Last week on Soundtrack Tuesday we looked back at the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. And Kaiju believe it we have gone bigger this week (sorry for the terrible pun). This week we look back at Bear McCreary’s soundtrack for Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
One of the standouts from the (in my opinion) much underrated Godzilla: King of Monsters is the score by Bear McCreary. The confidence McCreary had to utilise the original scores of each of the monsters and enhance them with his own ideas was such a smart move. Use the history of these characters for the audiences own benefit.
One aspect of McCreary’s score is that he allows each of our titans the chance to shine with their own themes. It is quite evident when you listen when each titan is the focus or even enters the score, this of course is standard composer work, but usually, this is solely for the actors, yet we do not really get a theme for them, the main stars of this film are our four Kaiju. In other soundtracks, the composer usually gives a generic theme with little or no thought to them. Here, intricate work has been put in that not only do these characters get a theme each, but that theme also alters depending on the situation. To help elevate our emotions towards said “character”.
As I said, it is not a new idea, but it is an important one to help the film. After all, these are CGI monsters causing purposeful or accidental damage and destruction to our world. To negate them would be foolhardy and McCreary makes sure he doesn’t. He is a composer who knows the history of the characters at play here and the respect he has for said history is evident with every note.
We start off with Godzilla Main Title and as mentioned, happily, McCreary doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with Godzilla’s theme by Akira Ifukube. Instead, the track is played at a slightly more frenetic pace and allows the brass section to be just the little bit bolder. This isn’t your old Godzilla and McCreary wants to let us know this fact right from the start. The previous Godzillas have always been slightly lumbering creatures, here McCreary wants the audience to know that this can be a more aggressive and dominant Godzilla. He means business and added with the sensational graphics of the titan you truly do feel that.
With the additional chanting vocals combined with the rising brass you know right away that the next 90 minutes will be nothing but joyful. Godzilla Main Title obviously reprises at various points throughout the latter half of the soundtrack and the changes to Godzilla and the story are evident with each alteration.
With Rodan, we immediately know that there is danger present with trumpets blowing continuously as if to alert anyone nearby that they should leave and get out of dodge as quickly as possible throughout the five-minute track. High strings only increase the tension and it truly is one of the standout tracks of the album. Throughout the song it honestly feels as if we are being chased by Rodan, there is next to no respite for the listener as Rodan keeps going and going, the trumpets blaring and drums continually pounding their way through whatever it wants. We are meant to be frightened and feel the intensity of Rodan and we truly are with this theme.
The melancholy continues again for Mothra, out of all of the monsters, she is our heart and soul and McCreary has expertly managed to evoke that in Queen of Monsters. Like The Larva, we are in for a slower, quieter start that brings us simple drum beats that represent Mothra. I liked this quite a bit as we do not get to hear Mothra in all her glory until the very end of the soundtrack in Mothra’s Song. The little builds here really make her song stand out, so when the flute comes in, it is almost surprising. No other track sounds remotely like this one and to see how much has been taken from the original is heart-warming. Again McCreary hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel with some of these characters songs, he has adapted them perfectly. With Mothra’s Song, the only aspect missing is the vocals that are in some older versions and he is able to develop so many layers, that they are not missed. Excellent work.
If you were not aware of the danger of Ghidorah, Ice Breaker makes you aware of his coming and how it is bad for all involved. The strings are heightened and going at a ferocious speed. Unlike Godzilla Main Title, the drum beats are matched with horns to give an extra oomph to proceedings. These beats are far too ominous when the strings keep rising and falling, seemingly unstoppable. Where Ice Breaker ended, Rise of Ghidorah begins, the brass taking centre stage at the start with the choir returning to haunt us. Are we listening to our reckoning coming towards us? It certainly appears as if McCreary intended for us to feel this way. The heavy drum beats keep us on edge throughout danger surrounds Ghidorah and this was perfectly encapsulated in the track.
McCreary takes no time in meshing both Ghidorah and Godzilla’s themes together in Old Rivals with Ghidorah dominating the early parts of the song before those deep Godzilla horns appear again, but as quickly as they appear the rapid rising strings of Ghidorah comes back. These two Kaiju’s are battling for dominance and this song epitomises that perfectly.
Bear McCreary has made himself a composer to look out for. One last thing, it should be commended for the length of the soundtrack. Usually, the sounds are cherry-picked and it runs very short. Here we get the breadth of what McCreary was doing and it is well worth the full listen. Soundtrack albums should be longer, unless you are in the boat of the Joker score which, like the film was minimal. If there is a score to listen to then it should be given to the audience to enjoy.
In between all of the Kaiju, tracks are songs filled with tension, but the track has four main standouts and they are saved for our four monsters who have been given some exceptional music to rule us with. For long-time Kaiju fans, the call backs will be very pleasing and they will be overwhelmingly satisfied and engrossed throughout this 90 minute plus classic soundtrack.