By definition, a score is the background music orchestrated to accompany a film. Some of the best original scores were paired with subpar films. Some of these scores are even superior to the scores of great films. Original scores are crucial to films, as they help define key moments. In some cases, if a film were defined by its original score, many would be regarded much better. These are a few subpar films that had great original scores.
Star Wars Prequel Trilogy
Compared to the original trilogy, the prequels were mediocre at best. Anakin’s tragic origin story didn’t need to be dragged out across three films. To make things worse, Anakin was portrayed as far too whiny. It was hard to believe that the same Jedi would ultimately turn into the menacing Darth Vader. Additionally, the origins of the Force should’ve remained a mystery, and there was no need to introduce Midi-chlorians. Not everything needs an explanation.
John Williams is truly The Man. He is easily one of the best composers in history. His score throughout the Star Wars prequel trilogy is impeccable, even giving off vibes of the original trilogy. The way Williams marries his composing with the visuals is a true masterpiece. One of the best parts of the Star Wars music is the choir in the background in select parts of the score. The biggest standout is the track “The Immolation Scene” from Revenge of the Sith. It perfectly works with Anakin’s defeat to his master and his fall to the Dark Side.
It’s not an easy task to make a three-hour film interesting throughout. For many viewers, it may have been hard to keep up with six plots crammed into a single film. Many movies cover a few plots or subplots, but six is ridiculous. Cloud Atlas wasn’t an easy story to adapt. While David Mitchell’s novel was also filled with plots, the narrative is a little different to how the movie turned out. The idea that everything is connected works well, but the film was just too jumbled.
The score, however, was a masterpiece. Probably one of the best original scores of all films in recent memory. A standout of the score is difficult to pick, as the entire score is one big earworm. The “Cloud Atlas Finale” and “Cloud Atlas End Title” tracks are honorable picks, though.
Adapted from Alex Garland’s novel, The Beach struggled everywhere except the score and the scenery. The film was left with too much going on. On top of that, The Beach became nearly unbearable towards the third act. There were also many cringeworthy moments, including Richard’s video-game sequence.
The Beach‘s score perfectly reflects the scenery. The most defining musical cue was when Richard, Françoise, and Étienne swim toward the secret paradise. The camera pans out and reveals the island, showcasing the majestic paradise and crystal clear ocean. There could be no better score to capture the essence of a film that held so much promise.
Based on the popular Japanese toy line, the live-action Transformers film series doesn’t work under Michael Bay’s vision. To say the films are subpar is an understatement. There is no arguing that the franchise makes big bucks at the box office. One of the biggest issues in Bay’s Transformers is that their plots are too noisy. The human “subplots” are as big as the Autobot and Decepticon plots. Adding to that is the overuse of busy CGI. Visuals are great, but the plot should have prominence. Additionally, the films generally share a similar format, leaving no room for freshness.
The score throughout is what keeps the franchise from being completely terrible. Composed by Steve Jablonsky, the score captures the tone of the films perfectly. The biggest standout through the four films so far is “Arrival on Earth”. As the Autobots make their arrival on Earth and choose their disguise, Jablonsky perfectly captures the essence of the first three films. Other notable tracks include “Leave Planet Earth Alone” and “Dinobot Charge” from Age of Extinction. The latter captures Optimus’ leadership, able to tame Grimlock and lead the Dinobots to aid him. It’s these little moments that are presented better with the help of Jablonsky’s fantastic score.
The Hobbit Trilogy
The Hobbit was unnecessarily split into multiple films. It further expanded into three films after initially planned to be released in two. Redundant subplots such as adding a love interest for Kíli were added. While the plot may be longer than the length of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s novel would suggest due to appendices, it shouldn’t have split into three films. In early 2015, a fan even re-cut the trilogy into a single four-hour film, proving the story didn’t require three films.
On the other hand, the score was stupendous. Presenting new scores, The Hobbit trilogy even remixed a few iconic musical sequences from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Hobbit trilogy shared a score that was familiar to the audience, maintaining the Middle Earth vibe many loved while still feeling fresh. The score includes a track titled “There and Back Again”. There could be no better title. It defines Bilbo’s return to the Shire while bringing back memories from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
These are just a few substandard films that had great original scoring. A film’s score is always crucial as it can create atmosphere and suspense, define scenes, and set a tone for the movie in general. Additionally, a film doesn’t need to be great to have brilliant scoring from composers. Composing a score can be difficult. To get a perfect score, the composer has to have every note timed perfectly to each second of a scene.
What were your favorite subpar or bad films that had a great original score?
Want to know more about what goes into a great score? Check out our interview with the composer of Halt and Catch Fire.