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MEGAMIND – Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A silly-but-fun animated action/comedy set in a world of super-heroes and super-villains, Megamind features the voice talent of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill. After their respective planets are destroyed Superman-style, two alien babies – one who looks human, one with a giant blue head and superior intellect – crash land on Earth. The human-looking baby grows up to be Metro Man, the savior of the fictional Metro City, while the other grows up to be Megamind, his arch enemy and super-villain. After kidnapping beautiful reporter Roxanne, Megamind hatches a typically hare-brained scheme to kill Metro Man but – as much to his own surprise as anyone else’s – actually succeeds in apparently dispatching his nemesis. However, rather than being happy with his triumph, Megamind quickly becomes depressed with having no-one to fight, and concocts a new scheme: to genetically alter Roxanne’s hapless cameraman Hal, turning him into a new hero…

As is the case with all Dreamworks animations, the music for Megamind a product of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control stable. Despite Zimmer’s name appearing first in the credits, the lead composer here is 34-year old Scottish-born Lorne Balfe, who has worked as an orchestrator, additional composer and synth programmer on dozens of scores for Zimmer, Steve Jablonsky, Ramin Djawadi and others since 2005, but who is making his debut as the main man here. I had never been really that impressed with Balfe’s contributions to Zimmer’s scores before, but his work on Megamind indicates that I may have seriously underestimated his talents.

The score opens with “Giant Blue Head”, an unexpectedly lullaby-like theme for soft chimes and xylophones which gradually grows to incorporate the full orchestra, an upbeat percussion section, and even a choir. It’s wonderfully warm and appealing melody, reminiscent of the kind of thing John Powell writes for his animated features, and goes through some wonderful developments as it progresses, including a sweeping 1950s style string statement, a quirky refrain for clarinets and oompah brasses, and much more besides. As a leitmotif for Megamind himself the theme appears in various guises throughout the score, notably as a despondent piano piece in “Mel-On-Cholly” and as a bittersweet string refrain in “Drama Queen”, but the highlight performance comes in “Rejection in the Rain”, a surprisingly serious and emotional piece for a solo cello in which one can feel a real sense of loss and pathos.

There’s a secondary theme, first heard two minutes into the opening cue, which is more light-hearted and whimsical than Megamind’s central theme, and is often performed by prancing woodwinds, as in the subsequent “Ollo”. A quirky motif for Hal appears in “Tightenville” enlivened by various metallic percussive effects and offbeat rhythms, and there’s a very pretty, pseudo-retro romantic theme in “Roxanne” which overlays a piano line with softly pulsating electronic effects and light percussion, and reminds me a little of the kind of groovy euro-pop scores people like Francis Lai and Pierre Bachelet used to write.

More energetic, action-oriented music appears in “Stars and Tights”, “Crab Nuggets” and towards the end of “Mel-on-Cholly” and “Ollo”, complete with rousing brass fanfares, scat-style vocalizations and even an occasional lick of Monty Norman’s James Bond with growling horns, cooing bass flutes and swishing guitars. However, conclusive cues such as “Black Mamba”, “Game Over”, “I’m the Bad Guy” and “Evil Lair” fail to present a truly satisfying finale to the album. The music is lively and energetic and has a great deal of orchestral panache, but it just all seems to fizzle out to quickly and without a real heroic resolution, leaving the listener curiously unsatisfied and without a proper emotional payoff.

The song choices – George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone”, Junkie XL’s remix of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation”, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again Naturally”, Minnie Ripperton’s “Lovin’ You” – add a great deal to the album, making it one of the few occasions where the songs and the score complement each other well.

The score for Megamind is a great deal of fun, and will appeal tremendously to anyone with an affinity for John Powell’s animated adventure scores such as Robots and Bolt, with which this score has a lot in common. It’s also gratifying to see Lorne Balfe emerge into spotlight as a composer in his own right after spending years in the background manipulating Hans Zimmer’s synthesizers. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Rating: ***½

Buy the Megamind soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Giant Blue Head (4:29)
  • Tightenville (Hal’s Theme) (2:16)
  • Bad to the Bone (written by George Thorogood, performed by George Thorogood & The Destroyers) (4:49)
  • Stars and Tights (1:26)
  • Crab Nuggets (2:17)
  • A Little Less Conversation [Junkie XL Remix] (written by Billy Strange and Scott Davis, performed by Elvis Presley) (3:32)
  • Mel-On-Cholly (2:32)
  • Ollo (3:07)
  • Roxanne (Love Theme) (2:36)
  • Alone Again Naturally (written and performed by Gilbert O’Sullivan) (3:37)
  • Drama Queen (1:47)
  • Rejection in the Rain (1:45)
  • Lovin’ You (written by Richard Rudolph and Minnie Riperton, performed by Minnie Riperton) (3:23)
  • Black Mamba (1:13)
  • Game Over (3:22)
  • I’m The Bad Guy (2:37)
  • Evil Lair (3:29)

Running Time: 48 minutes 17 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS3-41992 (2010)

Music composed by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe. Conducted by Gavin Greenaway. Orchestrations by Bruce Fowler, Elizabeth Finch, Walt Fowler, Rick Giovinazzo, Kevin Kaska, Ed Neumeister and Carl Rydlund. Featured musical soloists Tom Holkenborg, Luis Jardim and Snake Davis. Recorded and mixed by Nick Wollage. Edited by Peter Snell and Ramiro Belgardt. Album produced by Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe.

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