Friday, March 06, 2009

Who Listens to the Watchmen? Music from the Motion Picture

When director Zack Snyder originally professed his desire to stay as true to the Watchmen graphic novel as possible, in some interviews he also extended it to the music choices as well. The much lauded source material uses a lot of musical cues throughout, so it stands to reason that some would find their way into the film's soundtrack. The first, and most hard hitting of those songs, is Bob Dylan's epic "Desolation Row," a song whose 11-minutes of lyrical poetry might even be more formidable than Zack Snyder's task of bringing Watchmen to the big screen.
Now at midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone that knows more than they do

"Desolation Row" - Bob Dylan
The song kicks off both the graphic novel and the soundtrack released this week, and how it's handled gives us our first cue as to how Snyder (along with his trusted musical sidekick Tyler Bates) handled the task of making Watchmen accessible to the masses. Snyder and Bates chose to have My Chemical Romance do a sped-up three-minute version of the song to play through the end credits, butchering two birds (Dylan and the source material) with one stone. As to why they went this route, the track record for Snyder and Bates (2004's Dawn of the Dead, 300) show soundtracks that at times are as subtle as a monster truck rally. It's entertaining to be sure, but not something you expect to hear Bob Dylan set to.

There are a few other songs that are true to the original, one of which is Billie Holiday's "You're My Thrill," famously blasted from the Owl Ship (see above panel) as a sort of foreplay for Night Owl and Silk Spectre II as they take part in a spontaneous rescue mission (which also, interestingly enough, acts as a form of foreplay). In the movie version, all this superhero foreplay leads to a Leonard Cohen climax of "Hallelujah", making the song both a cliché and party to what amounts to a cheap joke. Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" gets the cliché treatment as well, sombering up a funeral. Meanwhile, the most entertaining portion of the film is the opening montage, which utilizes the Bob Dylan tagline for Ozymandias' Nostalgia Perfume ("The Times They Are a-Changin'"), which shows that you can be true to the source and build upon it.

Playlist: Songs from the Watchmen Graphic Novel
Tracklisting and page/scene references

A separate release for Tyler Bates' score came out this week as well, and sounds influenced by film scores of the time period, most notably the synth sounds of Vangelis (Blade Runner) and the pulsating rhythm of Jan Hammer (Miami Vice). But another strong influence here is the music of Phillip Glass, specifically, his work for the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, which is even more apparent by the presence of two of Glass' songs, "Pruit Igoe" and "Prophecies," utilized so well in the film for Dr. Manhattan's backstory. Bates' opening song on the release, "Rescue Mission," borrows heavily from Glass' "Pruit Igoe," abandoning its minimalistic feel for a more muscular and pulsing approach. It's an interesting route to go, but when you see how Glass' original music works in the scene, you kind of wish for more of that, instead of the bludgeoning rhythms (and visuals, for that matter) that bookend the experience.

Previously: Novel Soundtrack: Watchmen


Arjan said...

I did like how a version of the Tears for fears' Rule was done as a subtile instrumental background music

drake lelane said...

oh yeah, I remember that now... it was a Muzak version of it, which is even better.