by Mike Brennan
SoundtrackNet's Mike Brennan gives us his take on the top ten film, television and videogame scores of 2007.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Hans Zimmer)
Hans Zimmer, along with everyone at Disney, had the daunting task of making the third Pirates film better than the original. While most agree that the film did not quite make it, Zimmer's score went above and beyond expectations. Dead Man's Chest introduced a few new themes and the final score could have easily leaned on the slew of themes from its predecessors, the way Return of the Jedi did, and be a perfectly good score. But instead, Zimmer wrote two new themes, one for the pirate community, which was fleshed out in this film, as well as a lengthy, complicated love theme. The two themes dominated the score, with brief reprisals of past thematic material. The epic, swashbuckling style of this score, combined with new elements like the Sao Feng themes and fun cues like the flipped melodies in "Up is Down" make this one of Zimmer's best scores in years.
2. Medal of Honor: Airborne (Michael Giacchino)
Michael Giacchino returns for one more crack at the Medal of Honor series and, rumored to be his last, goes out with a bang. Easily surpassing his previous efforts, Giacchino does in this score what I'd wanted in the previous ones: he uses the main theme. The Medal of Honor theme appears throughout the score as does his Airborne Theme, which was actually introduced in previous game scores as a secondary theme. Both are used frequently and performed with full patriotic orchestration. Highlights include "Unblocking Utah" and "Paestum Landing".
3. Atonement (Dario Marianelli)
His second project with director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice), Dario Marianelli composed a dramatic underscore for the critically acclaimed film. A mix of romance and World War II battles, Marianelli's music reflects the fusion of both. A creative element thrown into the mix is the use of typewriter clicks as a rhythmic presence. Other moments, such as the haunting vocals in "Elegy for Dunkirk" make this score stand out above other works in the genre.
4. Battlestar Galactica: Season Three (Bear McCreary)
Bear McCreary's music for the Sci Fi Channel series has expanded as the show has broadened the scope and complexity of the Galactica universe. Season 3 saw some incredible sequences, including the "Storming New Caprica" escape. The soundtrack also contains some hidden gems such as "Kat's Sacrifice" and "Dirty Hands", the latter of which was written as a tribute to Shirley Walker based on an episode of "Batman the Animated Series". Ending this album is McCreary's remake of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower", which was creatively worked into the season's last two episodes.
5. Ratatouille (Michael Giacchino)
Michael Giacchino snags another entry in the Top 10 list, with his thematic and diverse score to the Pixar animated hit Ratatouille. Jazzy and emotional, the score contains memorable themes and even an original song that caps it all off. Highlight tracks include "Remy Drives a Linguini" and "The Paper Chase". Easily deserving of the Oscar nomination.
6. 3:10 to Yuma (Marco Beltrami)
A surprising, yet well-deserved selection by the Academy, Beltrami's Western score is somewhat of a new style for him. He stays true to the genre, with nods to Ennio Morricone, employing primarily percussion and acoustic guitar, with a small string section and occasional trumpet solo. In addition, his main theme is apparent throughout the film at key moments. The score is effective and consistent with the tone of the film as a gritty, realistic western. Standout cues include "Chinese Democracy" and "Bible Study".
7. Planet Earth (George Fenton)
Technically a 2006 score because of its UK release, I am including Fenton's massive documentary project because it was a 2007 USA release. This project contains a wide variety of musical styles, which Fenton was able to link together through two highly versatile themes. Continuing in the style of Blue Planet, this score accentuates the beautifully-shot documentary series. The 2-disc soundtrack album features cues organized by episode of the 11-part series.
8. Sunshine (John Murphy)
Less well-known, John Murphy's newest score for a Danny Boyle film (28 Days Later) reflects both the beauty and the harsh nature of sunlight. Murphy's electronic score moves between wavering ambiance and harsh electric guitars. He also incorporates pulses of sound as a percussive element that gives the space odyssey an otherworldly feel. Electronic percussion, piano, and acoustic guitar rhythms also serve to drive the score forward. This less-known film is one of my favorites of the year and Murphy's score is a unique and interesting addition to 2007's soundtrack list.
9. Eastern Promises (Howard Shore)
Howard Shore returned for David Cronenberg's most recent film. Vastly different from The Lord of the Rings, Shore's scores for Cronenberg's work are often atmospheric, using soft brass for sound color (eXtistenZ, A History of Violence). For Eastern Promises, a film more violent than A History of Violence, Shore turned to a sad violin solo performing the descending theme. While not as dark as some of his music for Cronenberg, Shore once again shows his proficiency at working in whatever genre is thrown his way.
10. Transformers (Steve Jablonsky)
Some love it, some hate it, but I don't think either give Jablonsky the credit he is due. As I stated in my review, while he created a standard Zimmer feeling for the Michael Bay film (as was no doubt required), Jablonsky added a profound level of depth and thematic complexity to the score. Beyond the bold patriotic themes and action music, he shows his skill as a composer by weaving his Decepticons theme through as a rhythmic pattern in the underscore as well as a major theme. Already licensed for the Super Bowl pre-game spots, I think we'll be hearing this one for years to come.