2011 came and went but left several great film scores. Below are my favorite scores of the year. These aren’t necessarily the best scores of the year, but they’re the scores I had on repeat throughout the year.
5. Thor by Patrick Doyle
The Zimmer-ification of film-score land continues. 2010 gave us a Zimmer-inspired Daft Punk score. 2011 gave us two Zimmer-inspired Patrick Doyle score (the other Rise of the Planet of the Apes). These scores layer Zimmer and Zimmer-clone mannerisms and styles (power anthems and string ostinatos) with an added musical sense not heard in most Zimmer Group works. Patrick Doyle skillfully merges his traditional orchestral talents and sound with the Zimmer-Group sound and propels it beyond the capabilities of the Zimmer Group. I’m not a Patrick Doyle fan, but, like the film, this score is surprisingly very enjoyable.
5. Soul Surfer by Marco Beltrami
Yes, there are two number fives. This is my list; I’m allowed.
Another surprise for me was Marco Beltrami’s Soul Surfer. Beltrami usually hangs out in the horror genre but occasionally makes waves elsewhere. The score is heartfelt and melodic and beautifully integrates Hawaiian chants to create an inspirational whole.
4. The Greatest Miracle by Mark McKenzie
I’m far from being a religious person, but even I can appreciate and admire the majesty and the power of this score. Like Mychael Danna’s The Nativity Story a few years back, this music is beautiful and impressive even if it accompanies religious fare.
3. Your Highness by Steve Jablonsky
This score does nothing to advance the art of film music nor will it win any awards. But damn is it fun to listen to. Even in film-score land, guilty pleasures exist—and boy is this score a guilty pleasure. Like most things in life, when someone is inspired and having fun doing what they do, the evidence is plainly seen—or heard in this case. Steve Jablonsky saw something in this critically-derided film that inspired him to write a rollicking score. He combines the sensibilities of his Steamboy score with the Zimmer Group sound of his original Transformers score and wraps both up in an epic-sounding package.
2. Kung Fu Panda 2 by Hans Zimmer and John Powell
No favorite-scores-of-the-year list of mine would be complete without a score from John Powell. While both Hans Zimmer AND John Powell were credited, many of the tracks are decidedly John Powell material with his zany musical style featured abundantly. This score makes up for the disjointedness of the first film’s score as the themes and styles are presented in a more cohesive and more enjoyable package.
1. War Horse by John Williams
For Steven Spielberg’s best dramatic film since Saving Private Ryan, John Williams writes his best dramatic score since Schindler’s List. The man is nearly 80 years old, but with War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin, he proves he’s still the master composer and is untouched by the Zimmer-ification of film scoring. The two main themes are soaring and majestic, the action music is stirring, and emotions evoked are powerful. This film showcases Spielberg at his best. This score showcases Williams at his best.
1. The Adventures of Tintin by John Williams
Speaking of Tintin, this score makes my list, too, after seeing the film and hearing how excellently the music works in context. As I write this, Williams’s score is on repeat. This score couldn’t be more different than War Horse. And while there is nothing stylistically new here, Williams provides orchestral and technical mastery not heard by most if not all film composers today. This score is a little Indiana Jones, a little Harry Potter, and a little Hook with a splash of the jazzy Catch Me If You Can opening. This 79-year-old proves he can still out-compose the rest of the industry. While War Horse is a slightly superior effort, this score is more fun to listen to.
While this list is composed of my favorite scores of 2011, it also includes what I consider the best score of 2011: War Horse. No other score reached the emotional and orchestral heights both in and out of the film like War Horse did. I hope to say the same about Williams’s Lincoln this year.