CS Score! Reviews Army of Darkness By Joseph LoDuca & Danny Elfman
Welcome film score lovers to another edition of CS Score!, where we break down all the latest news regarding film scores. This last month saw the release of a couple of high-profile expanded soundtracks, notably the Joseph LoDuca/Danny Elfman collaboration Army of Darkness.
And that’s about it. With no new films on the horizon, it’ll be a while before we get a new soundtrack to kick back and listen to. From the looks of things, Tenet might be the only big blockbuster released this summer, which means Ludwig Göransson’s score will be the next new soundtrack I get to tackle — and that won’t hit shelves until late July. Kinda crazy.
In the meantime, there are plenty of past soundtracks we can re-explore in some way shape or form, including Alan Silvestri’s Avengers: Endgame, which released a year ago. So, let’s get to it. Read!
ARMY OF DARKNESS – JOSEPH LODUCA & DANNY ELFMAN
I’m a sucker for all things Sam Raimi, even his misfires. Spider-Man 3, for example, sucks, but also carries a distinct campy quality one must appreciate. No matter how dramatic the moment, no matter how big the film, you can always hear the director snickering just off camera like a kid shooting spitballs at his math teacher.
Army of Darkness falls somewhere between a hit and a miss for the director. The action-horror film never reaches the high bar (or gore level) set by the previous Evil Dead films, but it doesn’t suck either. In fact, a lot of it is quite great, including the terrific score by Joseph LoDuca (who scored the previous two installments) and co-written by Danny Elfman (whose wife, Bridget Fonda, makes a brief appearance at the beginning of the film), which recently received a brand-new makeover courtesy of Varese Sarabande. (You can purchase the soundtrack here.)
Featuring an appropriately rousing main theme that is equal parts extravagant and tongue-in-cheek, the soundtrack does a fine job lending the film a healthy dose of grandiose adventure without ever losing its absurdist identity. And so, for every bit of dramatic underscore such as the track Give Me Some Sugar/Bone’Anza, you get a wild bit of looney tunes in tracks like Little Ashes and God Save Us. In other words: it’s the perfect musical accompaniment to Army of Darkness.
Part of what makes LoDuca’s score so fun are these wild bits of random playfulness that counter the more adventurous moments. There are cues that sound every bit as epic as Basil Poledouris’ score to Conan the Barbarian and others that sound like they were ripped from a cheesy renaissance play. Darker motifs, such as the eerie synths and voices heard in The Forest of The Dead/Graveyard, which echoes LoDuca’s work on Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, add more flavor to the unique listening experience. At times, it sounds as though the various elements are in direct combat with one another as gothic choruses rage against the more triumphant orchestral bits; and traditional medieval motifs are interrupted by darker, modern fare. It’s quite brilliant.
As mentioned above, Elfman co-wrote the score, though he is mostly attributed to the March of the Dead Theme; a spectacular bit of zany horror music with thundering percussions very reminiscent of the music heard during the march of the penguins in Batman Returns. In fact, Army of Darkness sounds very 90s Elfman, you’d be forgiven for believing he scored the film. It’s no wonder Raimi and the legendary composer worked on so many projects together, including Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, as their sensibilities mesh quite perfectly. (Christopher Young took over the reins on Spidey 3 after the duo had a falling out — a conflict that has since subsided and likely means Elfman will be involved with Raimi’s upcoming Doctor Strange film.)
Army of Darkness remains one of the great soundtracks of the 90s. While admittedly a bit dated, even amidst its shiny new remaster, LoDuca’s work here manages to thrill like so many classic scores from a bygone era. There aren’t many like it.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME – Alan Silvestri
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the biggest movie of all time — or, according to millennials, the greatest movie EVAR — Avengers: Endgame, I deemed this an appropriate time to look back on Alan Silvestri’s epic score. (Plus, as mentioned above, there’s not much else out there!)
Released on April 26, 2019 by Hollywood Records, the lengthy soundtrack — 1 hour and 56 minutes if purchased via digital — is certainly grand in scale with a number of big action pieces, though most of the music is lifted from Infinity War. There aren’t many new ideas or motifs established here, which makes sense considering Endgame marked the end of its first three MCU phases. Yet, despite its epic proportions, Silvestri’s score feels remarkably bland when compared to, say, John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Portals remains the highlight of the Avengers: Endgame album and the track does a fine job of bringing together the various elements of both Infinity War and Endgame whilst also incorporating the classic Avengers theme, but curiously omits other themes used throughout the long-running film series.
Marvel obviously did a lot of things right with its cinematic universe, but really dropped the ball when it came to creating musical continuity. Early entries like Ramin Gjawadi’s Iron Man, Patrick Doyle’s Thor and Silvestri’s own Captain America at least attempted to develop a theme for their heroes. Said themes were practically abandoned in subsequent films save for the occasional reprisal or two.
As such, Silvestri can be forgiven for writing the final two Avengers scores from the ground up; or, building upon themes and motifs he established in Joss Whedon’s 2012 The Avengers. Interestingly, Silvestri also borrows heavily from his (ironically) minimalistic score for Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away for the main theme heard during Endgame’s emotional beats, such as Tony Stark’s funeral.
The Avengers theme, which ranks right up there with Harry Potter, Jurassic Park and Star Wars as most likely to be recognized by a casual filmgoer, appears early and often in Endgame to punctuate heroic moments like the Time Heist; and remains a strong counter to the otherwise regurgitated action music.
Silvestri pumps Endgame with enough juice to make the listening experience enjoyable, even whilst borrowing heavy from his past scores — am I the only one who hears The Polar Express during the final battle? — but one has to wonder what a modern composer might have brought to the table. I find it weird that Hans Zimmer’s themes for Wonder Woman and Superman in the critically panned Snyderverse are more recognizable than anything produced for Marvel’s more popular collection of heroes. Also, #releasethesnydercut.
Ultimately, despite some powerful moments, Avengers: Endgame simply feels more like another Avengers score rather than the culmination of over a decade’s worth of films. There was a chance here to do something truly special. And given the talent involved in these productions, including composers such as Michael Giacchino, Patrick Doyle, Brian Tyler, John Debney, and Tyler Bates, among others, that’s a huge missed opportunity.
As a side, Marvel has crafted stronger scores as of late. Notably, Ludwig Göransson’s Oscar-winning score for Black Panther, which made a brief appearance in Infinity War, Mark Mothersbaugh’s Thor: Ragnarok, and Giacchino’s scores for Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far from Home, respectively. Hopefully, this trend continues … and culminates in a stronger score for the next big Avengers finale.
FILM SCORE NEWS
Legends of the Fall
James Horner’s amazing score to Edward Zwick’s sappy melodrama Legends of the Fall — or the film that made Brad Pitt a household name — finally receives the 2CD complete score treatment, which I will break down in the next Score! Installment. You can purchase your copy here.
According to Variety, Daft Punk has been tapped to compose Italian filmmaker Dario Argento’s next film, titled Occhiali Neri, aka Black Glass. Daft Punk thrilled audiences with their electronic score to Tron: Legacy way back in 2010 but have yet to score another film.