatsby (August 27 — Rental, September 24)

The longest, shallowest music video to hit theaters this summer slogs its way to video in late August.

I can’t say how being a fan of the book would impact one’s take on the recent movie but Baz Luhrman’s adaption of Fitzgerald’s novel is universally style over substance. It has some decent performances and it sure may look and sound pretty in HD but those seeking more than that may be turned off, bored, or a combination of the two by the recent over-long snoozefest.

Rent…Maybe

Star Trek Into Darkness (September 10)

Star Trek Into Darkness was one of my top anticipated movies this year. I honestly couldn’t wait for the next outing in J.J. Abrams’ revamped universe to hit home like the first movie did. What I got was fun — simply fun.

Looking back now, I probably should have scanned over who was in charge of the script in order to readjust my expectations. Damon Lindelof’s name on the roster should have been a better indication that the movie would have hollow, stolen moments from previous Star Trek movies, a massively mishandled villain, and less of a punch to it overall.

Into Darkness is still a fun movie, to be sure.  Everything looks and sounds top notch and the cast continues to play off each other exceedingly well. I’ll be kicking myself on my oversight in the writing aspect for a while but STID is still one totally re-watchable movie.

Paramount is just about the best studio putting out Blu-Rays right now. The picture is always gorgeous, the sound rocks (quite literally) and the special features are plentiful, especially in this case. Take into account that the 2D combo pack is still selling for the super-reasonable pre-order price of $19.99 and Star Trek Into Darkness bumps itself up to…

Must Own!

Fast and Furious 6 (December 10 — Rental, January 7)

[UPDATE #1, 8/16: word has it the date is being shifted back to December. More info to be announced as available.]

Sorry guys and gals, as of this writing there’s no official announcement on the recent blockbuster. No official date, official artwork, official special features; nothing official. Seeing how it’s one of the biggest movies this year, though, it seemed necessary to pass along the widely circulated release date and the fact that it’s still up for pre-order.

I’ll be updating this area when more word becomes available but just know that Furious 6 (or whatever they’re calling it) is a fun movie in the dumb action movie sense of bare minimum script and characters that does unfortunately run too long, especially in the action set pieces. Regardless, it’s a good bit of simple fun, so…

Rent It!

Now You See Me (September 3)

Now You See Me didn’t do too bad for itself in theaters but it feels like a movie that’s bound to do even better on video and cable, partly because of how it’s made.

That can be taken either way.

The movie is a bit of light, zippy, summer fun on a modest budget with most of the money likely going towards assembling a cast of all stars to play off each other. Unfortunately, for all we know, that money looks to have been siphoned out of the writing portion leading to a script that features bad dialogue, flat characters, and a problematic twist. It’s not a terribly bad movie but it’s not a terribly good one either.

If you find yourself with two hours to kill, you can do a lot worse than Now You See Me.

Rent It


The Rest:

Epic (August 20 — Rental, September 17)

The Hangover Part III (October 8 — Rental, November 5)

After Earth (October 8)

This fucking movie.

The sad thing is that the film fails on almost every level but does nothing so heinous as to deserve any feelings, negative or negative, about it whatsoever (much like Will Smith’s painful performance in the film). And yet, I still roll my eyes every time I think about it and attempt to pretend it doesn’t exist, and more importantly, that I didn’t spend almost $9 on admission.

If there’s any trace chance you think that this is a “so bad it’s good” movie, sweep it away because you’re in for five minutes of hilarity and over 90 more of stagnant boredom.

Run! Run from the bullshit!

PACIFIC RIM REVIEW

Just when I thought my anticipation for giant robot movies had been absolutely slaughtered by the Transformers movies, along comes a movie that made me hear the heartbeats under the floorboards.

Deserving of neither its moderate flop status at the box office or its christening as the “best movie of the summer” by geeks across the land, Pacific Rim is a fun, fun movie. Far from a perfect one, but fun none the less.

The thing that keeps Pacific Rim so enjoyable (and head and shoulders above Michael Bay’s wretched film abortions) is the enthusiasm that went into it. There’s not an ounce of cynicism to be found in Guillermo Del Toro’s love letter to classic kaiju movies and other material  in the mythology. It’s a shame that it even needs to be pointed out but if a filmmaker has decent material and is happy to make their movie, that same enjoyment will find its way to audience members.

This is the biggest asset Pacific Rim has — its material is decent but the glee of its director elevates it to something more than that.

Pacific Rim is a big-screen cartoon. Everyone expects this for what they came to see (giant robots punching giant monsters) but where it’s really apparent is actually in the story and human elements. We pick up the story, not at the beginning of the kaiju invasion, but at the ending days.

Whereas almost every other blockbuster nowadays opt to start at the origin in hopes of a trilogy, having PR feature the end of this saga is refreshing, like jumping back into a familiar tv series after a while once it’s approaching its final story arc.

Similarly, the human element of the movie is just as simple and in-line with the source material as the robots they’re inhabiting. Two main characters with a traumatic past, the badass general, the kooky/crazy scientists, the flashy criminal — all these one dimensional characters are present, yet actually fun to watch because the movie knows what it is.

Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman — each character steals the show at least once… with the exception of the two leads. “Not-Heath Ledger” and “Still kind of struggling with English” are given the thankless hero task and may have had some depth in a movie that didn’t go for the simple and sweet approach. As is, they’re left to get the job done and nothing more.

The action is big and ridiculous but thankfully not a completely incomparable mashing of garbage. These massive Jaegers have weight to them, allowing for some time to soak in the layout of the piece. The camera is put in a place where most everything can be taken in, yet only the Hong Kong throwdown and news clips from a brief skirmish are the only brawls that are completely understandable to the eye.

Every other action piece is obscured by the cloak of night and a thick curtain of rain. I’m guessing the final battle was cool since barely anything was comprehensible. Unlike the rain and nighttime, having the final fight take place under water made sense from a story angle but from a visual angle, the dark, murky atmosphere and separate battles going on forced into crappy action territory whereas the rest of the movie was doing mostly exceptional on visuals.

All of the monsters looking exactly the same and movie running a lot longer than necessary don’t really help matters any but this may just be a movie to give some leverage to. Had Del Toro taken this project on as an obligation or an easy money-maker, the whole perception of the movie would have been skewed.

Instead, it’s just a movie for everyone involved with to have fun with, behind the camera and in the audience. There’s no cynical approach, no dumb/inappropriate jokes — just simple, true to its roots popcorn entertainment. And sometimes that’s something to be commended.

7/10

ENDER’S GAME OVER

The value of saying “I Can’t Go For That” every now and then

I try, I really do.

I want to say I’ve seen every movie out there but it’d be like saying I’ve smashed every wasp out there — you get a good number down then 30 from another nest you forgot about come and deal you bloody vengeance (it’s wasp season, if you didn’t pick up on that).

There are countless movies from past years that need to be looked upon but trying to catch all the movies in the theaters is challenge enough. Even then, not all can be viewed. Some you already know how they’ll turn out (Grown Ups 2), some you forget even existed (Red 2) and some you probably should have forgotten existed (After Earth).

Then there are the ones you say “No” to.

Beyond simply looking sub-par, these special examples transcend the medium and represent an actual attack against humanity and all things good. The only response is to avoid any physical contact between it and your money.

Through little fault of it’s own, Ender’s Game is now one of those examples.

The story itself is far from being the issue here. A beloved sci-fi classic, it tells of a futuristic Earth under attack from invaders that turns to children to be the next wave of ruthless, brilliant soldiers in the fight for the planet. Sci-fi fans continue to go nuts over the book to this day and it’s not because of its hot-button issues (taking place hundreds of years from now and all).

The viewpoints of the book’s author are another matter entirely.

Orson Scott Card has been more than vocal about his viewpoints on homosexuality and gay marriage in the past, for which you can read a good summation of them here. Long story short, he goes into a delusional rant  disguised as a thesis on how the teaching of heterosexuality and other “traditional values” will be stamped out if gay marriage is legal and how homosexuality should be strictly outlawed in society.

This is not a case of “I thought that then but have since soften with the times” either, as we’ve started to see with this issue. Card has stuck by these opinions since his statement in 1990 and perhaps even intensified his crusade.

There was always bound to be controversy when the movie was announced, and while Summit tried to sweep it under the rug by stating Card was simply a “consultant” or such, it wasn’t until just recently that GeeksOUT started a “Skip Ender’s Game” pledge asking for fans to keep their money far away from Card.

Card’s response to this petition was essentially “let’s hope the gays finally show some tolerance towards homophobes now that they’ve taken over.”

There are always bound to be those artists you disagree with. I think Bruce Willis’ conservative beliefs lead him to take the money on every bargain-bin script he’s offered, but at least every now and then there’s something like Looper in the mix. Quentin Tarantino continues to be a childish, self-obsessed douchebag, but he’ll sometimes turn in an amusing movie. Frank Miller is a complete and total cock when it comes to many things, but… no, nevermind, I’m done with him.

The difference is that so few of these people I disagree with have such harmful and regressive views on other human beings that it makes them appear to actually wish for the world to look as distopian and uninviting as the stories in the genre they write for.

“Those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”

This is seriously what this man believes in for other people. This is beyond having an asshole-ish opinion — it’s what it looks like to be inhuman.

Card has every right to speak his mind but as someone who gets his money from sales of books, comics and movie tickets, myself and others have the right to deny him that. Card may have been demoted to the boogieman behind the curtain, but in this case, paying to see Ender’s Game in any way will be the equivalent of wadding up a handful of cash, hurling it at Card and saying “I agree with you and all your bullshit!”


And so, four months from its release date, I’m removing my hat from the ring on going out and seeing Ender’s Game. Nothing is ever for certain, though. There may be some crazy situation where a friend may proclaim “Say, I love that one book written by that one repugnant shit-head. Let’s go see the movie,” and I may reply “Yes, I’ve put myself in a drunken stupor and am ready to go back on my principles.”


But let’s assume that doesn’t happen. 

I’d like to think the movie won’t get any unwarranted exposure because of this (probably in vain) and that most of you would join me in skipping this one, but I assume you all can make your own decisions.

I’ll assume  the movie will turn out as it looks — the two kids from Hugo and True Grit will be good, Harrison Ford will be scowly, the dialogue will be stilted, the visual effects will be the best effort a sophomore studio like Summit can produce (as in, not that great), and people will once again come back to the truth that the book is always better than the movie.

But that’s all I’d care to do — assume. Life’s too short and there are so many other wasps to swat.

IRON MAN 3, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS & MAN OF STEEL SCORES

Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler) – 


With the exception of Alan Silvestri returning for The Avengers after scoring Captain America, Marvel has generally sought a different musical identity with each of their Phase 1 films. But with this new Iron Man score and Tyler assuming duties for the upcoming Thor: The Dark World from Patrick Doyle, this looks to change up a bit for their Phase 2 movies.

The Iron Man movies all stand apart from one another, part of that being due to each movie having a different composer and, by default, a different theme. Ramin Djawadi’s score for the first movie had its simple, catchy moments and a decent theme, yet felt smaller than a movie like that might suggest. John Debney amped things up a bit for the sequel and kept things fun and light but the music remained in the standard fare category.

So how does Marvel newcomer composer Brian Tyler’s score stack up in this series? Surprise or not, mostly in the same league as the others while adding some new strengths to the mix.

Tyler’s score is by far the biggest Iron Man score yet and occasionally outshines other Marvel scores that are more inclined to be so grandiose. We’re talking full orchestra, choir, added guitars — the whole deal.

While it’s not expected to become legendary any time soon, the theme of Iron Man 3 is a few steps ahead of its predecessors. The motif for Stark and his metallic alter-ego makes no bones about being a full-fledged hero theme and even plays around with something of a key shift in the end of the phrase (geeky little aside).

Unfortunately, like the last two movies and most Marvel movies in general, we still don’t have a real, standout theme for our villains. Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to get more than just seething bass figures and expository drum hits.

Iron Man 3‘s score essentially has three modes: action/intense brooding stuff, badass tongue-in-cheek moments, and everything else.

“Everything else” boils down to the cutesy emotional moments like the tracks “New Beginnings”, highlighting Stark’s new lease on life and “Extremis”, meant to convey the wonder of this new virus’ capabilities. These tracks don’t add terribly much to the mix but are a nice breather from the overall seriousness of the album.

The action and intense brooding tracks are often intermixed, making it hard to differentiate the two. A standalone brooding track is “The Mandarin”, used during the terrorist’s videos. “Dive Bombers” is an interesting mix of the two, being technically light on music, using rhythmic percussion to drive up intensity during the Air Force One rescue scene and ending with the Iron Man theme in all its glory.

“Heat and Iron” and “Battle Finale” make up the final battle music at its most thematically bombastic, just like “Attack on 10880 Malibu Point.” These three tracks are the definitive action tracks of the score and should easily satisfy anyone seeking true action music.

But it’s in the two badass tongue-in-cheek tracks that really give the score it’s shining moments and sets it apart from previous Iron Man scores. The second half of “The Mechanic” sees Stark’s McGuyver/Unibomber stint as he infiltrates The Mandarin’s compound and  brings it to life with a jaunty super-spy basis, complete with added guitar and the theme weaved in. Let’s not forget the quick cameo by sleigh bells. It is a highly addicting deviation and one that shows this score wasn’t just going through the motions.

The other definitive track on the score is “Can You Dig It”, the infectious ’70s TV show rock version of the main theme played over the end credits. It was an original way to do an end credits sequence in the movie and its a memorable way to do it musically.

Most of the tracks are solid but these two are exceptional — almost worth the whole album price.

However, just like many score albums these days, the tracks are not in the same order as the movie. This is something I still cannot understand because if it’s good enough to successfully match the flow of the movie, why can’t it do the same on its own?

As is, the album runs a little long with things getting somewhat stale in the middle.

Gripes aside, Tyler’s work on Iron Man 3 is good solid fun with two phenomenal standout tracks. Pick and choose what you will for most tracks but be sure to listen to “The Mechanic” and”Can You Dig It”.

On CD: 3.5/5
As Written for Film: 4/5

Star Trek Into Darkness (Michael Giacchino) – 

There’s a reason people call Michael Giacchino the new John Williams. Since he first appeared on the scene with his work on Pixar movies, his scores have become something to look forward to in their own right (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has even more going for it now). 

His breathtaking work on the first of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies did the movie an enormous service in bringing that world to life. Now, Giacchino is back for the sequel and, like the movie itself, upping the ante for a more intense second outing.

Star Trek Into Darkness is comprised of big moments and appropriately its score is a massive one, utilizing the full orchestra every chance it gets for those big moments. Big action set pieces are met in full with big emotional beats.

Nothing encapsulates the full raucous action/adventure spectacle like “The Kronos Wartet.” Many tracks have whimsical adventure seeping from them but the first minute and a half of this one tops them all in intensity. The full-on ferocity of the Klingon pursuit scene’s music, complete with chanting choirs and 7/8 time, is a thrill ride in itself and had the 5:30 track not been comprised mostly of buildup music to the next action scene, it would have been a masterful track to play on loop. As is, it’s simply memorable and fun.

On the other side of the coin of massiveness is “Warp Core Values,” a sweeping track of sacrifice for the greater good, which will rip those emotions out of you, whether you want it or not.

And yet, for all the big sounds at play, it’s the more restrained tracks that make more of an impression. The intimate sounds of the piano in “London Calling” and “Buying the Space Farm” bring a depth that the script couldn’t, the former being something of a revelation for a summer blockbuster score for just how personal it sounds.

Even the big baddie’s theme (a simple three-note figure on loop, of which there is somehow still not enough of on the album) works best when it’s creeping around in the background instead of blaring in the forefront.

One of the movie’s biggest flaws was that its parts were impersonally harvested from previous Star Trek movies. Thankfully, that’s not a problem that carried over to the musical side of things. The theme established in the first movie returns but by and large the music presented here is written specifically for the movie. While it’s good that Giacchino isn’t falling back on previous material, it almost goes too far in the other direction.

In writing music specifically for each scene, there is a lack of thematic flow-through. Everything presented can feel segmented instead of being one big musical piece. It’s not the worst problem to have since much of the music fits what’s on screen like a glove but it keeps the album from being truly top-notch.

The future of Abrams’ Star Trek movies is a mystery (seeing how another well-known space epic is set to go under his hand) but even if number 3 is not to be, we can all rest easy knowing that Giacchino has put forth another saga of great movie music.

On CD: 3.5/5
As Written For Film: 4.5/5 

Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer) –

Before we begin, a question for you: Is it even feasible to still compare any score to the work of John Williams, the undisputed king of film music?

Answer: No, stop doing that.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the scoop. Hans Zimmer’s work on the now finished triage of Batman movies left quite the mark on modern film music, enough to bring serious consideration his way for DC’s other, more colorful and optimistic hero.

While the darker, more aggressive style Zimmer has perfected as of late may not seem automatically suited for the normally cheery Superman, his work here sets the tone for the entire new take on the man of steel, not just in the more somber, intense action of it but in personifying the themes of hope and pursuing goodness that are prevalent in the movie, making for a unique score all its own.

Zimmer’s score here is powerful. Not loud — powerful. Yes, it’s high on the decibel meter (what score of his isn’t?) but for every drum hit or synthesized effect, there are both swells and quiet moments that tap into the themes that run under the surface in a gorgeous way, be it both bombastic or intimate. Much as his work on Batman was a turning point for that character, his work here is key to establishing the current take on the character and he nailed it. The score to Man of Steel is one of the best so far this year.

True to his approach on the Batman movies, Zimmer works by layering themes for certain parts of the movie rather than one main one. The use of triplet figures and the major fourths and fifths theoretically ties together the whole sonic universe while different motifs and instruments signify their own things.

Zimmer has an array of new sounds at work, including an ethereal synthesizer akin to a wet finger circling the rim of a half-full wine glass to signify big blue’s home world and slide guitar to capture the magic of flight.

The very first recurring aspect is the repeated use of the major fourth sound, which acts as effective foreshadowing. We know that Superman is off in the distance but as the simple musical idea develops from backing to theme, so too does our hero’s path to superheroism.

The first and biggest emotional impact that is made in the movie is found in “Goodbye My Son.” The lullaby-esque female voice humming those sorrowful notes as a mother and father give up their son hits home. Lucky for us the goosebump-inducing theme we’re introduced to does come back several times. For clarity’s sake, it morphs into what could be called the “Superman theme.”

Almost as a dark mirror to the aspects in Superman’s theme, the theme for Zod and his fellow Kryptonians is an identifiable, assertive march forward that will beat its way into your consciousness once heard. Not as overwhelmingly aggressive as Bane’s theme but still in that vein of repetition for a similarly powerful military villain. The tune hits its biggest point in “I Will Find Him,” titled after the lolsy line in the beginning of the film.

As an album, this is Zimmer’s least aggravating release in quite some time. Nowhere in sight are the countless remixes that plague his albums (unless you buy the delux edition). Although in somewhat jumbled order, most of the material that appears on screen makes it to the final album cut. Only Lois’ escape from Zod’s ship is noticeably missing. Otherwise, even with the slight changes in order, the album itself is highly listenable, with all but a few tracks building upon each other whilst providing new material to enjoy.

As a score, Zimmer’s work here is fantastic. The breathtaking new soundscape does a perfect job of conveying the tone of the new world and gives some more-than-decent themes as well. Zimmer’s music not only fits in perfectly with this new Superman series, it’s a cornerstone in defining it.

On CD: 4/5
As Written For Film: 5/5