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Aquaman
  • Composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams
  • WaterTower / 65m

The latest instalment in the ever-popular DC Extended Universe, Aquaman tells the true story of the great warrior Aquaman who teamed up with his brother to cleanse the world’s oceans of undesirable objects, bringing down tall buildings in the process and causing general chaos. Critical reception has been a little better than it was for most of the previous films in the series, which isn’t a particularly high bar to clear, and I’m sure a sequel will be released in about ten minutes.

If the series hasn’t been exactly distinguished cinematically then I think the same could be said of its music (though it has had its moments); Wonder Woman‘s composer Rupert Gregson-Williams gets a second stab at leaving an impression. His score is a bit different and a bit distinctive from the other ones in this series, and becomes the latest to take some inspiration from vintage synths and throw those in with the more usual modern superhero style (comparisons with Mark Mothersbaugh’s Thor: Ragnarok are inevitable).

Rupert Gregson-Williams

After a disposable pop song, the score gets going in “Arthur”, and the synths kick in early doors. It’s as cheesy as anything – intentionally so – and quite good fun. The main Aquaman theme reveals itself before long – it’s a typical modern comic book hero theme, albeit quite slow-moving (not inappropriately) – the large brass section carries the main tune, with layers of synth accompaniment and sometimes choir – it’s a big theme, and even if the melody itself is as conventional as they come (which itself is rather unusual for this series of films), the arrangement makes it quite distinctive.

That theme gets quite a few workouts through the score, as you might expect – its “emotional” variant first heard in “It Wasn’t Meant to Be” is actually quite old-school Media Ventures (and I like it). Later it gets all power anthem in “Suited and Booted” (and I like that too).

“Atlantean Soldiers” introduces the bad-guy theme. Very 80s again at times, but with some more modern touches too, I like that it’s so distinctive from the good-guy theme (it’s really quite something that having distinguishable sounds for the good and bad guys is something worth commenting on, but a listen to some of the earlier DCEU scores gives you the reason why it’s necessary). It’s more an atmosphere than a memorable tune I guess (you can’t have it all), but it does paint a picture, and that’s what film music is meant to do.

Less welcome is the 12 millionth variant on the Junkie XL Mad Max action motif which introduces “What Does That Even Mean?” (accompanied by a hint of Hans Zimmer’s Superman theme from Man of Steel) – it was effective enough when first heard, but enough already… “The Legend of Atlan” is a warmly heroic cue which I like a lot, and then things take a somewhat unexpected turn in the new agey “Swimming Lessons” which is actually one of my favourite cues.

From there we enter a sequence of action cues. I find the action music a bit less satisfying here than the rest of the score – the synths that are entertaining at first don’t really take long before they start to grate. The pick of the bunch is “He Commands the Sea”, a really nice piece with all the requisite excitement (and you can hear from the brass that Gregson-Williams really can compose).

It does run out of steam a bit by the end but “Reunited” is a nice finale to a score that isn’t going to stay very long in anybody’s memory, but does the job it sets out to. It misses having a really great theme and that stops it from being as good as the better Marvel scores, but it does have a decent enough one and is coherent enough (and at times, distinctive enough) to make sure the album is never a chore.

Rating: ***

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  1. Synchrotones (Reply) on Saturday 22 December, 2018 at 12:16

    “… the album is never a chore.”

    Good enough for me! ūüėÄ

    • James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 22 December, 2018 at 12:43

      Hmm. Perhaps my expectations have slipped a little low when I throw that out as a compliment.

  2. Benjamin Paric (Reply) on Monday 24 December, 2018 at 22:10

    Honestly I thought the score was among the movie’s stronger points. The film wasn’t terrible or anything, it was just pretty boring. Marvel has set the bar so high for these sort of comedic high-action films that it’s almost fascinating how flat the writing came off to me. SURELY someone at DC has seen Guardians of the Galaxy?

    Anyway, it’s an okay score. I’ve all but given up on these Zimmer horn-stuffed superhero soundtracks. It’s clear we aren’t getting another “The Amazing Spider Man” any time soon.

  3. Athena Rork (Reply) on Wednesday 26 December, 2018 at 12:33

    This score seemed to actually strike me as substantially weaker than Wonder Woman. When my non-film-score-analyzing husband says, “did they actually just to ‘dun, dun, duunnnn…’ for the bad guy…?” I have to wince a bit at this effort. It’s repetition caught my ear FAR too many times and pulled me out of the movie rather than act as an enhancing accompaniment. I respect the effort, but it’s not pulling up the DC franchise any for me.