Although typically associated with longtime collaborator Tim Burton, composer Danny Elfman’s work has spanned decades, genres and films of all shapes and sizes. From the timid, kid-friendly Charlotte’s Web and Meet the Robinson’sÂ to the harsher Red Dragon and The Kingdom, Elfman is all over the map.Â But his dark themes and sensibilities seem to play best in the dark underworlds created by Tim Burton. So, it makes sense that he’d be chosen to score the new comic book actioner Wanted, helmed by Russian director Timur Bekmambetov of theÂ Night Watch, DayÂ Watch, and the upcoming Twilight Watch.
And despite the slightly incongruous opening track -Â an ’80s tinged rock and roller called “The Little Things” where Elfman provides some competentÂ lead vocalsÂ - his Wanted score covers all the bases… it just doesn’t go the extra mile. Maybe like a lot of high-profile composers, it’s almost too easy to compare Elfman’s newest work to his previous work. This can be an unfair and unneccessary comparison at times, requiring that a brilliant composer remain on the top of his game at all times, but when you see theÂ words “Music ByÂ Danny Elfman” on a score, your expectations can’t help but rise. And I’m not at all saying that this score is bad or unenjoyable, it just gets a little repetitive by the end.
The first several tracks (“Success Montage”, “Fraternity Suite”, and “Wesley’s Office Life”) are packed withÂ almost non-stopÂ action andÂ adrenaline that sucks you into the album and carries you along without much trouble.Â The familiar Elfman vibe is thereÂ but it’s cleverly masked withÂ a heavy bass line. It starts to feel as if Elfman may manageÂ to create a stirring and new interpretationÂ of the worked-over action film score. Â And thoughÂ a consistentÂ adrenaline vibe continues through the rest of the album, it eventuallyÂ leads toÂ a bit of an overkill feeling. How long can we stay at full force before full force doesn’t feel as powerful anymore. There isÂ a bit of aÂ lull midway throughÂ during the tracksÂ ”Welcome to the Fraternity” and “Fox’sÂ Story” which is quite welcome.Â These slower, strings-laden tracks provide Elfman with a chance to reflect on what he’s doing and give the score some substance,Â but as the drums come back in and the choral voices pick up, it’s clear that this reprieve is to be short-lived. The very next track, “Exterminator Beat” brings the dark, electronic action heart of the album back to the forefront.
The entire album is exciting and it’s nice to hear such a full score – by full I mean so many instruments throughout. Maybe I listen to too many independent film scores, but it seems like there’s just a richer sound when you’ve got a full orchestra behind you, as Elfman has here. Fans of the comic book genre (if it can be called a genre) will definitely find plenty to admire in this score, while even fans of more standard orchestral fare can find a few key tracks to take in. Elfman is one of the best composers working today, and though this isn’t his best work, it’s still darn good.
Oh, and be sure toÂ listen for the Nightmare Before Christmas moments during the track “Rats.” It’s almost as if Elfman included them as a signature to an otherwise bland fightÂ track.
Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Driving through a dark city at night with your music turned up
Stay Away if: You’re looking for something slow and moving
Buy this on Itunes: “The Little Things” … hey it’s the first Elfman-sung track in a while, you know it’s going to be the one people are talking about
To purchase the Soundtrack for Wanted, visit Amazon