Review Summary: Refreshingly nostalgic and roaringly energetic, Desplat's score for the latest interpretation of the beloved kaiju is a catchy and chaotic descent into a kaiju-ravaged landscape.
In 1998, an attempt at an American Godzilla was made, with Roland Emmerich at the helm. Instead of getting Hollywood's hopes of their own Godzilla up, it instead pissed the people off, killed any chance of making the kaiju popular with America, and effectively buried the possibility of an American Godzilla franchise... until the opening night of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
, when audiences were treated to a disturbing clip showing a HALO jump operation with flares, horrifying destruction images, subway trains being destroyed, people in distress and crying for their lives... and last but not least, a shot of a monstrous, mountain-like object moving through smoke, dust, and fog, then stopping to let out a horrifying, demonic roar. This wasn't a shock video, or an advertisement for a horror movie, or a documentary on Hiroshima. Nope, this was Gareth Edwards, the British director responsible for beloved indie cult hit Monsters
, telling us that it was cool to love Godzilla again. And since that trailer, more similarly disturbing trailers have been released, each ending with a money shot of the monster roaring. Each trailer promised a slow reveal similar to Jaws
, and because of this impressive advertising, thankfully it looks like is indeed cool to love Godzilla again.
And while the terrifying monster, all of 300 feet tall, would have people thinking Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman would be the ideal choice for a film like this, expectations were indeed shattered once again with the notion of Alexandre Desplat being signed. Desplat is more known for his indie film scores and has done a few blockbusters- and make no mistake, if this soundtrack is any indication, Desplat knows well what he's doing here. Though it isn't anything particularly new or groundbreaking, it is full of nostalgia- there's vibes from some of the 1990s blockbuster classics like Jumanji
, some of the harrowing 1980s action classics like Aliens
, even some Bernard Herrman cues from some of his Hitchcock scores, and even some elements from Cliff Martinez's scores- and then there are some unique elements to give it a fresh feel, such as taiko drums, lone piano moments, Japanese bamboo flutes, etc. And Desplat uses all these influences to create a cohesive score that scares, thrills, and even at times manages to bring a tear to your eye.
One thing the soundtrack manages to do is to distance itself far away from tons of today's Zimmer-esque "BWOOOOOONG" moments or drones, by combining all these nostalgic moments to create the feel of "you're fucked!". The music itself seems to be saying to the listener that in this world of man vs. nature, nature always wins. This is perhaps best emphasized in the track "MUTO Hatch", which begins with an intro reminiscent of Cliff Martinez's score for Drive
, before suddenly, and jarringly transitioning into swelling strings and brass, noisy and chaotic and creating an atmosphere of destruction and intensity. This is part of what makes the soundtrack work so well. The intro track, "Godzilla!", sets this atmosphere with a mostly brass piece, which builds up to a shattering climax. There are also plenty of emotional elements throughout the record as well, and thankfully the soundtrack has its fair share of catchy moments. Of course, only time will tell if the soundtrack will stand on its own- but even then, several of these tracks are best listened to on a gigantic setup at full blast. Tracks like "Vegas Aftermath" and "Let Them Fight" do a perfectly good job of capturing the sense that San Francisco is never going to be the same after Godzilla's fight against the MUTOs on the city, and then there are the tracks on the album that describe the aftermath of the attack well, with a sense of despair ("Ford Rescued" in particular).
The biggest stand-out here is "Back to the Ocean". The track begins with a mostly slow first half, with elements of lone-piano and a heroic feel with an underlying sinisterness that suggests that the chaos and destruction might not all be over yet. The 2:40 mark of the song is where it really picks up- chills ensue, and the final few seconds of the track wind down in a fashion that will really bring a tear to your eye- Gareth Edwards wasn't lying when he said he was aiming to make the audience "cry their eyes out", if this song was any indication. This is why the soundtrack works- Desplat gets that the tale of Godzilla is not just some generic monster movie. If recent reviews of the film are anything to swear by, it's something so much more. And it's reflected in the music; with the influences of James Horner evident on tracks like "Golden Gate Chaos", Bernard Herrman influence on tracks like "MUTO Hatch" and what not, and the balance of those with sombre piano pieces and elements of Japanese flute means the message here is clear- it's Godzilla. It's not just a movie about a monster, it's a tale of terror, hope and courage too. By all means, this soundtrack is the perfect representation of that.
Oh, and there's no Puff Daddy tracks either. Now there's another good thing to say about this album.