- Composed by John Ottman
- Okeh Records / 2014 / 77m
The seventh film in the remarkably long running X-Men series, Days of Future Past mixes castmembers from the original trilogy with those from First Class. With Bryan Singer – who made the first and best two films in the series – returning as director, hopes are high for the film (and Singer is apparently already working on the eighth one!) Incredibly considering the series’ longevity, Days of Future Past marks the first time so far that a composer has worked on a second entry; of course, that composer is Singer’s usual collaborator John Ottman (who missed out on the first X-Men because of a conflict with his directorial duties on Urban Legends: Final Cut).
Despite fine scores from Michael Kamen and John Powell, it would be a stretch to claim that these films have been especially musically distinguished, and only a barrel-scraping effort from Henry Jackman amongst its number prevents the score Ottman wrote for the second film being the worst of the lot, so I can’t say I was exactly jumping for joy at the news of his return, despite the opportunity it provided him to maintain some musical continuity between X-Men and Lifeforce (which he does). When the score gets off to as terrible a start as Days of Future Past (horrible “atmospherics” for a couple of minutes before the Lifeforce theme comes on) I feared the worst; when I heard the second cue, “Time’s Up”, with its absurd HORN OF DOOM and badly-judged choral melodrama, I could only hold my head in my hands.
But the strange thing about this score is that it almost feels like two or three different scores going on at the same time, interspersing each other, and sounding like they were written by different people. Because after that wretched opening, “Hope” (subtitled “Xavier’s Theme”) appears and all of a sudden we’re into a different Hans Zimmer territory, a thinly-veiled rewrite of Inception‘s “Time” complete with Zimmer-style orchestra-that-sounds-like-samples, one of the most blatant temp-track lifts I’ve heard in a while (and it appears several times throughout the early portions of the album before being discarded entirely after that).
The frustrating thing is that in the very next track, “I Found Them”, after some more Inception (this time without the percussive accompaniment, making it sound a whole lot fresher) and HORN OF DOOM, there’s some genuinely classy dramatic orchestral writing which shines so much brighter than anything up to that point, you hear a glimpse of just what the score could have been. Then as soon as it arrives, it’s left behind again, with the horrible percussive/electronic “Saigon – Logan Arrives” taking over, rock guitars joining in to add the feeling of it being yet another different score later on. And that’s the problem with the album as a listening experience – there are some reasonable ideas here that are never particularly followed through or developed, some clever music which doesn’t sound like anything around it and then disappears almost as quickly as it arrives.
It’s such a shame it’s so uneven because the good parts really are worth listening to – “He Lost Everything” still has that Zimmer influence but it’s more disguised and comes across as a genuinely touching piece of music. The next cue, “Springing Erik”, again seems to come from a completely different score but there’s something quite cool with the rhythmic bass, like it’s an espionage movie and it’s the best cue on the album, curiously classier than most things that surround it. Following that is a very long sequence of somnambulant cues in which barely anything happens – brooding underscore of the most uninteresting kind, which should never have got anywhere near the album. The exception comes in parts of “Paris Pandemonium”, a lengthy cue that itself seems to lack any kind of focus but which does feature some fine individual moments, boasting some excellent orchestration at a couple of points when the score suddenly becomes like one from a hard-hitting horror movie and even a few bars from Michael Kamen’s X-Men score.
I fear that many people won’t get far enough to hear them, but the album’s best parts are saved until late. The film version of “Time’s Up” starts it – so much more vibrant than what was billed as the “original version” earlier on the disc (a version which should have been left on the cutting room floor), it’s still got the dreaded HORN OF DOOM but also some fine orchestral action music; easily the most exciting piece on the album and a tantalising glimpse at what might have been. “The Attack Begins” is lively too, despite succumbing to more Zimmer clichés (a bit of Man of Steel percussion here); “Join Me” with its sweet piano lullaby at the start and moving cello solo at the end is absolutely lovely; and the heart-tugging strings in “Do What You Were Made For” have a beautifully-judged tragic air.
This is one frustrating album. The best parts are clearly considerably better than anything in Ottman’s X2 but they are interspersed with some incredibly blatant temp-track lifts and a whole host of music which is frankly just terribly dull (the album is considerably overlong); add to that the bizarrely piecemeal nature of even the better material, which really does have so little continuity it sounds like it could have been written by different composers for different films, and it’s a curiosity indeed. Maybe the score was very rushed for some reason – if so, that’s a shame, because with more time perhaps the ideas could have been turned into a more compelling whole. There’s no denying that some of those ideas really are excellent but it would be a very generous stretch to say they can rescue Days of Future Past from being a disappointment.
X-Men Michael Kamen
X2: X-Men United John Ottman
X-Men: The Last Stand John Powell
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Harry Gregson-Williams
X-Men: First Class Henry Jackman
The Wolverine Marco Beltrami