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Comments about the soundtrack for The Iron Giant (Michael Kamen)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Todd China
• Date: Tuesday, May 6, 2008, at 9:13 a.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Todd China was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in May, 2008)

The Iron Giant: (Michael Kamen) In 1986, Michael Kamen wrote one of the greatest fantasy-adventure scores ever, The Highlander. After the late eighties, he then proceeded to write a series of boring, mediocre action scores such as The Three Musketeers, the sequels to Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, and every note of music that wasn't in the overture to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. (He did show a consistent talent for collaborating with Bryan Adams on pop songs, however.) Thankfully, in recent years, the film score gods have looked favorably upon Kamen, and The Iron Giant is nothing short of a minor masterpiece.

The Iron Giant has not received a whole lot of attention in film music circles, which is a shame considering that it is a fantastic score. I remember enjoying the movie tremendously when it came out, and feeling incredibly disappointed that the Rhino soundtrack had only two score cuts. Imagine my happiness when Varese released a score-only album that was actually longer than thirty minutes. Although it does not possess a dominant theme, the score contains many little motifs scattered throughout. "The Eye of the Storm" introduces a light, magical motif for the Iron Giant as his ship crashes into the sea. The magical motif reappears in "You Can Fix Yourself?" and "The Last Giant Piece," cues which accompany scenes of the Giant repairing himself. Throughout this score, Kamen does a good job of accentuating the action, and the first cue conveys the turbulence and violence of the storm. "Into the Forest" effectively captures the martial spirit of Hogarth's adventure into the forest, and "The Army Arrives" likewise features a driving, martial cadence. A smooth blues theme on string bass underscores Dean's cool yet compassionate character.

My favorite cut on this score is "Bedtime Stories," which accompanies the scene of Hogarth talking to the Giant about comic book heroes such as Superman. The cue begins in the low range strings playing a melody that radiates warmth and intimacy, and it transitions into a light, jaunty section with muted trumpets accompanying a lyrical violin rendition of the Iron Giant motif. The cue then builds into a great, bombastic statement that immediately conjures up images of Superman's heroics.

Another great moment on this soundtrack occurs in "The Giant Discovered," at the very moment when Hogarth discovers that his Giant friend can fly. The music perfectly conveys larger-than-life heroics, with French horn triplet figures building up the excitement. As an exuberant Hogarth shouts, "You can fly!" Kamen's music momentarily soars, taking flight with a beautiful, transcendent melody.

The Iron Giant is a touching score full of character, warmth, personality, and charm. At times, Kamen does tend to Mickey Mouse the action, especially in cues such as "Cat and Mouse." The magical heights that he achieves elsewhere in this score more than make up for this fact. The performance by the Czech Philharmonic is also truly inspired. What I also found amusing was the hilarious "Duck and Cover" song hidden at the end of the disc. The Iron Giant recently won the 'Annie Award' for best animated film score, and it was well-deserved. ****

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