Most of us believe that the storyline or plot drives a film, bringing us to those epic climaxes and curating all of our perfectly-timed emotions. However, a lot of what creates those feelings actually stems from the fantastic musical scores you hear throughout them. Music has a magical way of bringing an audience to tears, or fill them with laughter or excitement. We will explore some of the top movies adapted from famous comic books and superhero stories where the plot is driven strongly by its musical score.
Guardians of the Galaxy
One of the most memorable pieces of this hit movie was the vision of Chris Pratt’s character, Peter Quill, with his walkman, playing his Awesome Mix Vol 1 and hearing the beginning of Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” and a great little dance scene. The music plays a major role within the movie, and all of the 1970’s songs that are played fill the storyline in a unique way. There is even a list of songs that didn’t make the final cut that were considered.
The gimmick of the Star-Lord in space and these well-known tunes playing demonstrate and set the comical atmosphere, helping the audience to feel even though this is an adventurous and otherwise out-of-reach place, it is still relatable. It reminds the audience that the title character is still someone from planet Earth who is just like anyone else. Taylor Bates expertly crafted the score first so that he could produce the film to the music, as opposed to scoring to the film.
The original Tim Burton film Batman features arguably one of the best musical scores to encapsulate the feelings of suspense and excitement. With dark, ominous tones, the artist formerly known as Prince was the composer for this epic movie, which set the standard for many Batman films to come (i.e. The Dark Knight). The best part about this score is that the moods of the music completely play to the moods felt throughout the film, and it includes a great variety from some funky jams to ballads.
It’s difficult to top the king of all hero soundtrack producers, John Williams. In this case, Superman is one of the best hero anthems of all time, with incredible sounding brass instruments and strong orchestral compositions. The musical score captures the optimism you feel when he comes to “save the day,” and the orchestra seems to just get it right, striking chords to stir nostalgia and longing before tying that feeling of power in for the title superhero. The main Superman tune is the most memorable and likely one of the most identifiable character themes, but the soundtrack as a whole is worth a full listen to.
While some of these movies demonstrate the use of music that was already made by bands or musical artists, movies like Superman utilized brand new music created just for the film, giving the picture a truly organic score. Because of this, the music actually aided in encompassing all of the emotions of the story, rather than just complementing the plot. If music will play a direct role in pivotal scenes, producers and directors will oftentimes enlist the services of a music production company where they can establish and design customized tracks to perfectly fit the film.
This soundtrack was a spot-on depiction of the film’s vibe – and it contains a mix of classic, well-known songs in addition to original music. Such a mashup doesn’t seem like it would fit but it works well for this picture, and the title character seems to be the main influence. There are beats, some industrial sounds, rock style, and then it gets mixed up with some older hits like “Angel of the Morning” by Juice Newton and “Shoop,” by Salt n Pepa, giving way to the comedic scenes.
The cool thing about this movie is that the composer, Tom Holkenburg, utilized specific instruments to differentiate the moods for certain scenes, which really shows the thought that went into the music to design such an array of feelings. He used a digital synthesizer known as a Synclaviar for the action-packed fight mantras. The other instrument that gave a more emotional sense to his scenes was an Oberheim.
The Dark Knight
Hans Zimmer is well-known for his musical scores as he took on what most comic book lovers say is the best one of all time. He collaborated with John Newton Howard for this particular film’s music. The movie itself is a great work of art, solidifying Heath Ledger’s undeniable talent as The Joker, but the music really brings his presence to life in each scene with sinister beats and simplistic piano wire sound design – especially every time you start to hear his own origin story of how he got his scars. The whole movie has a dark, morbid feel to it, and the two composers expertly catch that feeling, using brass overtop of heavier undertones to give it more anticipation for the bigger action scenes.
Movie Music Tells the Story
The art of a comic book or superhero soundtrack has flourished, especially since more and more popular comics have been turned into hit films. Musical scores have long been fit into movies to help drive the plot, but with these particular comic book stories, there has been a greater obstacle to overcome: pleasing the readers who enjoyed the books long before the movies came to be.
Composers have released hundreds of new songs to accompany the men and women in capes using vigilante justice to save the innocent, so there are many more soundtracks that you should still give a listen to, including Wonderwoman, The Watchmen, and The Avengers, to name a few. Compositions created by sound designers, musicians, and producers have really paved the way for finding appropriate context within scenes, some becoming famous theme songs that will never die. Behind every great superhero or comic book, there is an amazing soundtrack.
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