THE INCREDIBLES – Michael Giacchino
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Within our little world of film music, Michael Giacchino is already pretty famous. Having written some of the most spectacular game scores in history for Dreamworks’ Medal of Honor series, and having contributed music to the hit ABC series Alias since its debut in 2001, Giacchino has gradually built up a strong fan base of admirers who fully expect him to develop into one of film music’s major players in the next 10 to 15 years. When it was announced that John Barry, the original choice of composer for The Incredibles, was no longer attached to the project, and that Giacchino would be his replacement, a great whoop of delight was heard: finally, a big screen vehicle worthy of his talents!
A high concept animated action comedy directed by former Simpsons contributor Brad Bird, The Incredibles puts a new spin on the super-hero genre. Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is an ordinary joe in an ordinary 9-to-5 job who harbors a surprising secret: 10 years ago, Bob was Mr. Incredible, the world’s foremost and most popular super-hero, for whom saving the world was a daily exercise. However, when one too many law suits came his way, Mr. Incredible was forced into the witness protection programme, and made to conceal his true identity from everyone. Now living in suburbia with his wife Helen aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and his three super-hero kids, Bob increasingly finds his life boring and unfulfilling. That is, however, until a new evil villain threatens his world, and he and his family are forced to abandon their new lives and become super heroes once more…
Made by the Pixar studio responsible for the Toy Story franchise, The Incredibles looks set to become one of the box office hits of 2004, having already received rave reviews for its retro look, intelligent writing, action-packed storyline, adult in-jokes and stunning animation. The voice cast – which also includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Wallace Shawn – is exemplary, and the film’s high profile is likely to wonders for the career of Giacchino, who is hotly tipped to pick up a first Academy Award nomination for what is, in effect, his first “big screen” score.
The Incredibles is Giacchino’s homage to the swinging super hero style perpetuated by Barry, Henry Mancini in the 1960s, albeit with a beefed up orchestral sensibility. Recorded using analog tapes as opposed to digital media, and with plenty of jazz orchestrations that recall the sound of the period, Giacchino’s attention to detail is admirable, and it is obvious that the sound and feel of the score mirrors the tone of the movie. To be fair, Giacchino’s pastiche is simply perfect: it is obvious that the creators of The Incredibles wanted a new version the Barry Bond sound, and if Barry himself couldn’t provide it, they made sure they hired someone who could.
The main theme, first heard in “The Glory Days” is a celebratory brass fanfare which recalls the theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and forms the core of the score. In later cues, notably “Bob vs. The Omnidroid”, “Marital Rescue” and “A Whole Family of Supers”, the theme is mutated into a series of great action motifs, while in “Saving Metroville” it emerges from a bittersweet string elegy into a rocking jazz piece replete with roaring brasses and a cymbal lick. It’s also worth noting that due to director Bird’s wonderful decision to have NO songs in the film, Giacchino was able to compose a special end credits cue – “The Incredits” – around his main themes. Oh, that more composers were allowed to make this kind of effort, instead of patching together a series of underscore cues to fill out the crawl.
Several cues – notably “Adventure Calling”, “Bob vs. The Omnidroid”, “Kronos Unveiled” and “Lithe or Death” – revisit the slightly off-kilter rhythmic stylings and ominous foreshadowing techniques Barry employed in scores such as Goldfinger , while others introduce xylophones, woodwinds and other groovy orchestral touches which recall scores such as You Only Live Twice and Thunderball (“Road Trip” is a great example of this). More intimate jazz creeps in during “Lava in the Afternoon”, “Life’s Incredible Again”, “Off to Work” and others, mimicking the laid back attitude of the era with warm brasses and a hip rhythm section. Occasionally, Giacchino’s music explodes into full-on thematic glory, more often than not accentuated by the fat, wailing brasses and hyper-kinetic rhythms that so typified the period. Interestingly, Giacchino often injects loungy jazz into the fabric of his underscore to further enhance the tone, which results in a sound that is almost impossible to describe: sort of like Lalo Schifrin re-done by Media Ventures.
However, the one problem that Giacchino now faces is that throughout his career he has been a composer who sounds like other people, rather than a composer who sounds like himself: on Medal of Honor he was John Williams, on Secret Weapons Over Normandy he was Ron Goodwin, and on The Incredibles he is John Barry. While being able to adopt the composing styles of other composers is not necessarily a bad talent to have, if over-used it does tend to eventually paint a picture of a composer with no true voice of his own, and who is instead hired to ape the sound of others.
Having said that, there is no denying that The Incredibles is a wonderfully enjoyable piece of work which successfully recaptures the life and energy of a style of music that has been virtually dead for over 30 years. If, like me, you have an affinity for the strong musical identity Barry and Mancini projected in the 1960s, you will undoubtedly get a kick out of hearing it resurrected and up-dated to this degree in 2004. I sincerely hope The Incredibles launches Michael Giacchino on a long a successful career on film music’s A-list. I just hope the next director who hires him also allows him to bring his own voice to the project.
- The Glory Days (3:32)
- Mr. Huph Will See You Now (1:35)
- Adventure Calling (2:23)
- Bob vs. The Omnidroid (2:53)
- Lava in the Afternoon (1:29)
- Life’s Incredible Again (1:24)
- Off to Work (1:59)
- New and Improved (2:15)
- Kronos Unveiled (3:16)
- Marital Rescue (2:19)
- Missile Lock (2:07)
- Lithe or Death (3:24)
- 100 Mile Dash (3:07)
- A Whole Family of Supers (3:27)
- Escaping Nomanisan (1:45)
- Road Trip! (2:27)
- Saving Metroville (5:03)
- The New Babysitter (3:26)
- The Incredits (7:23)
Running Time: 55 minutes 28 seconds
Disney 61100-7 (2004)
Music composed by Michael Giacchino. Conducted by Tim Simonec. Orchestrations by Tim Simonec, Jack Hayes, Matthew Ferraro, Adam Cohen and Chris Tilton. Recorded and mixed by Dan Wallin. Edited by Stephen M. Davies. Mastered by Patricia Sullivan. Album produced by Michael Giacchino.