Friday, 18 October 2013

Elysium Score Review

Elysium had to be one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Everything surrounding it was highly appealing. The director, Neill Blomkamp, had achieved huge success, both critically and in the box office for his last mainstream movie, District 9. Matt Damon had the acting creds to work the role and make it his own. The cinematographer from District
9 was back, and I had absolute faith in him to make the movie look incredible. Only one part of the movie was really worrying, and that would have to be the composer for the score, Ryan Amon. Amon is a complete newcomer to the score world. Elysium is his first score, and I can assure you, despite my worries, it still manages to deliver in mood and intensity. Let's explore the score thoroughly!

We start with the piece Heaven and Earth, which builds volume and power quickly, and provides some intense synths. Turn your volume down for this one, as it will hurt your ears if you are wearing earphones. Amon makes it clear that he doesn't want to stick to the basic orchestral or synthesiser music the whole way through. The entire piece mixes it up, and adds in vocals and foreign noises. Whilst parts of the piece are soothing and really set an obviously emotional tone, I can't help but notice that I had a headache immediately after the piece finished. Disappointing to begin with. Fire Up The Shuttle is next, and sets a big emphasis on the brass, and it's brilliant! It's intense and very climatic, and keeps you thoroughly involved throughout. This piece definitely makes up for the previous piece, and keeps my expectations high!

Our next piece is Unauthorized Entry, and it begins with a very soft tone. We build to a percussion showcase, and it feels like Amon owns it. He definitely has a lot of skill with percussion and brass, and for a movie like Elysium, that will surely benefit him greatly. This piece reminds me of a lot of different cultures and countries, which serves it well. Deportation, our next piece, begins with a high amount of intensity from strings and brass, with a loud percussion set playing in the background. The brass starts picking up in intensity and provides us with some incredibly awesome riffs, which die down quickly. The piece keeps you interested from start to finish. It's 1:56 running time feels much too short. Our next piece, Darkness begins, and nothing of note happens for the best part of the first minute and a half. We hear different instruments and computer-generated sounds flash in and out, but the piece doesn't really do anything. Around halfway through, the rhythm changes for the first time, but we don't hear much new. The intensity doesn't seem to be building, and the piece falls flat. A small but powerful percussion beat kicks in towards the end, but once again, the piece falls flat.

Things To Come starts off in a repetitive rhythm that is not interesting or well done. Foreign noises that don't sound like they belong chime in and out, and start their own rhythm, and they do worse for the piece. At this stage, I'd say Amon is trying to do too much. Simplicity can be better, and it would definitely benefit this score greatly. Some percussion finally chimes in, and we're saved, for a while at least. And before you know it, the piece has ended. You Said You'd Do Anything is up next, and we start off with a much more interesting riff. Whilst quite repetitive, like the last piece, we hear new sounds and a higher tone. The last few pieces felt too low and boring. We have vibrancy here! Once again, a percussion set picks up, and it benefits the piece greatly. We get some interesting vocals of unknown origins. The piece ends similar to how it began, which fits it well.

A Political Sickness begins with a vibrating noise, like a helicopters rotor blades. Some synth jumps occur which last a couple of seconds each, but keep the piece fresh and interesting. Unlike the previous few pieces, Amon sounds as if he really wants to try something new and intense. He certainly achieves some good here, with the orchestral sets playing a wonderful part in this piece. The piece ends on a high note, and Amon earns some creds for that. Arming Projectile starts with intensity and detail. You can identify so many sounds and instruments and it really adds a lot of depth to the piece. Whilst detailed and powerful, the piece lasts a short 1:27, disappointedly. Zero Injuries Sustained starts with the perfect brass and percussion riff, and continues to get better! I hear inspiration from some of the Man of Steel cues done by Hans Zimmer, who really did the percussion justice. Strings are scattered all throughout. Once again, one of my favourite pieces so far only lasts an incredibly short while, clocking in at 1:31.

I'd Like Them Dead begins with speed, for the first time in a long time! It's rhythm is powerful and immediately catchy. It almost forces you back in your seat, with the force of the percussion sets. Again, only 1:23 of this brilliant tune?! I'm outraged! I'd Like Them Dead has to be my favorite piece at this point in time. You Have No Idea is again reminding me of Man of Steel, in a very good way! I have to tap my foot to the infectious beat and rhythm. Violins get some real show time, and they perform very well, to my delight. A set, sounding something like a theme begins, and it is really beautiful. Amon has 100% won me back! The Raven needs to live up to something very memorable, and it starts with intensity and some interesting riffs. You can hear a lot of inspiration from Zimmer, now his Inception score! Amon is not afraid to take risks, which is apparent from this piece, and it pleases me.

Let The Girls Out begins with a smooth rhythm, before a beat kicks in, and the piece picks up. The synths are incredibly powerful in this piece, and I really enjoyed what Amon did. The piece can become a little irritating, especially towards the end, which can be an issue. I Don't Want To Die starts with a very soothing rhythm, and the vocals are beautiful. The strings are very good here, and the emotion from the movie is clear. Simplicity is a key in this piece, and it suits it well. Matilda is another slow endeavour, that really relies on the wonderful strings to provide some heart. We get some heavy beats here and there, and they add another layer of power to this piece. It's quite heart wrenching, I must admit. The length, in this case for some reason, seems to go against the entire piece. I felt like the beauty dragged on slightly too much. Despite this, the piece wins a lot of points!

Step Aboard is back to the synth rhythms, before picking back up with various sets here and there, before bass and percussion, once again, take hold in a truly captivating performance. I'm beginning to enjoy Amon's direction at this point. The sounds towards the start, all sounding as if he was experimenting are lost, and now he is sticking to fast paced, intense pieces. It really suits him very well. The 2:56 running time blasts away quickly. It really feels as if we're heading to Elysium in our next piece. The intensity picks up and the orchestra comes from all different places, before coming together throughout the piece. It's almost as if I'm listening to the Man of Steel score again, but a more refined and calculated version. Something like a theme is heard towards the end of the 1:56 running time, and it's magnificent!

Keep Them Busy starts powerful, and holds it for it's tiny 0:55 running time. Percussion is once again, like a lot of the score, key in keeping the piece vibrant and engrossing. When He Wakes Up has more of the same energetic feel, and great orchestral riffs. I've actually turned the volume up at this point, and I'm loving the intensity and speed! We Do The Hanging lasts for a short 1:08 but gets going from the onset. Amon is embracing this movie, which moves at a frantic speed towards the latter stages. A very simple sounding riff is heard in the background and it's quite good! Kruger Suits Up goes back to earlier pieces to begin with, foreign vocals starting us off. The piece is incredibly vibrant, and Amon uses a bunch of interesting sounds, before going back to his awesome orchestral sets! The piece feels dangerous and very energetic. Amon has been shifting through 22 pieces so far, and this piece still manages to sound incredibly fresh and original. An awesome heroic sounding theme sounds for a short while, before the piece ends.

Armoury is too short for what Amon has planned, with an only 1:00 running time. Despite this, a lot of brass power is inserted, and the piece has enough time to build intensity. Great ending to the piece, as well! I'm Right Behind You has an industrial feel to it to begin with, before settling back in with percussion and brass. We hear some synth riffs, and the piece drops off, before returning to it's powerful state. The final 30 seconds feel like a final fight, and have some intense sets, and some really big jumps that are truly brilliant!

Fire And Water is slower than the past couple of pieces, and dies down fairly quickly, before attempting a rebuild in intensity. And then it has you, with some incredibly string riffs in the background, some of the best I've heard! The rhythm is intoxicating, and I'm tapping my foot to it. A heroic theme I swear I had heard before appears to have appeared, before disappearing quickly.

The Gantry only has 1:10 to it, but the vocals are great to begin with. A synth jump is a little confusing, and we change tempos and beats multiple times, which doesn't work in our short time frame. Breaking A Promise starts with some beautiful music that begins to build in volume. Vocals, once again, steal the show. Amon teases us with them for a while, before giving us a good taste, and it's spectacular. Simplicity is the key, and Amon does well with this. A simple riff in the background is all it takes, and Breaking A Promise has me in for the ride. I have to close my eyes and marvel at the beauty. The music leads up to a brilliant climax and simply cuts, which in my eyes, is possibly the best way to end the piece.

We're almost at the end, with the title piece, Elysium. It begins with a simple piano solo. It's very simple and effective. Amon doesn't appear to be trying to make this piece anything too technical from the get go. Synths and other instruments join in, and we get some truly breathtaking moments. The piece is certainly reminding me of Time, by Hans Zimmer. It's building intensity slowly as more and more instruments join in. The vocals join in, and we have a piece which feels full, and I can't help but shudder. Amon has hit the right cords. The piano is back again, and the whole piece, finally, feels completed. New Heaven, New Earth begins with a percussion beat that doesn't try to build or create a large amount of intensity. Strings flash in and out to great effect. Amon certainly hasn't tried to overdo this final piece, giving it a short 2:23 running time. The piece picks up in speed and intensity, and a theme can be partially heard, before beginning it's rapid ascent. The theme becomes apparent, and the score ends on a high note.

In terms of debuts into the film industry by a composer, Amon has won me over. This is a wonderful score, despite some of the earlier pieces actually giving me a headache. The final half an hour of this score is absolutely brilliant and deserves your full attention. Amon definitely needs to learn to create a score with a lot less pieces, as 29 pieces makes reviewing and listening to it by itself a grind. Some of the pieces, in my mind, could've been lengthened out longer, such as Breaking A Promise. Despite this, the score to Elysium is a very good ride and deserves a listen to, simply for some of it's incredibly percussion and brass riffs.

Highlights:
Fire Up The Shuttle
Zero Injuries Sustained
I'd Like Them Dead*
You Have No Idea*
I Don't Want To Die*
Matilda
Step Aboard
Heading To Elysium
When He Wakes Up
Kruger Suits Up*
I'm Right Behind You
Breaking A Promise*
Elysium*

Individual Piece Scores:
Heaven And Earth-65
Fire Up The Shuttle-90
Unauthorized Entry-79
Deportation-95
Darkness-48
Things To Come-62
You Said You'd Do Anything-74
A Political Sickness-81
Arming Projectile-77
Zero Injuries Sustained-96
I'd Like Them Dead-100*
You Have No Idea-100*
The Raven-87
Let The Girls Out-82
I Don't Want To Die-100*
Matilda-100
Step Aboard-92
Heading To Elysium-97
Keep Them Busy-89
When He Wakes Up-100
We Do The Hanging-91
Kruger Suits Up-100*
Armoury-91
I'm Right Behind You-98
Fire And Water-96
The Gantry-81
Breaking A Promise-100*
Elysium-100*
New Heaven, New Earth-86

Junkie Score-88.17

Want to see what I'm listening to? Follow me on Spotify at Callum Hofler!