Monday, August 11, 2014

In Context - Need for Speed by Nathan Furst

"Way" back in March of 2014, a rival to the Fast And Furious franchise made its debut.  NEED FOR SPEED, directed by Scott Waugh, was marketed to give us a slightly retro-street-race movie from what the Fast And Furious franchise has evolved into.   Boasting real cars, in-camera effects, and a host of drool-inducing automobiles, NEED FOR SPEED looked to bring the popular and historic game franchise to the big screen in a big way.  Brought on to score the film was previous collaborator, NATHAN FURST, who worked with Waugh on Act of Valor (2012).

Missing out on its theatrical release, I went the VOD (Video on demand) route and watched on my home theater.  I rented the HDX version of the film from Vudu.  Although, my setup is several years old now, I can honestly say that I have, on a number of occasions, had a superior audio/video experience watching a film on my own home theater than watching that same film in one of my local cinemas.  So I'm quite confident that my viewing of Need for Speed in this context delivered an adequate experience from which to base this review.

The visuals of this film are top-notch.  In fact, I was surprised at how crisp the video was.  I completely forgot I was watching a HD-streaming and not blu-ray.  Same goes for the sound.  During the race scenes, the sound of those engines were nothing short of thunderous.  The question is how Furst's score fit into all of that thunder.

In the first half of the film, the races tend to not have any music until about half-way through the segment.  Around that  point in the race, there is some sort of threatening event or issue that arises. It is there that Furst’s score is interjected into the mix to ramp up the tension.  As the film proceeds; however, we get additional and extended, race scenes and the score begins to enter into the mix much earlier.

That said, most of the time, the mix places the score underneath the killer sound effects of the amazing looking and sounding, Mustangs, Agera’s, Lamborghinis, McLarens, and Bugattis.  There were times that the score almost disappeared completely behind it all, which begs the question, "Why have score there at all?"  On the odd occasion, the score would ramp up in volume for a few seconds before getting buried beneath the dust of the sound effects again.

The NEED FOR SPEED score is really built around a main theme representing the protagonist, Toby Marshall.  It starts the film as a low-key, post-modern-rock piece.  It begins with a very spacious guitar over acoustic bass drum beat, placid electronics and strings, but develops, over the course of the film, to become a bold, heroic anthem, bolted out on brass and supported by full orchestra.  It’s really quite a compelling theme and not what one might expect for a film like this and it definitely helps to distinguish this potential franchise from the Fast and Furious.

One last bit of context here - there are several songs which are scattered throughout the film.  Each of these I I found absolutely out of place, distracting, and of pretty poor quality.  Furst’s score far out-classes them, but Interscope Records found them worth releasing on an EP.  NATHAN FURST's score also found a release from Varèse Sarabande on March 14, 2014 and remains widely available.

If you are looking for a slightly different experience from the Fast and Furious, then NEED FOR SPEED might be of interest to you.  If you love the look of real cars doing real racing and sound of muscle and exotic cars, then this film is definitely for you.  Hearing Furst's score in context, might bring a modicum of extra-appreciation to the score, but to really hear what the composer has done for this film, I recommend listening to the original score, instead.

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