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Green Lantern
  • Composed by James Newton Howard
  • Watertower Music / 2011 / 50:27

1989’s Batman from Tim Burton ushered in a new era of comic book movies, and the 1990s proved fertile ground for a number of Hollywood’s top composers scoring films in the genre, not least Danny Elfman whose music for Burton’s film has become a staple of many fans’ collections.  Fast forward to 2011 and it’s a very different film scoring world.  It’s all about being serious now – no silly fanfares or anything to distract the audience from the hyper-realism and seriousness of a man with superpowers dressed in a bright, colourful costume fighting off a horde of CGI bad guys.  It’s against that backdrop that we come to Green Lantern, directed by Martin Campbell, a pretty music-friendly director, and scored by James Newton Howard, one of film music’s current A-list.

Sadly, it’s hard to believe that this music was written by the same guy who has written that genuinely great stuff for M. Night Shyamalan films.  This is an unmitigated disaster.  There is a main theme which crops up throughout the score and is easily its best feature; it is in fact identical to one of the secondary themes from Jerry Goldsmith’s Executive Decision, probably by complete coincidence.  But there you go – this score’s best feature is that part of it sounds a bit like minor bits of one of Goldsmith’s worst scores.  For the rest, completely aimless drum loops constantly accompany orchestral swoops and crashes which are as generic as film music comes and as forgettable as… oh, I’ve forgotten.  There’s one good cue – “We’re Going to Fly Now” – a one minute and fifty-four second primer of just how good this could have been.  Download that one track for $0.79 and have a family member hit you on the head with a spoon for 25 minutes either side of listening to it to replicate the Green Lantern album experience without paying for the whole thing.  It’s all so tired-sounding, all so free of anything which might entice anybody back to listen again; it’s not quite Iron Man-bad, but in some ways it’s even more disappointing than that was, since we actually know what this composer’s capable of doing.  *

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  1. elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Sunday 3 July, 2011 at 23:20

    Harsh, but fair. With the musical opportunities offered by the material, it’s mind-numbing that a gifted composer like JNH produced something so generic and completely uninspired.
    And I love your remark on the supposed “realism” of current superhero movies. It’s like sucking all the fun out of the concept.

  2. rodmor (Reply) on Monday 4 July, 2011 at 01:28

    I agree

  3. Tim Burden (Reply) on Monday 4 July, 2011 at 06:26

    “Unmitigated disaster” is spot on! I doubt many with any sense will use that Amazon link. I love the hitting of head with a wooden spoon parallel, they’re available from Amazon’s homeware section and much cheaper.

    If you want to hear how good James CAN be, (shameless plug alert!) then check out my recent show @


  4. Bond1965 (Reply) on Sunday 17 July, 2011 at 16:32

    James, your review is spot on. JNH has become a disappointment in recent years. I think that working with Hans Zimmer on the Batman films ruined him. He hasn’t been the same since. What happened to the James Newton Howard who could right something fantastic like “Outbreak” or “Wyatt Earp,” films that weren’t great but had amazing scores?