The Wolfman score, and why it disappoints me

I recently bought the score for The Wolfman by Danny Elfman.

I must say that it isn’t all that bad. I don’t know I’ve recently been expecting so much from my scores, but it’s beginning to hurt my feelings. Nothing has recently lived up to my inner hype. I guess I need to quit presuming I know what the score should sound like.

So, much like Avatar, this score didn’t live up to what I wanted it to be, but I really like it for what it is. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’ve heard/read a few different reviews. So like many times, I’m imagining how this score fits that film.

Very subdued. This is the one word I would use to describe the score overall. Where I had expected some bombast (especially when I read that Paul Hasslinger (Underworld) had been hired to fill in Elfman spots in the movie.

  • Sidebar – Elfman couldn’t return to work more on the score when they made changes to the film after he had already finished and recorded the score, so the producers brought on other composers to do this work.

The score came back with a lot more claustrophobic sound, a major player being that of the solo violin player, playing with a heavily gypsy feel.

This subdued, ominous scoring makes me really think of a more classical monster movie, more concerned with suspense than with bombast… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It would be very interesting to see if this is the genre the film also fits into.

In hindsight, I’m not really sure what I expected… perhaps a transformers-like monster movie (as far as action), and if that’s the case, then shame on me. Because I would honestly prefer a great monster movie with wonderful writing and great story arc. Although, from what I’ve heard, this movie isn’t that at all.

So putting aside what I expected and what I actually got, I will say that the theme in all it’s glory and variations was very nice. At times I heard some textures that I’d heard before (Hellboy II), and the brass was at times reminiscent of Terminator Salvation (but not nearly as prominent).

The score is string and brass heavy with choral vowels at times, and some lines double with select woodwinds. A lot of string percussion and cymbal.

Overall a good, dark, atmospheric score. I would liken it to Sleepy Hollow without the sounds that Elfman would use for Tim Burton, only with a slower tempo. Has anyone seen this film, and is it good?

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4 responses to “The Wolfman score, and why it disappoints me

  1. I haven’t heard the score and I haven’t seen the movie, but from what I understand the situation with the score was a complete mess. Elfman’s score gets tossed after being completely finished. Haslinger’s score gets dumped. Then, if my understanding of it is right, the filmmakers hired a team of orchestrators and arrangers to adapt Elfman’s original intentions. I can only imagine how much money the total music costs of this film were. It has to be a fair ridiculous number.

    I’m curious: is there any mention of whether the CD release of the score is as Elfman composed it, or as it was adapted for what would eventually be the final cut of the film?

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  2. I have no idea which iteration this is of the score. I got the itunes version which didn’t include a digital booklet (damn them (sometimes I really do miss physical media)).

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  3. Near as I can hear (after seeing the film) the CD is Elfman. The “team” of additional composers consisted of Conrad Pope, T.J. Lindgren, and Ed Shearmur. From what I understand, they more or less filled in gaps and fixed transitions where Elfman’s original score didn’t work after the finalized re-re-recuts.

    Reed, I think you’d do well to forget Haslinger was ever, EVER involved in the project. If you think about it, there’s a simple reason he was brought in to rescore – A focus group didn’t like Johnston’s cut of the film. The suits decided it needed to be recut and reimagined (read: adrenalized) as a hip, stylish, rock video action film. That failed…miserably and horribly. They made a shit-ton of last-minute compromises with Johnston. He got one more crack at a recut. Now Elfman’s score “mostly” fit. But things had been trimmed enough to need some musical tweaking.

    The only preconception I had of the score was that it was very brooding, and Kilar-esque in that it was inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In that respect, it holds up. As for my reactions to it – I think it’s one of his best works in years! Everything I had heard about the film (prior to seeing it) was that it was going to be a faithful homage to the “spirit” of the original with a definite modern style and take. I think it succeeded mostly, and in no small part because of the score. A big ballsy score would have been COMPLETELY out of place. To me the score is a grand throwback to the golden age of film making, only with Elfman’s style and sensibilities.

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  4. That makes perfect sense to me. I really like this score when I think about it as a throwback, not that I don’t really like this score anyway. The title was more of a cheat.
    As far as Hasslinger goes, I’m not that big a fan of his music, and was quite happy when I had read that they were going to use Elfman’s score (albeit in a Frankensteinian sense).

    I think that the shallowness of the industry is really shortsighted, and trying to make everyone feel warm inside with explosions and bombast won’t make for lasting art. Obviously there are exceptions, but in the long run, a film and score like Brokeback Mountain have a much greater impact than a film like Death Race (even though I loves me some Statham).

    I don’t know why I always have preconceived notions about what I expect. For some reason I always want everything to have the grandiosity of a LOTR, or the perfect execution in the blending of accoustic and electronics a la the Bourne series.

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