I haven't watched a Die Hard film until a few years back, nor have I really heard a score all that much until recent superb re-issues. But when I did I immediately fell in love with the first film and all the scores, especially the first three Michael Kamen's outings. What I love them is how John McClane is treated with this quite simple thematic material, whereas the villains get all the self-important classical material. The first of the two motifs is the slightly melancholic and anxious theme and the second is a one note played staccato followed by the resolving one note half step higher (not unlike Williams' Jaws theme). It is a brilliant simple idea that creates a lot of tension and also encapsulates the main character perfectly - he's an underdog and a insignificant small thorn that will ultimately overcome big guys.
The first score has a very distinctive 80's and a Christmas holiday vibe to it. Not so much an action music, but more of a suspense piece with a few fireworks sprinkled throughout. A clever use of Ode to Joy, Singin in the Rain and Winter in Wonderland to illustrate the bad guys gives the whole thing a sense of mischief. The sleigh percussion, pkucking strings only enhance that.
The second takes the whole wintery sound of the first score and expands upon it. This time we're dealing with an action film, where the whole suspense of the first half builds towards this extended 30 minute action climax of the film. When the tension reaches its climax we're treated with a finale with Sibelius' Finlandia with some Die Hard elements worked into it. The classical piece is hinted a couple of times, but not as strongly as in the previous film. For me, this work plays best on album.
Die Hard With A Vengeance is a slightly a different beast. It comes back to the original idea of quoting several iconic pieces of music, but this time the action takes place in the middle of summer, so the sleigh bells is absent (apart from one cue). Ode to Joy comes back with, as the title suggests, a vengeance. Johnny Comes Marching Home is the new idea associated with Simon Gruber. Apparently all the references in the first and third score are nods to Stanley Kubrick so we're treated to a snippet of Daisy Daisy song as well. The only downside is that, as the score progresses towards its climax there's more and more music reprised almost verbatim from the other Die Hard films, with the final action sequence being a re-recording of the climax from the second film (which in itself was a re-recording of the piece from Kamen's Amazing Stories episode). Nevertheless it remains a very impressive work.
Flashforward to XXI century and we get two more movies in the series. What's really surprising is that the creators decide to keep the general sound of the series intact. Not that obvious if you consider John McClane's theme is not exactly a Superman march or anything of that stature. Marco Beltrami takes all the stylistics from Kamen and creates a modern action pieces which honour the sound of old, especially in the most recent film where the whole score is literally flooded with Kamenisms. It may not be on the level of the late composer, but is endearing anyway.
What about you? Feel free to elaborate. In fact, I insist.
The end of the year is almost upon us (less than two weeks now) and no more major releases planned (except maybe for Jack Reacher). I wonder what are your favourite scores? I propose to divide it into several categories
TOP 5 new film scores (by which I mean all the scores released for this years' films)
TOP 5 film score re-releases (all the specialty labels' stuff; a favourite category for many, I'm sure)
Other music (games, TV etc.) (if you want share something worthwhile written for small or computer screen)
Personal highlight of the year. (your single best film music related memory, can be an album, concert, whatever)
Disappointment of the year (same as above, but inverted)
You don't have to post 5 scores. If you just liked one then say so. I just want to know what you liked. The order doesn't matter, unless you want it to.
Any other comments (honorary mentions, industry trends, whatever you feel like to add) also welcome.