The Importance of Movie Music with Gravity, Drive and Return of the Jedi

What would the movies be like without music?

Scores and soundtracks became staples of cinema even before dialogue. Way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, silent movies had only a musical score to convey the emotion of a story.

We have often marvelled at contemporary movies with segments of no dialogue – There Will Be Blood for instance has an opening with over 9-minutes of talkie-free glory.

Without the screeching, unsettling score, maybe it would just look like a few guys digging for oil, rather than an unnerving set-up for a story about greed and obsession.

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In quick succession we have seen three pieces of news involving movie music.

Most recently the announcement came that Gravity, the mind-blowing sci-fi adventure that blew the 3D bar sky-high last year, will be released on Blu-Ray accompanied by an option to view the movie sans-score. That’s the movie stripped down with no music, leaving only the emptiness of space. It’s an exciting move that should tell us much about the importance of music in the movies.

The second recent example is how the UK’s BBC Three channel re-scored the cult-classic Drive, which itself already sported a highly-praised soundtrack.

The result was a subtly and oddly different movie. The inflections of dance and rave at points sucked out the magic of the original assembly, but at others infused it with a new energy and urgency.

Finally we have had the wonderful re-dub by Aurulnauts of YouTube on the final scene in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Aurulnauts took away the music and left only the awkward sounds of footsteps and coughing in this dialogue-free finale.

A score can be vital to the emotion of a scene when used correctly, making it all the more conspicuous when deliberately omitted.

A great example of no music in a scene that would normally have it is this one from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. Notice how the natural sound of the running and combat gives it a visceral and immediate quality.

Having taken away the polish of an orchestra the creators have made what is a fantasy wand fight in a fantasy world seem threatening and realistic.

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But would we like it if movies had no music? I strongly suspect not. Scores and soundtracks, original or curated from popular music, are the lifeblood of audience emotion.

Imagine James Bond without his unmistakeable motif…

Imagine if The Graduate really WAS filled with the Sound of Silence…

Imagine Apocalypse Now without The Doors…

Unthinkable. Or not? Let us know what you think…

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Interstellar: The IMAX Review [NO SPOILERS]

Want more critique? Read the Interstellar Movie Review HERE (short and snappy – don’t worry).

Interstellar has been released on every platform imaginable (bar 3D), from 4K digital to 35mm film. So is it worth IMAX’s higher ticket price?

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In a word – yes.

The visuals from cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema are stunning and were literally intended for the IMAX experience; Interstellar has the most 70mm IMAX footage of any movie in history.

What is IMAX? A taller image. An IMAX screen is almost as tall as it is wide, and Director Christopher Nolan used film stock specifically for these dimensions in order to experience the movie’s world in an unbeatable fashion. 

A lot of the movie plays out with normal dimensions of a cinema screen, but when the movie flips to IMAX footage you see the black bars disappear from the top and bottom, the image flooding your vision for mind-blowing moments such as the journey through a wormhole and the descent into a black hole. These changes in image size, or ‘aspect ratio’, are rarely noticeable as you become immersed in the storytelling.

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Another element is the sound. Interstellar is full of gut-wrenching audio helping you to experience the writhing of the space shuttle and the scale of the planets, but IMAX also allows you to experience the quiet moments of the movie. The clarity of sound is such that the silent moments floating in space feel as empty as intended, rather than being spoiled by buzz or whirr.

Furthermore, Hans Zimmer’s score must be experienced at IMAX. Offering powerfully fragile melodies in moments of gargantuous action and emotion is an enlightening change from deep, bassy and orchestral scores. The soundtrack is gentle, magnificent and brooding and every minutia of it must be heard.

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So no 3D like the similarly incredible space-set Gravity? It works. For all the sophistication of Gravity it was at heart a roller-coaster ride; an unbearable and claustrophobic experiment of a movie playing amongst flying debris and safety cords. It was designed and ideal for 3D in the best possible sense.

With Interstellar there must be no gimmicks or novelty and such it is fit for IMAX. Nolan wants us to experience space exploration with the cold hand of reality on our shoulder, rather than with the diverting spectacle of unnatural 3D images. Both movies are different and perfect for their chosen mediums.

What about the Movie itself? Read the Interstellar Movie Review HERE

What did you think of the IMAX? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @MovieMasticator, or on Our Facebook Page. 

CLICK HERE for the latest on Interstellar…

Not seen the movie? Watch the most recent trailer below…

Gravity – 3D (2013)

Gravity – 3D (2013)

Gravity

Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men)

Starring: Sandra Bullock (The Heat), George Clooney (The Descendants)

Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Thriller

3D has recently become somewhat of a novelty to throw an extra two or three pounds down the drain. The output has, with a few exceptions, been a slew of so-so children’s animations and mindless blockbuster action movies. Now along comes Gravity to show us how 3D is really done, and that means even showing James Cameron a trick or two. The film doesn’t just enhance and exploit the 3D but it almost requires it, to the point of it being a necessity to view it in the extra dimension. There is a chance you could lose a lot of the experience seeing the ‘flat print’.

It is partly down to the outer-space setting. Rather than in other 3D releases where objects are manipulated via the action to burst towards your confused, aching eyes, the environment of outer space with its zero-G means that objects naturally drift in an out of view. It’s a slow, slick, flexible screen where the 3D can highlight the sensation of zero-G perfectly. There are times that Alfonso Cuarón aims for the minimal; the camera focusing on a drop of water in the foreground, or focusing on Sandra Bullock’s face for extended lengths of time.

It’s this aspect which is most prominent. Ever since the brilliant Children of Men, Cuarón has been known for his contemplative camera work, including lots of long takes. In fact, the first shot of the movie is astounding in its accomplishment, lasting at least 5 minutes, swirling with the movements of Clooney and Bullock, as well as the debris around them and the ropes that tether them to their shuttle.

Of course these ropes snap, and the jeopardy comes from Sandra Bullock drifting further and further into space, due to a catastrophic and sudden shower of debris. It’s a terrifying, sickening and repulsive situation to be in. One couldn’t be any more in the middle of nowhere. This is where Cuarón’s style comes into its own, as he forces us to stick with our protagonists through their struggle to get to safety, not allowing us to cut away for respite. It’s a struggle that lasts pretty much the entirety of the film, making the whole experience unimaginably exhausting. By adding in the 3D element, it becomes a form of emotional turmoil. You really feel the depth of space, you really are immersed. A part of you may just want to get up, with your feet on the ground, and go for a walk around the cinema just to reassure yourself that it is just a movie.

One thing to say is that it’s not a plot-packed film. One shouldn’t go with the expectation of usual big-movie fare. Yes, there are set pieces and yes there is action but in terms of plot, nothing much changes. From very early on the set up is established – our protagonists must get to safety – and it doesn’t evolve throughout the next 90 minutes. For the majority it will be the most gripping 90 minutes of their movie-viewing lives, but it’s worth noting that for some they may just come out thinking: ‘Well it looked nice, but what happened?!’.

A great performance by Bullock keeps you interested in the character sufficiently, which is vital considering how little we learn of our leads, and how much time we have to spend with them. The premise could have been laughable – drifting around space, manoeuvring, straining and stretching to get to safety in, what is to us earthlings, a ludicrous scenario. Can space engineers really just fly around space like that? It is a bit of a mind-blower, so one that needs a great lead performance to ground it in reality and human emotion, around all the extra-terrestrial activity.

Summary: Be ready for a fight, be ready to battle with your lead character the whole way. It’s not an easy ride, you may just come out wanting sleep immediately, but for most it will be worth it. For most it will be a unique, unbelievable journey that we may never experience the likes of in cinema again. For the visuals alone this film earns top marks, it depends on each audience member’s patience whether the actual story earns the tag of either ‘love’ or ‘hate’. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Let us know your opinion @MovieMasticator!