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Suicide Squad
  • Composed by Steven Price
  • WaterTower Music / 2016 / 72m

The third film in the new DC Universe series, Suicide Squad follows a group of antiheroes who are given shorter prison sentences in return for carrying out dangerous missions and saving the world, which seems reasonable enough.  While the performance of the cast – led by Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto – has been praised, that’s about the only thing that has, but the lacklustre response hasn’t prevented it from raking in a load of money.

Director David Ayer’s previous film was Fury which was scored by Steven Price, and their collaboration continues here.  I was delighted when that was confirmed, finally giving this series a chance to break away from the onslaught of musical misery which has blighted the previous entries.  Price has (to say the least) divided opinion amongst film music commentators – he made his name with Gravity which was a real love-it-or-hate-it affair, and I was very much in the former camp; then he frankly wrote virtually the same score again for Fury.  Obviously he’d have to do something a bit different for Suicide Squad.

Steven Price

Steven Price

He has done that, but not really in the way that I would have hoped.  It’s not exactly surprising but it is disappointing that he seems to have been encouraged to keep within that murky sound world of Zack Snyder’s two Superman movies.  There’s a bit more life in this and mercifully not just a load of drumming but sadly there’s little to set it apart from the gloop of generally characterless modern action/thriller scores and I continue to be amazed that films like this are being scored in this way.

The score’s best features are revealed in its opening couple of tracks.  “Task Force X” is the main theme, which sounds like a slightly darker take on Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from Rambo II (probably a coincidence) put through a rock filter (think Hans Zimmer’s “The Kraken”).  It’s OK but it’s a very brief idea really, spread very thin and while in those opening couple of minutes you think it might prove to be a solid enough foundation for the score, in truth that turns out to be essentially as good as it gets.

As is the way of things these days, the individual characters don’t get their own themes, but there is a bit of a love theme for Harley Quinn and the Joker, which is introduced in “Arkham Asylum”.  It’s attractive and tonally appropriate but “Can You Read My Mind?” it is not.  I realise that by saying that I open the floodgates to people telling me how we’re in a different time, the films are different, blah blah blah.  So I may as well go the whole hog: it would still be possible to put distinctive, memorable music in them.  Imagine if this grand slew of comic book films had been made a generation earlier – less effects-centric, probably more character-driven (rather than inserting distinctive characters into indistinct situations and ending up with all the films being basically the same) and, of most interest to me, it would have meant they’d have been scored by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner.  It’s not necessarily all the modern composers’ fault that the scores end up as they do – even when veteran Alan Silvestri did The Avengers, he ended up with a theme (a great one) for the group of characters but generally shied away from giving them individual identities, and actually you can go as far back as Michael Kamen’s X-Men when it was widely reported at the time that the composer had written this great multi-thematic score and been told by a furious Bryan Singer on the scoring stage to dial it down because that wasn’t what he wanted.  It’s hard to understand, but sadly it is what it is.

In the hands of composers as talented as Silvestri and Kamen, very entertaining scores could result even from the limitations placed on them; but Steven Price isn’t in that league and so you end up with something like Suicide Squad, which veers from one big action track to another, none blessed with a great deal of personality.  It strikes me that you could play the album’s tracks in random order and you wouldn’t lose anything because there really isn’t any dramatic impetus to it – it’s just one set-piece after another and they basically all sound the same.  The one composer who has managed to really make this style work and turn it into something entertaining in these films is Brian Tyler and the heroic burst of the main theme in “You Die We Die” sounds very Tyler-esque in fact, but more than anything it serves to underline just how well Tyler did to make his Marvel scores as good as they were.

listen to these albums quite a few times before reviewing them and all I can do with this one is stare at the clock and check how soon it’s going to be over.  It’s not objectionable in the way of the two Snyder Superman scores but as a piece of entertainment it’s sadly not much better than them.  One misfire isn’t going to turn me off Steven Price – I really, really did like Gravity and he showed last year with the documentary The Hunt that he wasn’t a one-trick pony – but this score is a grave disappointment.  It’s so surface-level, so in need of a distinctive personality of its own and above all else, Suicide Squad is really just boring.

Rating: ** | |

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  1. Calum (Reply) on Sunday 21 August, 2016 at 13:35

    ‘The Bird is Baked’ is a blatant ripoff of Steve Jablonsky’s ‘Battle’ cue from Dark of the Moon. Astonishing.

  2. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Sunday 21 August, 2016 at 18:17

    This was the worst film I’ve seen this year…and the trailers looked great with their assortment of eccentric, spaced-out characters. The editing served to disconnect the cohesiveness of the storyline–further exacerbated by the actors swallowing words or muttering incomprehensibly. Because the director is following a script and knows what the actors are meant to be saying, this fault [a pet hate of mine] goes unnoticed, yet again. Poor STEVE PRICE!…the audio track was dominated by songs and ear-shattering sound effects. If PRICE’S music was being used to underscore the 3D military confrontations and battles with the Aliens (they were ludicrously conceived) it was drowned out by the sound-mixers. I was bored and should have walked out of the Cinema, but wasn’t in the mood to stroll around the massive Canal Walk shopping mall while waiting for ‘Mike and Dave need Wedding Dates’ to start. NO – I don’t recommend it. I was just curious to see the phenomenon of females usurping males at every opportunity…and how Zac Efron’s character would handle being manipulated so effortlessly. JEFF CORDONI’S unremarkable score will probably be ignored in favour of a pop music soundtrack, a CD that was, no doubt ‘inspired by the Movie’.

  3. Michael (Reply) on Sunday 21 August, 2016 at 21:26

    ANDRÉ, Cape Town.: No offense, but is there something that you like?

  4. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Monday 22 August, 2016 at 18:05

    Michael, I can only presume that you’ve recently discovered James’ MOVIE-WAVE site, as scores and composers that I’ve raved about [over many years] appear to have gone unnoticed by you. However, if you’re a regular reader/contributer and have only recently decided to provide opinions, then only scores and composers and movies that I’ve trashed appear to have impacted on you. Go figure! Here are some recent CDs that I’ve added to my collection of over three thousand albums-and growing- and recommend > The Young Messiah & Lair, both by JOHN DEBNEY… The Falcon by the Croatian composer ALFI KABILJO. His title theme is lovely and is differently orchestrated for various incarnations amid Slavic Orthodox chants and Islamic Ottoman themes. Lots of remastered DELERUE favourites around…I’ve had most of these titles for decades, but the improved audio is always a lure > George Delerue Film Music Collection comprises 3 CDs including L’Incorrigible, Comme un Boomerang and Banlieue Sud-Est, a TV series…Preparez vos Mouchoirs…Something Wicked this way Comes…Josepha + Femmes de Personne … Thibaud-Ou Les Croisades + Fortune… and La Passante du Sans Souci. ELMER BERNSTEIN’S The Ava Collection – a 3CDs volume of masterpieces, was remastered by Intrada. The sound is sensational, as is Elmer Bernstein, The Wild Side, produced for Varese Sarabande by Robert Townson and featuring The Big Band of the Canary Islands playing Jazz favourites…both are a must-have Michael, as is The Rat Race and Sweet Smell of Success. RACHEL PORTMAN’S Still Life is one of her finest and BENJAMEN WALLFISCH’S Conquest 1453 is stunning. Try and find a copy of 11 September 1683 by Italy’s ROBERTO CACCIAPAGLIA and the remastered Daniele e Maria by NICOLA PIOVANI. ENNIO MORRICONE is one of Cinema’s greatest composers – lots to like on Leonor – Mistress of the Devil. Don’t leave out my JERRY GOLDSMITH’S expanded and remastered Chinatown… Rio Conchos… and The Blue Max + Suites and Themes, Tadlows new 2 CDs recording. I dote on JAMES HORNER and trust your collection includes The 33…Wolf Totem and Pas de Deux (an opus for cello, violin & orchestra). FREDERIK WIEDMANN’S Field of Lost Shoes impressed, as did ROBERT GULYA’S Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn… DARREN FUNG’S The Great Human Odyssey …ZACHARIAS M. DE LA RIVA’S Automata… VICTOR REYES Grand Piano…JOHN POWELL’S How to train your Dragon 2…MIKLOS ROZSA’S Sodom and Gomorrah and Quo Vadis, both newly recorded with 2 CDs each dedicated to these masterpieces. I could carry on and on! I LOVE FILM MUSIC, so thanks for asking Michael…I look forward to reading your postings, hopefully full of insight into the art of film scoring with succinct praises and criticisms. And thanks for giving us devotees of film music MOVIE-WAVE James…it’s my favourite review-read.