Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Music for a Norse God

Unfortunately composer Patrick Doyle was not brought back for the "Thor" sequel opening this Friday. Here is a look back at his outstanding score for the highly enjoyable 2011 blockbuster film.

When Marvel began to execute its elaborate setup for the event blockbuster movie “The Avengers”, perhaps the most challenging character to adapt was Thor. Not only was the challenge met, “Thor” (2011) is arguably the best of “The Avengers” prequel character films.
Cinematic Shakespearean guru Kenneth Branagh was the perfect choice to helm what is essentially a Shakespeare drama told in the entertaining and colorful trappings of a comic book opera. The astute Branagh assured the success of the Norse god’s big screen transformation by casting the charismatic Chris Hemsworth as the title character and fan favorite Natalie Portman as his love interest.

To create the musical voice of the film Branagh brought along his long time composer Patrick Doyle. The result is a majestic score, full of soaring themes and heartfelt wonder that elevates the film to an entire new level and is a fully engaging listening experience on its own.
It is impossible to talk about Patrick Doyle’s score to“Thor” without mentioning the composer’s other outstanding soundtrack in 2011, “Rise of the Planets of Apes”. As is the case when a composer creates two scores around the same time and in related genres, there is a similar feel, texture, and tempo shared by the two soundtracks as well as similar motifs.
Given the fantastical nature of “Thor”, (we are talking about a Viking god with a magical hammer after all) it called on Doyle to help carry the film much more so than in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, which is really an intimate coming of age story. In both movies the composer succeeds beyond all expectations and creates memorable music that stays with the listener.

The soundtrack album to “Thor” begins with “Chasing the Storm”, a foreshadowing cue that hints at that the lurking danger and drama ahead. In Track two, “Prologue”, we are introduced to the main theme, a buoyant musical blast of royal optimism that captures the mythological world of Asgard in pitch perfect fashion.
In tracks three and four, “Sons of Odin” and “A New King”, the confident composer ups the ante by giving us bold and fully developed statements of his themes. These two wondrous cues lay the emotional groundwork for the material that will anchor the entire score. The excitement and drama continue to build throughout the next several tracks highlighted by the exciting action piece “Frost Giant Battle” and the dramatic “Crisis in Angard”.

“Thor” has plenty of emotional material, all of it fully developed and spot on. Track 19, the deeply moving “Forgive Me”, and track 22, “Letting Go”, are among the best cues on any soundtracks from any new releases over the last couple of years. Just like Doyle’s other 2011 work, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, “Thor” is a score with heart.

Patrick Doyle had a banner year in 2011 and proved once again he is a composer who can create deeply affecting music. “Thor” is a knockout soundtrack that engages the listener with every note on every track from start to finish. It represents intelligent, exciting blockbuster scoring at its absolute best and ranks alongside Doyle’s “Rise of the Planets of the Apes” and John William’s two Oscar nominated scores (“War Horse”“The Adventures of Tintin”) as the best scores of 2011.

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