Re: The Star Wars 7 Thread (SPOILERS. SERIOUSLY. ALL THE SPOILERS.)
Alright, I'm sorta drunk so bear with me. Please excuse any typos.
"I'm amazed it's as good as it is consider how old Williams is."
"He's not as melodic as he used to be."
I don't think these problems are his fault. Thankfully, composing music is one of those things that you only really get better at. If he's getting worse at writing music (he's not), it's only because his brain is declining (it isn't). I've been privy to a small amount of info regarding the creation of this score, and he was given as much flexibility (in terms of time and working conditions) as any composer could ever conceivably hope to have. And JJ definitely wasn't fucking around with his music, because he's a lifelong fan--getting to work with Williams was quite possibly *the* highlight of directing TFA, except for obviously actually directing it.
I was incredibly disappointed with this score. If you had told me that I would walk away from Ep VII with only a handful of criticisms and one of the biggest was the SCORE?! I'd tell you you were crazy. I went in to this movie thinking that even if it were as bad as Ep I, we're guaran-fucking-TEED another fantastic Williams score. He brought the pain on the prequels, just as he's always done for every single score he's ever touched.
But like I said, I don't think the fault lies with Williams. This score was, in a phrase, incredibly indicative of where film scoring as a whole is in 2015/2016.
I don't know this for sure, but my gut tells me our fingers should be pointed at whatever roundtable of producers at Disney were giving the final word. Imagine: so many producers (i.e. "the suits," in the worst cases, though there are many fantastic producers, contrary to popular opinion) at Disney have climbed the corporate ladder to arrive at this moment. Their money-making boners are harder than carbonite. They are in charge in STAR FUCKING WARS and are about to make a shit ton of money. Possibly the most money a movie has ever made. And they want to exert their control over every aspect of the thing. I can totally see them going, "Yeah, that theme is a little too...what do you call it...melodic? Tone it back there Jimbo, we don't know if you're gonna be around to score this whole trilogy so we need to be sure the other guys can match the bar you set." Not that it's the fault of many of the other incredibly talented composers working today that they don't get a chance to show what they can do. The needs of scoring have changed.
Side-note: I've seen this sort of thing happen. When I was working for a certain Mr. Big Time Composer, I saw some producers for a certain film complete disregard who he is and his history and frankly treat him like shit. They didn't care, because it was Their Movie and there was Money To Be Made and egos to be stroked, so Fuck You and your supposed Legacy, or let alone how much better you could make this movie if we just let you do your job.
So that's one thing.
Here's what we do know about the TFA score: Many "suites" of music were composed, roughly 10 to 20 minutes each, and were edited to picture by a music editor. Why? Because the nature of filmmaking now is to frame fuck until the very last minute. When the cut was set, composers could write music that was intricate and interesting--TO picture--and know that what they were going to record at the scoring stage was going to be in the movie (or maybe there would be a few minor cut changes, but nothing a good music editor can't handle).
Intricate and interesting music takes a shit load of time. It's very difficult and takes a lot of internal revisions before it even makes its way to the ears of the director. Also, scores used to only be run by the director and *maybe* a producer or two, but now there are legions of producers on every film and they all want their say. So we end up with a lowest common denominator score--and what's worse, one that's decided by people that very often have no taste and only have their job because they have money.
So J-Dawg now has to deal with getting his score past a committee and has to make sure that his music can work with the changing-every-second picture cut, so what does he do? He does what Zimmer and many other composers do: he records suites (that are all relatively boring, musically speaking--in 4/4, usually mezzoforte or forte) and says, "Fuck it, you deal with it" to the music editor. Can you blame him?
That explains the general feeling of "flatness" throughout the score. Also, he didn't record with the LSO at Abbey Road, but instead recorded with LA musicians here (I believe at WB but I'm not sure). It's a different sounding room, so that effects things. And frankly, the LA studio orchestra(s) just aren't as tight as they used to be. There's a whole big thing about the union fucking shit up...long story...but basically what you need to know is that thirty years ago the scoring stages were packed every single day. And now, I feel like every year another scoring stage shuts down. London, on the other hand, still gets a decent amount of work, so the LSO is very tight and plays together well. So the performance wasn't as awesome as it could have been.
That's all stuff that's obviously outside of JW's control. But...
The themes just weren't there. Disregarding the amazing dynanicism (is that a word?) of the other Star Wars scores, the thing that ties them together and makes them so powerful is their use of themes. And can we sing any of the new themes? I can sing The First Order/Kylo Ren's (are they the same theme?), but that isn't so much a theme as it is a phrase. It's too short to be a theme. That's one of Williams' incredible skills--he can whittle a musical phrase down to its essential parts so that it can be transported to any number of places and used in any number of dramatic or musical ways, but it also contains enough information and holds enough weight to stand up on its own. That is a theme. The First Order "theme" is a phrase, not a theme. It's a sonic signature.
Conversely, Rey's theme (while beautiful--it's my favorite from the movie) is too long. There's no "essential nugget" to it. It takes a while to get going, and you sort of have to get through the whole thing for it to feel complete. There's a lot of moving parts. You can't insert the melody here and there in all sorts of different ways like you can with Luke's theme or Vader's theme.
Is that the fault of Williams? Hard to say, but again, given his track record, I don't think it is. His writing is just too masterful. It's like, if Bernie Sanders suddenly voted on something that boiled down to, "fuck the poor and fuck racial minorities," wouldn't you suspect that there might be some tomfuckery? I feel like Williams got jerked around a lot in the pre-production process of the score, and then had to deal with the consequences as he finished it.
He's a decent composer, and he may very well be incredible (one of the unfortunate side effects of the state of scoring in the 21st century is that the music that is wanted never requires a good composer to fire on all compositional cylinders), but now that JJ is no longer involved, I don't see any reason to invoke his name over far more qualified composers. First, JW hasn't said that he's going anywhere. I hope he doesn't.
But if he does, Kyle Newmaster and/or Gordy Haab are *the* best composers for the job. They get JW's style and have both proven it in multiple Star Wars projects. Bill Ross is also a great choice. He did the Chamber of Secrets score and no one was the wiser. Lastly, Thomas Newman was suggested by Williams to Spielberg for Bridge of Spies. Before Skyfall, I wouldn't have said that Newman was the right guy for big sweeping orchestral scores, but my opinion has since changed.
And that's *it.* Aside from working with JJ and scoring another geek franchise with the word "Star" in it, Giacchino has no more reason to be named along side those fine gentleman than any other composer--most of whom have zero business even presuming that they could be named along side them in their dreams.
One of the crazy things about Williams is that, aside from Morricone and Goldsmith, he is head and fucking shoulders above every other person working in the field. Like, to a degree that doesn't exist in other fields. I guess put Elon Musk in the world of Ideocracy, and then make him whatever job requires the least amount of intellect and compare him to his coworkers, and then *maybe* you have a comparable scale of "Williams vs Everyone Else." His work is absolute composer porn. There isn't a composer worth his salt in talent or humility that doesn't recognized this. To compare yourself to him is to being a bodybuilder and comparing yourself to Thor.
So the whole replacement thing worries me. If Williams himself isn't shielded from the mechanisms that dumb down the art of film scoring, then no one is. And no one can even do it as good as he does on a bad day, so...I guess I'm scared for the future of Star Wars music and film scoring in general. It seems that we're leaving an era that could only really happen once, and TFA felt like the final nail in the coffin.
Last edited by Alex (2016-01-21 08:54:57)