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DEADPOOL 2 – Tyler Bates

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Considering that super hero movies in both the main Marvel and DC universes have become enormously serious affairs in recent years, it’s a breath of fresh air to have something like Deadpool 2 come along. A wholly irreverent, self-aware, and unashamedly profane affair, director David Leitch’s film is a sequel to the unexpectedly popular 2016 original. Ryan Reynolds returns in the lead role as the reluctant hero, a mutant in the X-Men timeline with the ability to heal himself from literally any wound or illness; in this film, he becomes embroiled in an unexpectedly complicated plot involving a time-travelling cyborg named Cable (Josh Brolin) who has travelled from the future to assassinate an anguished, overweight teenage mutant orphan with the ability to shoot fire from his hands (Julian Dennison from Hunt for the Wilderpeople). It touches on themes of family, revenge, and even child abuse, but the main selling point is the character of Deadpool himself, who is entirely aware of his ridiculous super hero circumstances, and who offers scathing commentary and snarky pop-culture references on his own adventures while dispatching the bad guys. It’s gleefully gory, and massively overblown, but has a surprisingly heartwarming and touching emotional core too, with the latter element involving Deadpool’s ex-stripper girlfriend (Morena Baccarin) and the members of the X-Force team that Deadpool assembles; I really enjoyed it.

The score for the original Deadpool movie was by Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL, and was a terrible piece of music that failed on every conceivable level. With the change of director for the sequel (the original was helmed by Tim Miller) comes a change of composer, with new director Leitch bringing in Tyler Bates, who worked on his previous films John Wick and Atomic Blonde. The difference is like night and day; whereas Holkenborg’s score was themeless, almost entirely bereft of personality, and at times gratingly unpleasant, Bates’s score is a blast. It appears that Leitch, Bates, and Bates’s regular collaborator, orchestrator-conductor Tim Williams, understood that for Deadpool to work as a satire it had to work within the defined musical clichés of the super hero genre – big themes, orchestral action music, choir – but then make them intentionally over-the-top, so that they work as an actual film score within the context of the film, while simultaneously lampooning the tropes one associates with this sort of enterprise. It works superbly.

The two most notable elements of the new score are the main theme, and the choral work. Bates’s main theme, first heard in “X-Men Arrive,” is outstanding, a heroic orchestral fanfare full of rousing brass and complementary sweeping strings. Might it be sacrilege to say that this could be the theme that the actual X-Men always deserved, but never received in any of their nine films to date? It’s certainly more spectacularly epic than anything that Henry Jackman, Harry Gregson-Williams, or Marco Beltrami wrote for their X-Men films, and it doesn’t rip off Henry Mancini’s Lifeforce either. To his credit, Bates doesn’t just limit the theme to quick outbursts of heroism (although they exist too, in cues such as “Docking’” and the conclusive “Courage Mother Fucker”), but also turns it more emotional in pieces such as “Sorry For Your Loss” and “Let Me In,” which are as unexpected as they are lovely.

The choral work is probably the score’s most controversial element, simply because of the lyrics the choir is singing. The cliché of portentous choirs chanting along with the music, often reciting lyrics in Latin or other languages, has been a super hero staple for years; they add gravitas and power to scenes when they are done properly, but can seem ridiculous if they are done poorly. Bates knows all this, and decided to have some fun with it. Some of the bigger and more bombastic action cues – “Fighting Dirty,” “Maximum Effort” – use the choir fairly normally, wordlessly intoning or singing in what sounds like recognizable Latin, but then you get cues like “Holy Shit Balls” and “You Can’t Stop This Mother Fucker,” in which the choir sings the eponymous lyrics with all the gusto they can manage. I know some of the members of the choirs that perform on scores recorded in Los Angeles, and the idea of them belting out those lines is both hilarious and brilliant. This profanity is also the reason why the Deadpool 2 soundtrack album carries a parental advisory sticker – the first score album in history to do so.

The rest of the score is fairly straightforward, but no less impressive. Action music tends to dominate the proceedings, and Bates engages strongly with the large scale set pieces, combining his impressively-sized orchestra with some occasionally quite aggressive and challenging electronic ideas, as well as electric guitars and rock drums to add a contemporary kick. Bates’s orchestral action music writing has improved significantly over the years – the difference between things like Conan the Barbarian from 2011 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 from last year, for example, is not trivial – and the writing here continues that upward momentum. Cues like “Hello Super Powers,” “Escape,” “Weasel Interrogation,” “Knock Knock,” and especially “Mutant Convoy” tend to be fast-paced and kinetic, reverberating and pulsating with energy and interesting rhythmic ideas. Some of the more abrasive electronic sounds and hard rock elements in cues like “Ice Box” and “Make the Whole World Our Bitch” may be off-putting to traditionalists, but at least Bates uses them purposefully, often as a sort of textural leitmotif to accompany the Cable character.

Meanwhile, the love theme in “Vanessa” is pretty and appropriately ethereal, combining soft piano chords with dream-like electronic textures; its recapitulation in the unfortunately named “Pity Dick” is really quite beautiful, genuinely addressing the depth of emotional feeling that Wade/Deadpool feels for his girlfriend.

As was the case with the first Deadpool movie, Deadpool 2’s soundtrack is littered with carefully chosen pop songs, which are used in context for comedic effect, or to illustrate a particular pop culture point. The commercial soundtrack album includes several of them, notably “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, a stripped down MTV Unplugged version of “Take On Me” by A-Ha (which is actually used superbly in context), “If I Could Turn Back Time” by Cher, “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton, “All Out of Love” by Air Supply, “We Belong” by Pat Benatar, and even a rendition of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. Best of all, there is an original song called “Ashes” written by Petey Martin, Jordan Smith, and Tedd Tjornhom, and performed in hilarious deadpan fashion by Céline Dion, who treats the whole experience like it’s sequel to Titanic, but with a knowing nod and a wink to the audience. It’s heard in the film during the Maurice Binder-James Bond parody opening credits sequence, and could be a genuine Best Song Oscar contender next year. Also, the music video for the song has to be seen to be believed.

Overall, Deadpool 2 is a blast – it’s fun, energetic, gleefully irreverent, and at a touch under 40 minutes in length, never outstays it’s welcome. Tyler Bates fully understood the needs of his film and delivered exactly what was required, but remembered to imbue it with a great deal of personality, and top it off with a killer heroic theme, which in the current mainstream Hollywood film music climate is certainly not a given. In fact, I could quite easily make a case for Deadpool 2 to be the best score of Tyler Bates’s career to date – it’s certainly up there in the top group, along with his two Guardians of the Galaxy scores, and Doomsday.

Buy the Deadpool 2 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • X-Men Arrive (0:59)
  • Fighting Dirty (2:03)
  • Hello Super Powers (0:58)
  • Escape (2:14)
  • Vanessa (1:55)
  • Weasel Interrogation (1:12)
  • Holy Shit Balls (1:32)
  • Mutant Convoy (3:59)
  • The Name is Cable (1:23)
  • Sorry for Your Loss (1:01)
  • You Can’t Stop this Mother Fucker (1:11)
  • Ice Box (1:19)
  • Docking (1:16)
  • Make the Whole World Our Bitch (3:15)
  • Pity Dick (0:58)
  • Knock Knock (0:51)
  • Let Me In (1:43)
  • Maximum Effort (1:39)
  • The Orphanage (2:58)
  • Cable Flashback (1:23)
  • Genuine High Grade Lead (1:53)
  • Courage Mother Fucker (1:27)

Running Time: 37 minutes 10 seconds

Sony Classical (2018)

Music composed by Tyler Bates. Conducted by Tim Williams. Orchestrations by Tim Williams. Recorded and mixed by Nick Baxter. Album produced by Tyler Bates.

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