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SCORE: Super 8 (Michael Giacchino, 2011)

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SCORE: Super 8 (Michael Giacchino, 2011)

At first I wanted to wait for the film to be released here (August 19) so I could listen to the music first in the film, which is the way I prefer it. But last night I was too nervous (for different matters) and I had to listen to this to calm myself down a bit. It worked.

Although I don't do this very often, I listened to it all the way from start to finish, in the dark, without looking at what track was playing. It flows perfectly. If anything I could say that the action dragged a bit in the last third of the score. I didn't feel like this at a second listen, though. In fact the second time the score ended too soon for me. This one gives a better impression listening to it all the way through than playing around cues randomly.

Michael Giacchino is a composer who creates quite satisfying listenings, mostly because his music is fun if you happen to like his usual mannerisms, and they are present in every track of Super 8. I think he's currently one of the people in the bussiness who approaches more closely John Williams' own conceptions of film scoring, but bear in mind that I'm not referring to his technique, although there are nods to Williams in his music. I could describe Giacchino's style as a mixture bewteen what you hear in Medal of Honor and what you can hear in Lost. Super 8 is basically and adventurous Let Me In, minus the chorus. His style appears in a very depurated form in Super 8 so if you don't like it you probably won't enjoy this score.

The music is mostly simple, very intimistic and delicate, with ourstburts of action and adventure mainly in the later part of the score. It's mysterious and childish. It hardly ever sounds like a "big" score.

Giacchino makes similar choices for leitmotivic writing to these by John Williams (I know some people don't like to compare Giacchino with the giant that is JW but I can't help it this time). One of the most repeated through the score is a four note motif identifying the alien threat that goes through all kinds of variations in tone through the whole score. Its use reminds me of the main motif in The Lost World. There are audible flutes and others woodwinds in a Lost World fashion several times, and a bit of brass like in Williams' suspense cues.

Other themes are:

-A family theme (Family Matters), veery simple and heartwarming (it's got the same structure as the Star Trek theme).

-A wonderful love theme that develops several interesting variations, either in the slower parts or the action music (like in Neighborhood Watch or Evacuation of Lillian). This theme has got an E.T. feel to it, while still sounding like Giacchino (Let Me In)

-Another theme is the theme for the military which is very appropiate. Its first seven notes are straight out of a motif in Secret Weapons Over Normandy and I don't know how to feel about that. To say the truth it's also a bit like John Williams and his villain/military themes that repeat a note several times.

-There's also other ideas like a two phrase descending theme (Looking for Lucy) and (I think) some ostinato.

As usual in Giacchino's music the themes are good to great but sometimes feel too short, mostly because they have potential to be very cool elaborate themes. There are some tracks like Letting Go or Neighborhood Watch that offer a bit of colour to the overall tone of the score, that stays pretty much the same. Yet there's something cool about Giacchino's compositional voice that makes me wait in advance for his next score.

So far this is my favourite score this year together with Priest by Christopher Young, and my favourite film score by Giacchino with Ratatouille. There's potential in Giacchino, probably because of his own enthusiasm, but that potential is developing slowly (hey, everybody's different). I hope that the music for John Carter will be as good or better than this one.

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I very much agree with your review. Giacchino is in top form in Super 8. The structure, despite many short cues, is a well flowing construct with great dramatic peaks and valleys and it works perfectly for me. There is a clear arc in the music, very direct and simple thematic ideas that seem to both capture the style of film music's yesteryear and the things they are depicting to a T. I am in particular impressed by the fact he can get so much mileage out of the Alien motif, initial 4 notes of which 3 are very often utilized, making it at times an ostinato for action, a motif for mystery and annoucement of horror.

It is one of my most played scores this summer. :)

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