Friday sees the release of the revamped “Clash of the Titans,” the trailer for which has to set come kind of record for the most joyless combination of grim faces, heinously ugly monsters and nu-metal roar. It’s all very murky and loud, but mostly it seems like no fun: like the roar of Nickelback magnified with some industrial drums, capped off by the inevitable release of the Kraken, whose hoarse bellow would do Eddie Vedder proud.
When did action scores becomes so industrial? If you’re not one of those people who agonizes over the moral problems of killing people on-screen for sport — and really, get over it — there’s no reason that action movies should be so monochromatic and trudging. And yet watching the “Clash of the Titans” trailer is like nothing so much as listening to alt-radio from a decade back. You half expect the Kraken to begin wailing about its issues with its father.
The music is courtesy of Ramin Djawadi, who does this kind of thing all the time: witness, say, his theme for “Iron Man,” which starts out as nothing and then eventually becomes a bunch of guitars and fake drums, which is really just a higher budget version of the on-the-cheap “Prison Break” music he also did.
It’s all in keeping with how lousy a lot of contemporary action scores are — they make what should be fun a trudge. (Last year’s “Armored” is an okay movie, but John Murphy’s score sounds like straight-up nu-metal.) Part of the problem is the death of the full-orchestra score, which now sounds anachronistic to most — listening to, say, the climactic battle music from “Die Hard” isn’t necessarily more fun, but all the instruments give you more room to breathe. The limited range of sounds generally tapped now — basically an augmented band with strings — can get claustrophobic.
Instead of blaming radio or declining budgets for music, it might be wisest to blame Clint Mansell’s theme for “Requiem For A Dream,” one of the most ubiquitous trailer backdrops. It’s still a cool theme — rising minimalism as frenzy — but everyone seems to have learned the wrong lessons: stay grim, stay in a minimal range, and you too can prosper. No one really wants to hear peppy, upbeat full-orchestra stuff like “Independence Day” (too peppy, too martial), but surely there’s a path somewhere between the “Indiana Jones” theme and utter despair.
[Photos: “Clash of the Titans,” Warner Bros., 2010; “Requiem For A Dream,” Artisan, 2000]