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FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
It has its moments, but Ottman just seems like the wrong composer for this type of thing
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
The obsession with comic book movies shows no signs of abating, as evidenced by the arrival of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (an absurd title), sequel to a film which was as critically-lambasted as it was moneyspinning. The bad guy who was killed in the first movie is back, joined by a couple of new bad guys (including the Silver Surfer himself, who sounds about as menacing as Beatrix Potter) - and most of the cast and crew of the original, including composer John Ottman, just about the least likely of composers to become typecast in the comic book / superhero genre.
The score for the first film was decent enough, featuring some strong action music which helped make up for its laughable main theme. Ottman introduces his new big "Silver Surfer Theme" in a concert arrangement in this new album's first track, and it's a reasonable effort - simplistic, but well-constructed, even if ultimately it's not particularly memorable. This is the kind of grand theme one might expect from a film like this, and it's nice to hear a composer willing to write one - these films often seem to end up with bland music designed not to be heard, so to hear an upfront theme like this is a forward step.
Unfortunately it is not long before the composer brings back his main theme from the first film, which is so banal it almost defies belief - I thought at the time it sounded like what I may have written for a school music project when I was a few years old, but now my memory of it has been fully jogged I suspect I may have been doing myself a disservice. Its frequent appearances certainly mark this album's weakest moments, and it's a pity that it has once again dragged down what is otherwise generally pretty good.
My biggest problem with Ottman's music has always been that it is emotionally so simplistic, just existing as a layer of gloss on top of many of the films he has scored rather than trying to get under their skin, and indeed when he attempts to inject emotion here it just sounds hollow and often corny (check out "Wedding Day Jitters"). The exception - the place where it doesn't really matter that the music just sits on the surface - is in the action sequences, and as with the first score these are fine. It would be nice if it were orchestrated in a more interesting fashion - and nicer still if it didn't have occasional synthesised noises which are pure Jerry Goldsmith, circa 1982 - but credit should be given where it's due, and there are some exciting passages here, bolstered by a fine performance from the studio orchestra.
What I think makes a good film composer is one who is able to take a few steps back from the film and construct a well-planned score which goes on a journey along with the film, though by no means necessarily playing the same emotions as the visuals at the same time, at the same time giving individual scenes their own identity. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the complete antithesis of this, since the music goes all over the place, changing direction more frequently than a drunken flea, and never really has any identity of its own. I say this not because it separates this score from most other modern ones in a spectacular way, but because I sometimes receive emails suggesting I have some kind of "vendetta" against this particular composer. The action music here is good, as is the new theme, and it means that listening to the album is an often-enjoyable experience, but the seeming lack of any kind of underlying dramatic thought process is what keeps it from being a truly good experience. Ottman has demonstrated in other genres that he has prowess in them - I just don't think he has enough in him to pull off a decent score for a film like this. With another Superman and The Avengers on the horizon for the composer, clearly I must be in the minority on this issue. I'm sure that those who enjoy Ottman's music will love this score - and even those who are more lukewarm will surely enjoy it in passages - I just wish he would concentrate his efforts on films for which he seems to be more suited.