Tag Archives: Benjamin Wallfisch

Soundtrack Review: Mortal Kombat (2021)

WaterTower Music has released the soundtrack to New Line Cinema’s explosive new movie Mortal Kombat, which brings to life the intense action of the blockbuster video game franchise in all its brutal glory, pitting the all-time, fan-favorite champions against one another in the ultimate, no-holds-barred, gory battle that pushes them to their very limits. The Mortal Kombat (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) contains all new score by Golden Globe-, Emmy-, and Grammy-nominated composer Benjamin Wallfisch (IT and IT Chapter 2, Shazam, Blade Runner: 2049 [w/ Hans Zimmer]). It features 24 tracks by Wallfisch, who interpreted the film’s themes and emphasized the story’s hard-driving, visceral action through his music.

Director Simon McQuoid discussed working with Wallfisch on the score:

“Ben and I both knew that we needed to use the classic Immortals track ‘Techno Syndrome’ as source material for the entire score of Mortal Kombat. But along with that we knew that an updated elevated version of the song also needed to be created. And Ben certainly delivered! I am so excited by this new 2021 version of the track, when I first heard it, it blew my mind. Actually, Ben kind of blew my mind on a daily basis through the making of this film, so we can all thank Benjamin Wallfisch for his genius and passion in creating ‘Techno Syndrome 2021’.

Wallfisch further elaborated:

“When I was invited to come on board ‘Mortal Kombat,’ I was very aware of the responsibility that comes with scoring a franchise so deeply embedded in pop culture and with such a passionate fanbase. My first question was what can we do with ‘Techno Syndrome,’ a piece of music so much part of the DNA of the game and the original movies? What motifs could be reinvented and blown up to a full-scale symphonic sound world in the score, and might there be room for a full reinvention of the whole song as an EDM single in 2021? A huge thank you to The Immortals for giving us their blessing to reimagine their classic track in this way, as a celebration of the world of Mortal Kombat and its fans, and of the uplifting power of Electronic Dance Music, which the original did so much to light the fuse of 30 years ago.”

I have rarely experienced such a turnaround as what I’ve felt regarding Mortal Kombat. Having minimal contact with the video game series (and the one time I made an effort to play not going particularly well), I was initially on the fence and unable to emotionally invest in the idea of the film at all. But then THAT trailer came out, and I was intrigued. Then came the chance to listen to the soundtrack ahead of its release on April 23…

And I think my brain exploded.

I may have the bad habit of using superlatives too often in my reviews, but please believe me when I say Benjamin Wallfisch’s score for Mortal Kombat is one of the best I’ve ever heard. This isn’t just a soundtrack for an action film, this is an entire world realized through sound and melody and I am here for every last minute of it. During the music for the fight scenes (it’s not hard to tell which ones those are) you can feel every punch and every attack with brutal clarity. For the music alone, I am now itching to see these fight scenes in their proper context, because I need to know how this music connects to the action. And it’s such beautiful music, it has what I like to call “height” which is to say it expands and creates the illusion of space as it goes along. You can literally hear the music grow and soar in certain places, which helps to create the idea of a world existing within the music.

However as I said there’s far more to this soundtrack then just action. Wallfisch also demonstrates a keen ability to take the music in the opposite direction, to slow it down and allow the audience to take a collective breath. That’s an important thing for any film: if the soundtrack is just GO GO GO constantly, it can eventually begin to grate on the ear and become quite tiresome. But the music for Mortal Kombat isn’t like that at all (much to my surprise). There’s plenty of action to go around, but also more than enough moments of calm and relative quiet, though it is more often than not the “calm before the storm” type of quiet. There’s an impressive amount of balancing going on between the two extremes of loud and quiet, and I love it all.

Another detail I like about this soundtrack? The track list doesn’t give too much away regarding plot details. In fact, if I’m reading the track list correctly, most of these tracks appear to be themes for specific characters, which is great because I love thematic-based soundtracks (when done properly). Even so, very little is given away in terms of plot, and that’s great. I’ve seen too many soundtracks where you can suss out the plot of a film from the track list names alone, but you can’t do that here.

I could go on and on about the music for Mortal Kombat, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that listening to this soundtrack has rocketed this film to the top of my must see list for 2021 (and six months ago I couldn’t imagine saying that). If you get the chance, you need to check out this soundtrack independently of the film itself, it is that good.

TRACK LIST

  1. Techno Syndrome 2021 (Mortal Kombat)
  2. Hanzo Hasashi
  3. Lord Raiden
  4. Bi-Han
  5. Shang Tsung
  6. Cole Young
  7. Birthmark
  8. Sonya Blade
  9. Kano v Reptile
  10. Liu Kang
  11. The Great Protector
  12. Sub-Zero
  13. Kung Lao
  14. Origins
  15. Kabal
  16. Goro
  17. Arcana
  18. Jax Briggs
  19. The Void
  20. The Tournament
  21. Sub-Zero v Cole Young
  22. I Am Scorpion
  23. We Fight as One
  24. Get Over Here

Let me know what you think about Mortal Kombat (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

The soundtrack for Universal Pictures’ remake of The Invisible Man is now available digitally and will be available on LP starting March 4th, 2020. Starring Emmy Award winner Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), The Invisible Man is a terrifying modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal’s classic Monster character.

Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding. But when Cecilia’s abusive ex, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House), commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turn lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.

The film’s score was composed by Benjamin Wallfisch (Blade Runner 2049, IT). He has worked on over 75 feature films and has received Golden Globe®, BAFTA®, two-time GRAMMY® and Emmy® nominations. It was recently announced that Wallfisch will score the New Line/Warner Bros reboot of Mortal Kombat, which is slated for a 2021 release.

Regarding the film’s score, Wallfisch had the following to say:

It was about using silence rhythmically. When there is music, the gestures and sonic attitude are sometimes so left-field and extreme that you almost don’t trust the score’s absence when it’s not there. As a kind of analogue to the presence of Adrian Griffin [the Invisible Man] in the film.

Also, the orchestral instrumentation is deliberately constrained to strings- only so that the musicians were pushed to their max, without the support of a full orchestra. That choice was also an homage to one of my heroes, Bernard Herrmann and one of his masterpieces, the Psycho score.

As the film progresses, Cecilia (Moss) devolves into questioning her every move, then grows into her power. The composer reflected that journey musically as well:

Cecilia’s Theme,’ a simple melody for cello and strings, was written to be a musical reminder of her own sanity, as everything unravels around her,” Wallfisch said. “You only hear it a handful of times in the movie, at key turning points in the story. There is also a piano motif that recurs a few times, something building and insistent, meant to portray the way she still manages to hold on to who she really is, against all the odds, ultimately triumphing.”

Because Wallfisch was tasked with creating musical space for an antagonist who is literally not present, the composer had to factor into his choices for Adrian/the Invisible Man some elements that he’d not previously considered for a villain:

Rather than a melodic theme, we needed a signature sound for Adrian—something that just creeps up on you. The sonic for the Invisible Man himself is entirely electronic, and when it goes full tilt, we tried to push things as hard as they could possibly go.

Knowing that the Invisible Man is characterized by electronic sounds makes listening to the soundtrack very interesting indeed, as his motif truly does creep up on you, appearing when you least expect it. There’s a jarring contrast between the strings of the orchestra and the electronic tones as well, which could be symbolizing how unnatural Griffin’s invisible existence really is (after all humans weren’t meant to be invisible). Also, I can definitely sense the homage to Herrmann with the all-strings orchestra. These days it’s somewhat unusual to get a film orchestra that’s all strings, as it creates a musical dynamic that you don’t hear all that often anymore.

Wallfisch really appears to be ratcheting up the tension with this soundtrack as well, as each track is just full of it. Even the tracks that don’t contain references to the Invisible Man are full of subtle tensions (which you would expect in a horror film), as if the next encounter could happen at any moment. It was enjoyable to listen to, but also more than a little nerve wracking since after a while you come to expect that at some point the Invisible Man sonic will jump in and surprise you.

All in all, the soundtrack for The Invisible Man was quite enjoyable, just from listening to it I’m half tempted to check out the film itself once it arrives in theaters.

TRACK LIST
  1. Cobolt
  2. Escape
  3. He’s Gone
  4. This Is What He Does
  5. We’ve Got That In Common
  6. Make It Rain
  7. Attack
  8. Why Me
  9. The Suit
  10. Asylum
  11. He’s Behind You
  12. House Fight
  13. It’s All a Lie
  14. Surprise
  15. Denouement

Check out the soundtrack for The Invisible Man when you get the chance. And let me know what you think of it (and the film) in the comments below, and have a great night!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: It: Chapter Two (2019)

*note: there may be potential spoilers in the few score cues I mention, so keep that in mind as you read this review

As the thrilling conclusion to It (2017) approaches in a matter of days, the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two has been made available for those who wish to hear it in advance of seeing the film. Benjamin Wallfisch, who also scored the first film, returns to complete the musical story he began telling two years ago. In It: Chapter Two, evil resurfaces in Derry as director Andy Muschietti reunites the Losers Club in a return to where it all began. Twenty-seven years after the Losers Club defeated Pennywise, he has returned to terrorize the town of Derry once more. Now adults, the Losers have long since gone their separate ways. However, people are disappearing again, so Mike, the only one of the group to remain in their hometown, calls the others home. Damaged by the experiences of their past, they must each conquer their deepest fears to destroy Pennywise once and for all…putting them directly in the path of the shape-shifting clown that has become deadlier than ever

Regarding the soundtrack, Wallfisch had quite a lot to say:

Andy [Muschietti] has created such an ambitious and extraordinary movie in IT Chapter Two, with an incredible scope on every level.  One of our earliest discussions for the new score was how we could take what we did for the first movie and give it more scale and ambition – to reflect the scope of the film. To start with, we used a much larger orchestra and choir and also created several new themes; when we occasionally reprise moments from the first score, we re-recorded them with more complex and ambitious arrangements, like the music itself had gone through 27 years of maturing. But the most exciting challenge was how to develop the original themes and create new ones that fit alongside them. There was a lot more music required, which really allowed room for the original themes to develop and evolve in a way driven by the emotional complexity of how The Losers Club grapple with inner demons from the past and painful memories and ultimately unite to confront their biggest fears. Pennywise is even more vengeful and flagrant this time, and the music had to also reflect that increased darkness, whilst never losing sight of the adventure and emotion that are at the core of the movie. It was such a joy to reunite with my good friend Andy Muschietti to help bring this story home – the movie is a true masterpiece from the filmmakers and I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to be involved.

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The soundtrack is, in a word, terrifying. Benjamin Wallfisch had a 100 piece orchestra and a 40 person choir to work with when putting this score together, and I assure you he used it all to great effect. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that as a general rule I avoid most horror films, and the music (if done properly) is a big reason why. Wallfisch has filled the score with “jump” moments, where out of nowhere the music will surge up and almost literally snap at you. You can’t even relax during the “brighter” moments because there’s an undercurrent of tension and fear with almost every piece (“Losers Reunited” being an exception to the rule).

Musical jump scares aside, the part that freaks me out the most about this soundtrack is what Wallfisch has done with the choir (at least, I assume it’s the choir). Throughout the soundtrack, and without warning, there are sections where you hear garbled voices, kind of like if you were listening through a static-filled radio, and the voices all sound like they’re screaming in terror. Sometimes these voices act as their own music, sometimes they come in with music, but it’s without a doubt one of the most terrifying things I’ve heard in a soundtrack this year (and probably in the last few years if I’m honest).

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And another thing that Wallfisch is doing in the soundtrack that really scares me is how he manipulates the violins throughout the score. This is something I’ve heard in a lot of scary movies; it’s a technique where a group of violins plays at their highest register and quickly increases in volume and pitch, ending with an almighty shriek that has you instinctively backing up against the wall, even though you know there’s nothing there (well, at least that’s what it does to me). I can only imaging the visual context for those moments, and given this is a movie with Pennywise in it, I’m afraid to find out the answer.

Benjamin Wallfisch clearly put a lot of work into this score, and if it’s this scary by itself, I shudder to think what it would be like to hear this music with the film it was written to accompany. If you liked the score for the first It, then you will love the music for It: Chapter Two.

Let me know what you think about the soundtrack for It: Chapter Two in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Hellboy (2019)

The soundtrack for the reboot of Hellboy released on April 5th. The soundtrack was put together by the award winning composer Benjamin Wallfisch (previous scores include It, Blade Runner 2049, and Hidden Figures). Like the original Hellboy films, this reboot is based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name.

Of the soundtrack for Hellboy, Benjamin Wallfisch had this to say:

“I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Sony Music on the release of the Hellboy soundtrack album. Mike Mignola, Neil Marshall and the entire creative team have created an incredible next chapter in this iconic franchise, one that demanded a completely new approach to the score. Sony Music couldn’t be a better partner to bring this music to a wide audience and I’m grateful to them, Lionsgate and Millennium Media.”

Having listened to the Hellboy soundtrack, I found myself impressed with the variety of sonic colors Wallfisch brought to the score. There is a healthy amount of orchestral music mixed in with beats that come straight out of a rock album (and that’s not a bad thing given what I know of Hellboy). But the tracks that interested me the most have a mystical, semi-Eastern quality to them that draws me in the more I listen to them.

Two of my favorite tracks that I recommend checking out from the Hellboy soundtrack are “Psychic Migraine” and “Baba Yaga.” The latter in particular had a sound quality that felt very Goldsmithian to me (i.e. Jerry Goldsmith). It almost reminds me of a section of the score from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which is also not a bad thing). The way the strings twist and turn, it’s effective at raising the hair on the back of my neck.

The score isn’t perfect by any means. Some of the action tracks are either too “Zimmer like” (too bombastic for my taste) or too generic to me truly memorable. But the tracks that ARE good, are really good. And so for the sake of those tracks, I recommend checking the Hellboy soundtrack out.

Let me know what you think of the Hellboy soundtrack (and the film) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂