Home > Reviews > MONSTERS VS. ALIENS – Henry Jackman


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the biggest grossing films of 2009, Monsters vs. Aliens is an animated family sci-fi comedy about a young woman named Susan Murphy, who is hit by a meteorite from outer space and grows to enormous size. After being captured by the government, she is taken to a secret where she meets a ragtag group of other “monsters” who have also been rounded up over the years; however, the new friends find themselves thrust into the limelight when they are asked to help defeat a squadron of unfriendly aliens arrive on Earth, having discovered the meteorite’s amazing qualities, and wanting it for themselves. The film, which was directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon and has a stellar voice cast including Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Seth Rogen and Stephen Colbert, features an original score by composer Henry Jackman. Jackman is the latest graduate from Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control organization, and is making his mainstream film music debut here, having previously worked as an ‘additional composer’ on projects ranging from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Da Vinci Code to The Simpsons Movie and The Dark Knight. Jackman’s score is as lush and lively as one might expect, making use of a large orchestra, choir and electronics to give the fantastical story a human core.

Much of his writing is of a similar style to that which composers such as John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams and Ramin Djawadi have written for similar projects; it fits the tried-and-tested conventions of the genre, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with the music in any way, it is tremendously predictable and, at times, a little clichéd. There are lots of “ooh-aah” orchestral and choral crescendos (“The Grand Tour”), a few moments of sweet sentimentality (“Mean To Crush You”, parts of “The Ginormica Suite”), plenty of broad, slapstick action music (“Do Something Violent!”, “The Battle at Golden Gate Bridge”, “Imprisoned By a Strange Being”, “Susan’s Call to Arms”), jazzy themes and bleepy-bloopy comic sound effects for the mischievous monsters (“Meet the Monsters”, “March of the Buffoons”), and the ubiquitous use of a Theremin for the invading aliens, proving once and for all that the world of film music owes Bernard Herrmann a debit of gratitude.

It’s all completely inoffensive, and enjoyable enough when taken at face value, but offers nothing in terms of innovation or any real depth, and is as forgettable as a take-out pizza. In fact, that’s a pretty good description of Monsters vs. Aliens: it’s a Big Mac score. Tasty while you’re eating it, but nowhere close to being gourmet.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • A Giant Transformation (3:05)
  • When You See (Those Flying Saucers) (performed by The Buchanan Brothers) (2:17)
  • Tell Him (performed by The Exciters) (2:35)
  • A Wedding Interrupted (2:09)
  • Meet the Monsters (2:29)
  • Planet Claire (performed by The B-52’s) (4:37)
  • Do Something Violent! (2:07)
  • The Grand Tour (2:10)
  • Oversized Tin Can (3:38)
  • The Battle at Golden Gate Bridge (6:09)
  • Didn’t Mean To Crush You (1:51)
  • Reminiscing (performed by Little River Band) (4:14)
  • Imprisoned By a Strange Being (5:28)
  • Galaxar as a Squidling (2:06)
  • March of the Buffoons (5:15)
  • Wooly Bully (performed by Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs) (2:21)
  • Susan’s Call to Arms (3:02)
  • The Ginormica Suite (5:51)
  • Monster Mojo (2:08)
  • Purple People Eater (performed by Sheb Wooley) (2:15)

Running Time: 65 minutes 47 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-34069 (2009)

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