- Composed by Christophe Beck
- Hollywood Records / 2015 / 65m
Not being a lover of comic books, I read the synopsis of some of these things that come out and think “surely this is scraping the barrel?” I am usually entirely wrong, as was the case last year with Guardians of the Galaxy (a talking tree? – nobody’s going to see that). And Ant-Man!? I didn’t even read the synopsis this time, you can tell from the name. Nobody’s going to be interested. Step too far this time, Marvel. But even after all that fuss with a Cornetto or something (I forget the details) it has of course been a resounding success, with Peyton Reed’s film attracting strong reviews and big box office returns.
When the Cornotto-wielding Edgar Wright was going to direct it, he hired his The World’s End composer Steven Price to write the score, which seemed an intriguing prospect; but the composer followed the director out of the film and Reed hired the prolific Christophe Beck, with whom he had worked 15 years earlier on Bring It On. Beck has scored around half a dozen movies a year ever since then, finding fame and fortune a couple of years back thanks to the colossal success of Frozen, but despite some strong work I don’t get the sense he has really found his way into the hearts of too many film music fans – not that he has many detractors either, but there don’t seem to be too many people who get particularly excited when he is announced on a movie.
Ant-Man may change all that because it’s surely his most impressive and distinctive work to date, a terrific comic book score that blatantly takes a bit of inspiration from Henry Mancini, Lalo Schifrin and co back in the 60s but also at times is pretty much like an updated version of the sort of thing Jerry Goldsmith might have written in the 90s (The Shadow in particular comes to mind) – and it’s big and bold and ballsy, taking the best elements Brian Tyler has brought to these films. Combine all that and you get something really impressive.
The best thing of all is the absolutely wonderful main theme, which proudly opens the album. A creepy-crawly rhythm accompanies a Mancini bass flute before the theme is taken up by the brass; triumphant and heroic, it’s a blast, a piece clearly and cleverly moulded to this film in particular and I’m sure it will be on repeat on a fair few iPods. Impressively, Beck manages to make it sound a bit like a throwback but also firmly keeps it modern and relevant.
That’s true of the action sequences too, which are slick and modern but always based on one form or other of that theme, something Goldsmith used to do all the time. The second track on the album, “Honey, I Shrunk Myself” is a case in point. But while the theme is present very frequently, there’s much more here too – things continue with another action cue, “Escape from Jail”, which is a belter of an orchestral piece; then in the quite brilliant “Ant 247” the composer pushes the caper feel he hinted at in the opening cue even further (a style he used a while back in Tower Heist, which was pretty decent but this is on a whole different level). There’s just as much style and panache later in “I’ll Call Him Antony”, which is incredibly intricate and detailed – and so much fun. “Scott Surfs on Ants” is short but it’s an über-cool action cue, Beck managing to out-Brian Tyler Brian Tyler, with a surfer vibe and a rollicking rhythm. Later, I love the fluttering winds that accompany “Into the Hornet’s Nest” (see what he did there); and there’s a sequence of action cues (all delightfully self-contained and musically complete) as the score nears its conclusion that will rattle your windows and set the hairs on the back of your neck on end.
A secondary theme is introduced in “San Francisco 1987”, this one sweeping and emotional; it doesn’t crop up nearly as often through the score as the main theme but it always leaves an impression when it does, perhaps most strongly in “Small Sacrifice”, where Beck adds in plenty of dramatic heft. One other melody you might recognise appears in “First Mission” (another great cue), where there’s just a little snatch of Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme. Even in the suspense music there’s something interesting happening – the glassy textures of “Tiny Textures” (which also crop up elsewhere) are a really nice touch. And just when there’s only one minute of score left on the album and you think you’ve heard it all, the composer tops the whole thing off with the wonderful “Tales to Astonish!” which a version of the main theme which starts on surfer guitar and goes through “Wipeout”-style percussion and an outlandish trumpet solo; it’s just great.
With a killer main theme, a really good second theme, some barnstorming action music and a great deal of personality, Ant-Man is the best music for a comic book movie since James Horner did The Amazing Spider-Man. Alan Silvestri and Brian Tyler have written some really strong scores for this extended series of films, others have done good work too, but Beck has probably raised the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s musical bar to its highest level yet. It’s fine music, stylish music, it’s effervescent and fun and above all it’s pure entertainment.
Rating: **** 1/2