- Composed by Michael Giacchino
- Varese Sarabande / 2011 / 77:43
It received generally positive reviews and I greatly enjoyed J.J. Abrams’s Super 8, a film which succesfully evoked the classic films made by Steven Spielberg during the late 1970s and early 1980s (the film is even set during that period). It goes beyond being a mere pastiche of the Spielberg films, obviously being a very personal project for its director, with its warm-hearted story of a group of friends who witness a mysterious train crash and find themselves caught up in the large-scale cover-up that follows.
The fantastic Michael Giacchino score also evokes the John Williams classics and, I’m delighted to report, is also not a mere pastiche of them. There’s nothing wrong with pastiche and Giacchino has turned his hand to that on several occasions, but actually it’s wonderful to hear him write music which is as obviously personal as this in a film score (even on his finest previous works for film, I’ve always had a bit of a sense that he’s writing music that, no matter how technically proficient, perhaps isn’t all that personal to him – only in his tv scores for Lost did I get a sense of the real composer in there).
Lost is without doubt the reference point by which Super 8 will be judged. Right from the terrific opening track, the ominous string and brass theme is something which could certainly be underscoring some sort of mysterious monster in the tv show; and the sweeping main theme could be from one of the show’s most emotional moments. Over the course of this very long album, Giacchino uses those two themes as the basis for a lot, also adding a theme for the military which sounds rather like one of the themes from his Secret Weapons Over Normandy video game score (at least, I think it’s that one).
Of particular note is that gorgeous, glorious main theme. Filled with a warm, nostalgic feeling, it is magical film music at its best. Perfectly evocative of the innocent adventures of youngsters, it may not be destined to enter the public consciousness like the great Williams themes for Spielberg, but it’s absolutely as fine a theme as will be heard in a 2011 film. Its use in the finale, “Letting Go”, as the full extent of its majesty is revealed, is 2011’s standout film music moment so far. Big themes aren’t in favour these days – but they are of course the reason so many people fell in love with film music whenever they did, whether it was through Miklós Rózsa and Dimitri Tiomkin’s big themes over half a century ago or John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith’s back in the era this film and score evoke (or anywhere else in between), those magical moments as the biggest scenes in the biggest films get the biggest themes playing along with them are those which most of us fell in love with, but that style just isn’t really in vogue any more. Bravo, then, to Giacchino and Abrams for providing us with one of those moments in a big studio film in 2011.
I think Super 8 is this composer’s finest work to date. The 78-minute album (which includes as a bonus the wonderful music Giacchino wrote for “The Case”, the film-within-a-film) doesn’t drag, is full of magical moments, has a handful of individual pieces of music of the highest order (not just the aforementioned “Letting Go” – which is worth mentioning again and again, to be honest, and worth listening to again and again – but several others – check out the fantastic, dynamic “The Evacuation of Lillian”) and while there are hints of Williams (most obviously the brilliant Close Encounters of the Third Kind), this is essentially pure Giacchino, and all the better for that. My only nit-pick is with the overly dry recording – otherwise this is an album to savour. **** 1/2