: (John Ottman) If only the Silver Surfer could suck a giant hole in the part of Hollywood that produces mindless sequels, then perhaps the world would be a better place. After the 2005 adaptation of the Marvel comic book reached earnings in excess of $300 million, the inevitability of a sequel (or two) proved once again that the stupidity of the average movie-goer is too attractive an investment to ignore. For the sequel to
, director Tim Story and his cast and crew return for the long-awaited and predictably botched cinematic debut of Galactus and the Silver Surfer, among the most memorable of any Marvel super-villains. A contrived love story, some blatantly dumb product placement, and embarrassing attempts at funny one-liners in the countless re-writes of the script during production all yield a film sufficient for the intellect of 12-year-old boys. In the film's favor, however, is the continuity of its most important elements, and John Ottman's music is among those who returned for continued duties. His score for the original film fueled the debate about his qualifications in the superhero genre, with many listeners commenting that Ottman's thematic constructs for grand heroes are too simplistic to be really effective. This criticism has extended through many of his superhero scores, though his original ideas alongside those of John Williams in
were a breakthrough for Ottman. Unfortunately, his title theme for
was, despite Ottman's pride in its creation, trite and underachieving. The score overall was lacking in spirit and soul, seemingly going through the motions without establishing a true, lasting musical identity for the characters. This was in no part due to Ottman's lack of attention to detail; he's not a lazy composer. Each of the four main characters had a theme or motif for their supernatural abilities. There's a love theme for Reed and Sue, as well as a villain's theme for Dr. Doom. What was sadly missing from
, though, was that devilishly creative sense of style that Ottman often infused into his horror and suspense scores during the first ten years of his career.
Whether this lack continued intelligence in Ottman's music for Fantastic Four
was due to the writing or the execution of the score in orchestration, performance, and recording remains up for debate. Unfortunately, the score for Rise of the Silver Surfer
simply pours more fuel onto that fire. It's difficult to point at any single moment in a score like this and identify it as the reason why it leaves the listener somewhat bored. But the lack of inspiration is a fatal flaw for this score, as for the one before, and this time, it isn't due solely to the fact that the title theme is overly simplistic and silly. Ottman's workmanship can once again be heard in the score, focused almost entirely on the new theme for the Silver Surfer that easily highlights the effort. While also somewhat basic in its mundane chord alternations, this primary, longing theme is, at least, fleshed out with the two scores' most powerful orchestral performance thus far. The first two minutes of the theme opening the album, with a slight synthetic edge to the bass region, are the best you are going to hear on the entire product. The role of the synthesizers is not as strong as one might think; had their impact been more growling and ominous, perhaps even more gravity could have been applied to the character. The "Galactus Destroys" cue offers some extensions on that bass effect from the library of Christopher Franke. Likewise, despite the cataclysmic events on screen, Ottman is more restrained in his employment of the choir. The most intriguing choral use is the closing performance by mixed choir for the Norrin Radd persona of the Silver Surfer. The fact that the name is misspelled on the soundtrack is perhaps representative of sense of dissatisfaction with the remaining music on the album. The themes and motifs for the four heroes are confined mostly to the regurgitative cue "Botched Heroics," and the title theme, despite the fact that some people may not want to hear it, receives tepid treatment. The action sequences are somewhat anonymous, functional in their generation of pleasant orchestral noise, but not containing any congruency in development.
The album for Rise of the Silver Surfer
will surprise many listeners in the number of subdued cues of conversational underscore. Moments like these are when you'd expect Ottman to provide some distinct colors to his canvas, and yet, as with nearly every other element in the score, the lack of any true creativity in these portions yields boredom. The love theme is never provided with allure, and could even pass by undetected unless you are specifically listening for it. So what, specifically, is the matter with Rise of the Silver Surfer
? It's functional, with a few short highlights worthy of a compilation. New ideas are addressed and old ones are reprised. A sufficient amount of noisy action is summoned when necessary. In most regards, there's really nothing wrong with it. But at the same time, Ottman doesn't do much to make these Fantastic Four
scores intellectually stimulating. Some might say that the film doesn't require or deserve such memorability, but that argument is negated by the fact that Ottman has proven through the years (and going all the way back to The Usual Suspects
, really) that he is capable of providing fiendishly clever music for any quality of project or size of budget. These two Fantastic Four
scores must look great on paper (or computer screen). So if there is a fault in the execution of these scores, then where is it? Ottman writes enough dissonance into his works that you can't dismiss them as blatantly dumb. His use of counterpoint is effective, though not the best. His ensembles often utilize a variety of creative instrumentation, with the electronics and percussion in Rise of the Silver Surfer
serving that cause. Is the lack of memorability in the performances? The recording? The arrangements? Only Ottman and his usual collaborators could venture an informed guess on that one. An interesting aspect of Rise of the Silver Surfer
is that Ottman, who is usually very loquacious about his scores --he talks about the processes behind his work likely more than any other composer, which has always been a very admirable trait of his relationship to his art and his fans-- has been comparatively muted about Rise of the Silver Surfer
during its production. It is rare that an Ottman album does not contain a note from the composer, and even more rare that he is so mum on his official web site about a major project. Perhaps --just perhaps-- there is a rug that this score needs to be swept under. *** @Amazon.com: CD or
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