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Section Header
Thor
(2011)
Composed and Co-Orchestrated by:
Patrick Doyle

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
James Shearman

Produced by:
Maggie Rodford

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

Label:
Buena Vista Records

Release Date:
May 3rd, 2011

Also See:
Thor: The Dark World
Frankenstein
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Eragon
The Last Airbender
Transformers
Iron Man
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Audio Clips:
2. Prologue (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. Ride to Observatory (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

9. Banishment (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

19. Forgive Me (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release.

Awards:
  None.










Thor

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Buy it... if the current Hans Zimmer/Remote Control methodology of scoring a summer blockbuster drives you nuts and you've waited years for someone like Patrick Doyle to intellectually translate that sound into a clever and resounding symphonic environment.

Avoid it... if, as in The Last Airbender and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the previous year, you lack the patience to dig deeply into a complicated fantasy score to discover its subtle riches.



Doyle
Thor: (Patrick Doyle) Despite the box office success of Marvel Comics properties on the big screen over the past decade, the production development of many of those concepts has languished in a perpetual state of disarray. Suffering foremost from these delays and endless shifts in crew has been Thor, though after the character's cameo at the end of Iron Man 2 and finally some coordinated efforts to bring the Marvel universe together for The Avengers in the 2010's, the legend of the god of thunder finally slams his famous hammer to reasonably positive critical response in 2011. The plot of the film essentially introduces the character and the mythical kingdom of Asgard from which he is banished by his father for recklessness. Sent to Earth by King Odin (none other than Anthony Hopkins), one of the realms under the kingdom's protection, Thor and his hammer are the topic of interest by not only government operatives (wormholes spitting people out on our planet are indeed curious) but also a scientist in the form of Natalie Portman (vulnerable superheroes need their squeeze). Only when Thor proves his worthiness can he lift his hammer and wield his godly powers, and he does so just in time to confront his brother, who has taken it upon himself to engage in some double-dealing in order to win his father's affections away from Thor and rule Asgard. As expected, the film leaves open the door for future plotlines with a hidden scene after the credits. While the sequences on Earth left some critics cold, the battles between Asgard and the villains, the Frost Giants, were generally well-received. Perhaps some of the film's artistic merits can be attributed to Kenneth Branagh, the English actor/director who made his fame adapting Shakespearean tales in the 1990's but has toiled with more obscure projects throughout the 2000's. Branagh salvaged the production rather late in the process, and an expected but equally intriguing revelation was the director's decision to stay loyal to composer Patrick Doyle for Thor's original music. Fans of blockbuster superhero movies have a right to be suspicious of the studio back and forth that ensues in these situations, especially given what happened when another composer known mostly for sophisticated symphonic music, Mychael Danna, was brought on board in a similar situation because of an existing collaboration (2003's Hulk). Even Doyle reportedly found himself initially outside of his comfort zone when approaching Thor, recognizing that the rhythmic loops, string ostinato's, and slammed percussion of today's blockbuster sound, one defined by Hans Zimmer's minions at Remote Control, was not in his musical vocabulary.

While unfamiliar with this specific territory, Doyle has cranked out his fair share of beefy action scores despite his reputation as an accomplished romance and drama composer. His music for Frankenstein and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire remain solid favorites of his collecting base, and Eragon and The Last Legion may exist out of the same spotlight but are also dependable four-star experiences. There was much hope that Doyle, despite studio and producer pressure to modernize his sound, would finally transcend into unquestioned five-star territory for Thor, and judging from the reaction of fans and some other critics, he has failed to avail himself of that opportunity. In reality, though, Thor receives the kind of music that suffers from the letdown associated with missing unreasonably high expectations, and for what it is, the score is quite commendable intellectually and entertaining in its highlights. Much has been made of Doyle's easily apparent, reportedly forced attempt to adapt the Zimmer/RC methodologies into this score, some going so far as to claim that he sacrificed the integrity of his musical style in order to satisfy a larger trend that involves the use of "dumbed down" music for these kinds of situations. On the other hand, though, when you compare what Doyle accomplished for Thor to Alexandre Desplat's recent refusal to significantly adapt his style to fit the Harry Potter franchise, you have to admire Doyle's flexibility. While Doyle enthusiasts may bellyache that there aren't enough of his own tendencies in Thor, along with too much RC-related simplicity, there is in fact a decent amount of Doyle style to hear in this score, and in many ways, the composer emulated James Newton Howard's take on the RC style rather than the Zimmer drones themselves. The score that comes to mind the most in this regard is Howard's The Last Airbender, which similarly intellectualizes some common RC traits. Likewise, Doyle takes the symphonic route, only occasionally enhancing the soundscape (and mostly deep bass) with synthetic overlays; familiar Doyle electronic tones early in "The Compound" yield to a Jerry Goldsmith/The Shadow-like pace-setter at 4:27 into that cue. All of the looped percussion and string techniques you usually hear overwrought in scores like Transformers and Iron Man are orchestrated traditionally, with outstanding results. A plethora of clanging metallic percussion (worthy of the title character and his hammer) accompanies rhythmic sequences very similar to The Last Airbender. Occasional vocal accents grace the score, including a solemn, subtle soloist in the seldom-heard but beautiful secondary theme for Odin and deep choral accompaniment of a grave, melodramatic nature in "Banishment" and others.

At a time when software is able to generate so many of the ostinato effects that you encounter in mainstream movie scores these days, it's impossible to overstate how satisfying it is to hear Doyle force that sound into a more dynamic, lively symphonic environment. If you're a fan of traditionally orchestrated film music of the John Williams generation, Doyle has effectively given the Steve Jablonsky's and Ramin Djawadi's of the industry a Thor-sized middle finger, proving that veterans of the old guard of film music can beat the dime-a-dozen generation of software-reliant ghostwriters at their own game. There is indeed a dose of Jablonsky's Transformers to be heard in the theme for Asgard in Thor, but Doyle forces the London Symphony Orchestra's performances to their organic limits, matching the sounds of post-production manipulation through live performance means. For some listeners, the result will be largely the same, but for Doyle enthusiasts, the composer does throw in a multitude of nuggets to remind us of his own personal style. If some of the tell-tale progressions don't expose this technique enough, then the lovely piano lament in "Letting Go" definitely will. While Doyle's two early 2011 scores, Thor and La Ligne Droite, couldn't differ more in tone and scope, and despite the fact that the former channels Howard and the latter owes to Philip Glass, you can hear similarities in that vintage Doyle sound that connect the two. The progressions in the themes of both scores, concluding with Doyle's trademark descending of two notes in an eternally hopeful manner, are matched by the composer's evidence that he is extremely proficient in squeezing an ungodly number of notes into a single measure. Even if there is too much Howard or RC in Thor for your Doyle senses and sensibilities, the pair of "Letting Go" and "Can You See Jane?" is the kind of tonic provided in equal amounts by "Playing Bridges" and "Yannick and Leila" in La Ligne Droite. The composer's ability to explore these new avenues without completely yielding to convention is a highlight of such works. That said, Thor has its slower moments when the composer loses some momentum. It's not a perfect score by any means; there is filler material that slides by without generating much interest. Additionally, the composer's sub-themes aren't enunciated in ways that truly make them obvious, the solo accents in the dry mix aren't emphasized well enough, and the token synthetic loops here and there are just that: token. Some listeners will find fault with Doyle's assigning of themes in general, though careful exploration of their development may lead to a greater appreciation. In fact, there are four or five themes at play in the score, each revisited several times.

If Doyle is guilty of any injustice in Thor, it is the superiority (or obvious nature or placement) of some of his secondary themes over the primary one. The identity for Thor himself is a brawny but noble and utilitarian one heard at the end of "Prologue" and "Earth to Asgard" and littered throughout the score in various guises. A prelude to Thor's future, the theme's weighty performance at the beginning of "A New King" is offset by a striking variation late in "Banishment" that turns additional progressions into the minor key (causing it to resemble early-1990's Zimmer themes, interestingly). The theme turns triumphant in "Thor Kills the Destroyer" in ways that will definitely recall vintage Doyle music of glory, as will the aforementioned woodwind and piano-led performances in "Science and Magic," "Letting Go," and "Can You See Jane?" that represent the character's romantic side (fuller "love theme" variants exist in "Forgive Me"). The opening five-note phrase of the theme is a good tool with which to quickly reference the character's identity in many of the cues in between. Most importantly, Doyle doesn't beat the listener over the head with the idea in such a way as to turn off some in the mainstream, a difficult task given how many superhero themes exist. The score's homage to the RC sound comes in the theme for Asgard, heard in Transformers form in "Prologue" and "Earth to Asgard." This idea lets rip with percussion and violin lines that do distinguish it from its inspiration, though its progressions are a bit too generic for comfort. The underlying ostinato is a convenient way to suggest the same identity, though, and it comes into play in "To Jotunheim," "Crisis in Asgard," and "Hammer Found." Overwhelming both of these identities is Doyle's theme for the brothers and, by association, Thor's youthful exuberance. Exploding with bubbling rhythms that sound like a cross between Howard and Elmer Bernstein, this theme dominates "Sons of Odin" and "Ride to Observatory" (dare an RC composer to write something as densely complex as the theme's very impressive construct at 1:20 into the latter) before losing some steam at the end of "To Jotunheim." Doyle's necessary disintegration of this theme thereafter is heartbreaking, from the defiant echoes at 5:05 into "The Compound" to its subtle chord representations in "Loki's Lie." The theme boils to its confrontational death at 1:50 in "Brothers Fight" and joins Thor's identity in slight fragments during the sadness of "Letting Go." There is no question that the energetic performances of this brothers theme early in the film may overshadow all other musical identities in Thor, potentially even disappointing listeners when it (or anything like it) fails to return in a similar form later in the album presentation. A lack of clear idea for the villain, Laufey (outside of clever echoes of the brothers theme), is equally lamentable.

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Aside from the three major themes in Thor, Doyle toils with some additional material for Odin and the concept of the Kingdom that is a bit difficult to nail down. One aspect of this identity is a spooky, descending line joined by solo voice at the outsets of "Chasing the Storm" and "Odin Confesses," extending out in the latter track to include repeated phrases that recall Howard's theme for Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight. Similarly addressing the gravity of Odin and the Kingdom is a heavy adagio-style theme that could be an offshoot of that idea or one all to itself; it is best heard the first half of "Banishment" and at 0:40 into "Letting Go." Both of these two ideas of greater contemplation do exist in shades of gray throughout the score, but Doyle never really makes very good use of them. A singular theme for the Destroyer is afforded some percussive dressing from The Rock in the "The Destroyer." The primary action cues are at their best when they use pieces of these themes, and once again like The Last Airbender, there are minute-long sequences within the major action cues that are outstanding. Such is the case with "Frost Giant Battle," "The Compound," "The Destroyer," and "Brothers Fight," cues that in many cases utilize a choir, but that contribution is either muted by design or dialed back in the mix of the album (especially in "Frost Giant Battle"). Still eclipsing the outright action music, however, is the pair of performances of the brothers theme in "Sons of Odin" and "Ride to Observatory," among Doyle's best full ensemble work in years. As touched upon before, there are quiet, non-descript sequences in Thor that underwhelm, starting with "Chasing the Storm" at the opening and wasting an opportunity for thematic clashes in "My Bastard Son," and in these regards, this score on album is similar to David Arnold's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Both feature many five-star moments and require careful repeat appreciate to really comprehend their thematic depth, but both also contain some extremely enjoyable moments on the rowdy side. The score-only album presentation of Thor (no music from the Foo Fighters appears on the product, thankfully) does run long and has some questionable mixing in places, not only de-emphasizing the choir but also merging recordings in some awkward places (as in the middle of "Forgive Me"). Listeners with available software will probably get some benefit from adding a slight touch of reverb to Doyle's typically dry mix as well. A hearty thanks must be extended to the composer for bringing symphonic sanity to the current blockbuster sound and offering a healthy dose of his own dramatic style to Thor in the process. A five-star rating may barely elude him yet again, but between this and La Ligne Droite in the first half of 2011, Doyle immediately cements a Filmtracks nomination for composer of the year. ****   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Patrick Doyle reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.81 (in 27 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.38 (in 20,757 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 3.43 Stars
Smart Average: 3.31 Stars*
***** 210 
**** 226 
*** 196 
** 119 
* 82 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Fantastic Score
  Brent -- 12/5/11 (12:39 a.m.)
   Another Winner From Doyle
  JoukoYli-Kiikka -- 7/18/11 (5:32 a.m.)
   Underrated score
  Richard Kleiner -- 6/25/11 (10:42 p.m.)
   phew
  Adrian -- 5/8/11 (8:57 p.m.)
   Good, I'm not insane
  Paul -- 5/7/11 (5:49 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 71:55


• 1. Chasing the Storm (3:11)
• 2. Prologue (3:09)
• 3. Sons of Odin (1:48)
• 4. A New King (3:01)
• 5. Ride to Observatory (2:10)
• 6. To Jotunheim (2:19)
• 7. Laufey (3:40)
• 8. Frost Giant Battle (4:22)
• 9. Banishment (1:53)
• 10. Crisis in Asgard (2:19)
• 11. Odin Confesses (2:43)
• 12. Hammer Found (1:11)
• 13. Urgent Matter (2:21)
• 14. The Compound (7:40)
• 15. Loki's Lie (1:54)
• 16. My Bastard Son (2:39)
• 17. Science and Magic (2:53)
• 18. The Destroyer (2:57)
• 19. Forgive Me (2:40)
• 20. Thor Kills the Destroyer (1:53)
• 21. Brothers Fight (6:59)
• 22. Letting Go (3:17)
• 23. Can You See Jane? (2:23)
• 24. Earth to Asgard (2:33)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert includes notes from both the composer and director about the film and score.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Thor are Copyright © 2011, Buena Vista Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/6/11 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2011-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.