Fall 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Fantastic Four  
Music composed by John Ottman
  Available on Varèse Sarabande (VSD-6667)
Running Time: 45:37
Amazon UK   Amazon US

Another summer month, another comic book movie. Following hard on the heels of Han Zimmer & James Newton Howard’s score for Batman Begins comes John Ottman’s music for Fantastic Four. With X2 – X Men Reunited behind him and Superman Returns already lined up for next year (to say nothing of the comic-book-like Logan’s Run) Ottman could soon be challenging Danny Elfman as the most prolific of A list comic book scorers.

Well Ottman’s latest entry into the genre won’t win any awards, but it is a surprisingly sturdy and traditionally crafted action adventure score which should please many film music fans, especially those equally irritated by endless electronic droning and everything and the kitchen sink cacophony. This is a world away from the dark gloom of Batman Returns, a heroic romp much more in keeping with the way comic books used to be before they went all pseudo-serious in the latter half of the ‘80’s. I still have all the early British Marvel Comics reprints Marvel started issuing in the early ‘70’s, and for me this bright and colourful adaptation of the Fantastic Four is pretty much how things should be. Rousing spectacular fun for children and the young at heart. And in dispensing with electronics and focusing on a well structured orchestral score – with just a little wordless choir and the faintest smattering of synths – Ottman keeps things happily four colored and retro. He even gives us – shock, horror – a tune or two!

Now John Ottman’s Fantastic Four theme isn’t the strongest or most memorable movie melody, but it is mildly infectious and grows with repeated listens. Its robust, bold and good spirited, and just the sort of large scale orchestral writing a film like this needs. The main theme recurs throughout the score, though not so often as to become unwelcome. Other material on the album is juts what one might expect following the big tune; solid superhero music without being anything exceptional. One highlight is the playful ‘Unlikely Saviours’, a humourous set-piece with nods back to John Williams’ Superman and even Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. Other set-pieces such as ‘Cosmic Storm’, Superheroes’ and ‘Battling Doom’ are all effective and thoroughly enjoyable.

An effectively composed, rather than synthetically thrown-together, score. That said, there is nothing here particularly original and fans of big orchestral action adventure scores will probably already have much comparable music in their collections. Good stuff, but a long way from the best the genre can offer.

Gary Dalkin


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