As 2013 comes to a close, I present to you my annual end-of-the-year list of my favorite film scores of the year. As with my previous lists, these scores likely won’t be considered the best scores of the year (and only three of these will receive an Oscar nomination next month for Best Original Score), but they’re the scores I had on repeat throughout the year.
Guilty Pleasure of the Year:
The Lone Ranger
Hans Zimmer and Geoff Zanelli
As usual with a Zimmer score, there are cues that were obviously mail-ins that have no originality or brains. But then there are several cues that drip fun as they either pay homage to western scores of yore or aptly plow forward with the steady, propulsive determination of a locomotive.
And then there’s the cue “Finale” from Geoff Zanelli. This cue, which is easily the most fun cue of 2013, is a rollicking ten-minute arrangement of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” infused with Zimmer and Zanelli’s themes from the film. Tremendous.
5. The Book Thief
A no-nonsense Williams score showing off what he does best. Nothing novel here, but great to hear new Williams material—and a score that doesn’t eschew proper orchestral and thematic developments—in his semi-retired state (especially for a non-Spielberg film).
5. Escape from Tomorrow
Abel Korzeniowski has been producing some gorgeous scores in the last few years, and Escape from Tomorrow is one of them. What’s interesting about this score is the sort-of classical approach the music takes on for a film that’s somewhat experimental.
4. Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World
I wrote last year lamenting over the lack of musical cohesiveness between the Marvel films and the disappointing thematic representation of the characters.
Enter Brian Tyler. For both Iron Man and Thor, Tyler not only created a theme that aptly represents the characters but crafted a score that kept up with the film. Starting with a solid orchestral foundation (something not always present in previous Marvel scores), Tyler added something extra for each: Iron Man got a slight rock edge to his theme, and Thor got a heavy dose of what can only be described as epicness. (Thor 2 also featured a delicious quoting of Alan Silvestri’s Captain America theme (a theme that pleasingly now appears in three Marvel films).)
As both scores showed, Brian Tyler’s musical style excellently suits the Marvel universe. For that reason and for the sake of musical consistency, he should be Marvel’s house composer going forward.
3. Star Trek Into Darkness
Michael Giacchino returned to the Star Trek world with a score that’s sharper, more driving, and more percussive than his original. And once again, a highlight of the film and score involves the Enterprise rising from something as Giacchino’s main theme is unleashed in all its glory.
2. Saving Mr. Banks
For a charming, magical film, Thomas Newman created a charming, magical score. All of Newman’s usual, eclectic orchestral mannerisms and colors abound in this delight of a score.
My surprise of the year. Prior to seeing Gravity, I had not heard of Steven Price. I went into the film not expecting much more than a typical, simplistic Zimmer-derivative score for this blockbuster. I was wrong. Steven Price delivered a masterful score that expertly charted and complemented the chaos and emotions of the film. With no sound effects for the destruction in space, the film relied on the score to ratchet up the tension. And because of the skeleton cast, the film also relied on the score to ease that tension that might otherwise have been eased through multi-character banter or interaction. All this is capped off with the final cues where Price unleashes the full force of the orchestra and his main theme to craft a powerhouse of an ending. Thanks to his Gravity score, Steven Price is no longer an unknown for me. And thanks to this score, I look forward to hearing more from him in the future.
And speaking of hearing more in the future, here’s to more orchestral magic—and some more pleasant surprises—in 2014.