SDCC 2014: Anatomy of a Superhero! Musical Score Composer interviews

Superhero Collage

Our favorite superhero movies are always accompanied with beautiful musical scores. These pieces either inspire us, or help us to understand the character’s emotions, or portray what the scene is supposed to mean. I was lucky enough to access the press panel that had grouped five of Hollywood’s best composers into one room (as pictured below): Blake Neely, Christophe Beck, Tyler Bates, Brian Tyler, and John Ottman. (Since this was a roundtable discussion, I was only able to ask 1-2 questions per composer.)

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Tyler Bates was the first to our group. Tyler Bates, if you don’t know, is the composer for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie. His past resume includes that of 300Watchmen, Sucker Punch, and Dawn of the Dead. Tyler loves doing these pieces for these types of movies and expresses that he loves implementing the soul and the emotional snapshot into the tracks for each of the characters. He also stated that he doesn’t follow pre-engaged emotions of what fans want to hear, because it would be condescending to them; especially when it comes down to this musical art for these movies. Guardians of the Galaxy is so deep and heartfelt for a lot of the characters, that he really wanted to express that in the pieces as best as he could for the director (James Gunn) and for the people involved. Tyler hopes that his pieces help the viewer to empathize more with the characters, and why it makes them individually unique.

Christophe Beck was the next composer that we were able to speak with. He hasn’t done a superhero movie per se, however he’s known for the current movie starring Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow. He also did the score for Pitch Perfect a little while ago, and spoke about how he did a lot of acapella in college that helped to get him moreso into the business. I was able to ask Christophe where he got his inspiration for the soundtrack for the score of Edge of Tomorrow since again, it’s not really a superhero movie, but could be comparable to Iron Man in a way (Because of the power suits). He said he didn’t want to draw from past scores already and wanted to put his own touch to the movie itself. There was a scene in the middle of the movie where the character finally understands what he has to do, and Christophe wrote, then re-wrote the piece several times until the final product conveyed the “awakening” of the character.

Blake Neely who is known at the moment as the composer for CW’s Arrow and The Flash jovially sat down with us next. Immediately he jumped into how and what his angle was when writing for these superhero television shows. “Never forget we’re making a comic book,” was his direction. This meant to him that it could be as huge, as layered, and as dense as he wanted it be. I followed up and asked if he took some inspiration from The Dark Knight or another dark brooding hero for Arrow since he is somewhat similar to Batman. Surprisingly he didn’t mind saying that he drew from The Dark Knight because it works. It just works especially since they’re the same archetype when it comes to heroes.

Brian Tyler the composer for Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron was the one that most of us were eagerly awaiting. Brian has already done other scores for Marvel (Assassin’s Creed IV Black FlagIron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World), so he was asked what he did to make the tracks completely different between the last two movies in comparison with Avengers: Age of Ultron. “It really wasn’t easy to transition.”, he stated.  Brian felt that since Thor is a god, the tracks had to be completely epic and not grounded like Iron Man 3‘s score. For Avengers: Age of Ultron, he approached it a little differently since he was working with more characters with different backgrounds. His inspiration came in the form of Star Wars since that was a crew of different characters that all had to mesh on the screen together. He felt it was challenging, but he was really happy with the end result for those films and Marvel’s upcoming one.

John Ottman was the last composer that we had the chance to speak to. He did the score for X-Men: Days of Future Past recently, however he has also composed X-Men: X2, several years ago. He went on to say how glad he was to be able to take his same theme from X2, and then utilize it again for X-Men: Days of Future Past. Continuity within the score for the franchise is what put a smile on his face.

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