Friday, April 8, 2011
Hanna and her Brothers
The last six months have seen a number of high-profile musical acts take on the task of scoring a major motion picture.
First it was Trent Reznor, the erstwhile entirety of the band Nine Inch Nails, working with frequent collaborator Atticus Ross on the Social Network score. As you know, they won the Oscar for their work. There may have been no artist better suited to capturing Mark Zuckerberg's alienation.
Then it was Daft Punk tackling the very Daft Punkian-themes of Tron: Legacy. I mean, the guys actually wear space suits when they're performing.
Now it's The Chemical Brothers, scoring Joe Wright's Hanna, which opens today. Seems appropriate for a movie where a teenage assassin is being hotly pursued by shadowy government agents. There may be a lot of running.
However, Hanna is a bit different in the sense that it represents a heightened consciousness of the name recognition The Chemical Brothers bring to the project. Reznor's involvement in the Social Network score wasn't promoted at all in the ads. Daft Punk's involvement in Tron: Legacy was touted in the theatrical trailers, but not in the TV ads. Continuing the evolution, The Chemical Brothers' name appeared in the theaters and is now appearing on TV as well.
It's an interesting approach. Serious film fans and musicians would probably argue that music plays an integral role in films. However, to the average viewer, the importance of music is probably no greater than the importance of one of the lesser-known co-stars, in terms of how much they want to see the movie. It may be crediting the average viewer with more of a sense of purity than the rest of us have, but they just want to know if the story is good. (Whereas, implicitly, we film nuts fixate on details that may ultimately reveal our nerdiness more than they relate usefully to whether the movie is good or not.)
But even Reznor, in an interview about The Social Network, said that he only notices music in a movie if it's really good or really bad. I thought this was a strange comment to make, considering that he's a musician himself, and you'd think he'd always be attuned to what other musicians are doing -- especially since he'd worked on movie soundtracks and scores before. But even to him, the music is usually subordinate to the storytelling. He gets lost in the story and he doesn't notice it.
However, that could also be a criticism of his fellow musicians. Maybe by saying he "never notices" music in movies, he's really saying that there hasn't been much in terms of good movie music recently. Maybe that's what this recent trend -- and it may only be me who's calling it a trend -- is trying to change.
Speaking personally, I love it when a movie has a good score -- but like Reznor, I don't notice it if it doesn't. My favorite movies are the ones that assault me from all sides, visually and aurally. Can you even imagine a movie like Run Lola Run without the techno music? If it had a generic orchestral score, even an orchestral score that hit at all the dramatic notes at all the right times, it wouldn't be the movie it is.
I guess this is also revealing my fondness for electronic music. All the artists I've listed so far are either industrial (Nine Inch Nails) or techno (Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, and Tom Tykwer, who wrote the Run Lola Run score along with Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek). So yeah, it makes sense that I'd be excited about these movies.
And I am, in fact, excited about Hanna. I was excited before I knew The Chemical Brothers were involved, and their involvement only increased that excitement. I have all of their albums, and when I saw them perform live, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen.
I suppose it's not such a new idea anymore, a young girl trained to kick ass and take names -- we just saw Hit-Girl do it in Kick-Ass last year. Now, the training sequences with a bow and arrow in the tundra -- that's new. But it's a new enough idea, executed in an interesting enough way, that I think it has major potential.
I'm also interested to see director Joe Wright drive himself further outside the box. I thought I had him pigeon-holed when I first heard of him as the director of the Kiera Knightley Pride and Prejudice (which I didn't actually see). I figured him for a Merchant-Ivory type. That impression was confirmed when I saw his name connected to Atonement -- until, that is, I saw Atonement, and loved the unconventional things it did within the general constraints of a period piece. In his next film he jumped forward into the current day, but remained in the general realm of drama, with The Soloist, which I quite liked. Now, he's contributing what looks like it could be an exceptional action-thriller to the cinematic universe -- re-teamed with the talented Saoirse Ronan, who received an Oscar nomination for her work in Antonement. (That's pronounced "Sare-shee," and I may steal it if I ever have a female child.) I love directors who seem to be interested in evolving and changing, and Wright definitely fits the bill.
But I won't be seeing Hanna this weekend, because I'm bound for Mexico later today. That's right, five days in the fun and sun of one of those all-inclusive resorts. We're allowing ourselves the indulgence because it's timed to celebrate a landmark birthday for my wife (I won't say which one, but it's not 30 and it's not 50). Her birthday was actually back in February, but who wants to go to a resort when it's cold outside? The weather is supposed to be great in Puerto Vallarta, we got a really good deal, and even if we hadn't, well, her family contributed significantly to our costs, as a birthday present for her. Plus, we're staying long enough to get eight free hours of babysitting as part of our deal. Woo-hoo!
So I'll be back in action next Wednesday or Thursday. If you see me posting before then, please scold me. I should be out enjoying the sun.