Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In Context - The Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack

Over the last year, my expectations for Marvel's most daring comic-to-film endeavour to date, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, has been keenly on the rise.  It truly started with the news that director, James Gunn, had had composer TYLER BATES write music early enough to actually be used on stage during filming in order to hopefully enhance the actors performance that much more.  Later, the teaser trailer made it clear that this Marvel film was going to double-down on Marvel's propensity for making sure "fun" was a significant ingredient of the film's tone.  Then, just days ago, the deluxe soundtrack was released giving us both all of the songs from the Seventies and Eighties used strategically throughout the film as well as TYLER BATES' original score.  Being quite pleased with both, I went into GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with as high of expectations as I dare to try these days.

So how does the soundtrack work in context?

First off, the context, itself. The film was simply the most fun I've had at a movie in some years.  While it doesn't topple something like DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES in terms of being top, overall film of the summer (or year thus far), it is clearly the most fun.  In a cinematic world that seems obsessed with darkness and seriousness in it's fantasy and sci-fi films, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a completely refreshing experience.

Now, let's talk about the mix.  I saw this at a press screening at a Regal Cinema.  I sat about 1/3 the way up and on the left-side of the center section.  From that spot, the sound mix I found to be pretty flat and the volume level quite low.  As most know, there are quite a few 70s/80s era songs in the film.  Thankfully, they go beyond just songs for songs-sake and are an integral part of the storyline as well.  While the songs are occasionally relegated to the background in the mix, at some point, most of them are brought boldly to the forefront, eclipsing most all other sound.  TYLER BATES' score; however, rarely receives such treatment and languishes in the background to midground for most the film.

In context, Tyler's score is dynamic and equal to the comedic, sci-fi, thrill-ride that James Gunn has cooked up for audiences.  When it comes to "music you'll remember,"  you may, as I did, be whistling the Bate's main theme as you walk out of the theater.  There are numerous action-opportunities and so the heroic anthem gets a number of raucous performances.  What might surprise you are the more sentimental variations.  Perhaps the second most memorable music piece centers on Groot, who completely wins the crowd over by the movies end.  Groot brings as much heart to the film as Rocket Raccoon brings hilarity, and what appears to be Groot's theme is a magically moving piece of music.

In the end, both the songs and original score combined with Gunn's colorful attention to detail, makes GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY a sensory-rich experience.  (Perhaps a little too rich when it comes to the 3D employed).  While the included songs will likely continue to get the groot-share of the attention in mainstream circles,  TYLER BATES' original score should not be overlooked.  It is easily one of his most embraceable scores to date and, in context, helps to elevate this film to cosmic heights while keeping it firmly connected to the well-established realm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Be on the lookout for my full review of the soundtrack in the days to come.

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