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Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat)

June 3, 2014


Alexandre Desplat, 2014, Watertower Music
20 tracks, 60:28

So, the famous Japanese monster “Godzilla” gets a new Hollywood remake. And for the music they turned to the composer of “The King’s Speech” and “Philomena”. Should prove interesting…
Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Godzilla” hardly needs any further introductions, least from me! Director Gareth Edwards is not new to the game, but this is by far (by very, very far) his biggest film to date. In fact, I’m not quite sure how he managed to land himself this project! However, his next one will be a “Star Wars” spin-off. Talk about a career launch! Even the cast doesn’t include any particularly ‘big’ names, other than the fabulous Ken Watanabe. The director’s admirable vision was to create a monster movie with heart and soul. This may explain why he went after French composer Alexandre Desplat, who is mostly known for his intelligent and intricate writing – less so for his bombast.

What does it sound like?

It sounds like the biggest, most ma-hoo-sive thing to come out of Hollywood in some time! Anyone doubting Desplat’s capabilities in this genre need not doubt any longer. Without abandoning his own recognisable style (and most certainly without resorting to popular ‘Remote Control’ stylistics) the composer delivers exciting ostinatos, driving rhythms and a gigantic soundscape that is second to none; courtesy of doubling the size of certain sections in the orchestra (rather than using synths).

He may be a ‘classical’ composer, Desplat has never shied away from synthesizers. A deep pulsating bass is one of his trademark sounds, and it’s utilised a lot in “Godzilla” along with several other arpeggios and synth pads. His choice of sounds is always ‘clean’ and never harsh or jarring. First and foremost this is a large orchestral score. As mentioned, Desplat doubled certain sections, such as the strings and brass; and then placed these duplicate sections on opposite ends of the orchestra. This allowed the composer to create a wide stereo sound and, in real time, pan phrases left and right. In doing so, he ensured that, one way or another, the music would be breaking through the film’s sound effects.

The album opens with the score’s main theme, creatively entitled “Godzilla!”. Its racing strings and dissonant(ish) brass clusters set the tone for what’s to come. The theme itself is remarkable due to its 15/4 rhythm; as such I’d say it’s reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith, though the overall sound is closer to Elliot Goldenthal.

What follows is a modern and intelligently written monster-movie score that is loud and aggressive and barely lets up. During the second half of “The Power Plant” the composer offers a beautiful adagio for strings. It does recur throughout the album, but make sure you savour those moments! I wouldn’t want to go as far as saying that “Godzilla” is dissonant (and certainly not atonal), but it is harsh and takes no prisoners. The sheer force of the music is impressive and, on a first listen, may obscure the various themes and motifs that this score contains. Some may argue that “Godzilla” is more about the sound than the melodies, but I disagree. And I would go as far as saying that Desplat has delivered a leitmotiv score.

Is it any good?

Alexandre Desplat’s score for “Godzilla” is huge, bold and aggressive. The Frenchman is an accomplished composer, in various styles, but this one still comes as a surprise. It’s like the quiet, shy kid in the class room just knocked out the school bully and bagged himself the hottest girl from the next year up! Unsurprisingly however, you cannot fault this score’s technical merits. The writing and orchestrations are fantastic. Not only is it an aural onslaught, it is intelligently written and brilliantly performed. For some it may not be quite melodic enough (but come on… look at the film); and for others it may actually prove a little too loud. If anything, I would have to say that a full hour of this kind of music is exhausting and I often find myself having to take a little break from it. That’s only a minor gripe; the score is otherwise as colossal as the monster itself. And the recording is top-notch allowing you to hear every little detail (of which there are many) in spite of the music’s scale.

Rating [4/5]


1. Godzilla! (2.08)
2. Inside The Mines (2.25)
3. The Power Plant (5.49)
4. To Q Zone (2.55)
5. Back to Janjira (5.59)
6. Muto Hatch (3.13)
7. In The Jungle (1.59)
8. The Wave (3.04)
9. Airport Attack (1.47)
10. Missing Spore (3.57)
11. Vegas Aftermath (3.23)
12. Ford Rescued (1.23)
13. Following Godzilla (2.01)
14. Golden Gate Chaos (2.51)
15. Let Them Fight (1.38)
16. Entering The Nest (3.01)
17. Two Against One (4.15)
18. Last Shot (1.58)
19. Godzilla’s Victory (3.02)
20. Back To The Ocean (3.40)

It’s Everwhere!

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