Backstage Spotlight: 2011 Film Scores

To my own surprise, I didn’t find Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo score as interesting as their award-winning score that accompanied 2010’s The Social Network. I felt let down by the second installment of Sherlock Holmes in part due to Hans Zimmer’s lacking, all-over-the-place score. I was especially underwhelmed with Cameron Crowe’s decision to feature only Jonsi on the We Bought a Zoo soundtrack.

With those disappointments in mind, I still found three scores surprisingly well-fit for the movies they served.

  • Michael Giacchino’s score for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

While director Brad Bird was a newbie to live-action film directing until the latest installment in the Mission Impossible franchise, he took with him music composer and collaborator Michael Giacchino, who is known more for his stellar work on animated films such as his Oscar-winning score Up, or Cars 2. Giacchino isn’t a stranger to composing for live-action film, however. His work extends not only to film, but also to the popular show Lost. One of my favorite Giacchino’s scores is the latest Star Trek reboot.

Giacchino did a nice job of subtly blending the well-known Mission Impossible theme while creating new themes for the locations the IMF team traveled, such as the track titled “A man, a plan, a code, Dubai.” The fast-paced, entertaining soundtrack well complemented the adrenaline-pumping film.

  • Alexandre Desplat’s score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

You don’t need to be a fan of Harry Potter to be a fan of this exciting, beautifully composed score. Well-set theme tracks for certain characters to a gorgeous, sweeping end theme accompanying the epilogue, The King’s Speech composer Desplat pulled out all the stops to deliver one of the better scores for the Harry Potter franchise. With the likes of John Williams (composed for the first 2 films), Patrick Doyle, and Nicholas Hooper to follow, Desplat was given probably an easier opportunity to compose when he was writing for the epic finale in the series. Nonetheless, I applaud him for making one of the more listenable soundtracks that entertains in its entirety, unlike some of its predecessors.

If you buy the soundtrack, you’ll also get a Behind the Scenes music video featurette of Desplat conducting the final song on the soundtrack, “A New Beginning.”

  • Henry Jackman’s score for X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class introduced me to Henry Jackman, who I had never heard of before seeing the film. While I was seeing the film, I couldn’t help but wonder who had composed it, because it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Suitably entertaining, powerful, and emotional, Jackman’s score lends the needed feeling to both the action scenes and the more emotionally-focused moments. He retains a similar theme throughout the entire soundtrack, making it memorable in viewer’s heads. This was easily my favorite score from 2011.

Even one of the trailers for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy featured the track “Frankenstein’s Monster,” from the score:


Patrick Doyle’s score for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Patrick Doyle’s score for Thor

Ludovic Bource’s score for The Artist

What film scores from 2011 were you a fan of? Did you like any of the ones I didn’t?

11 thoughts on “Backstage Spotlight: 2011 Film Scores

  1. I think Desplat’s score for the 2nd Harry Potter film was the second best of the Potter soundtracks, following only John Williams’ first Harry Potter movie soundtrack. By far, I would have to say that my favorite was The Artist soundtrack.


    • I think the most original soundtrack for Harry Potter was definitely the first one, because John Williams developed the original theme that continued throughout the series. I personally enjoyed Desplat’s final one the best, but like I said, I think being handed the finale of the series makes a little easier to be more epic.

      The Artist score was definitely one of my favorites of the year.


    • I would definitely agree. Even with having four different composers throughout the series, I think a lot of them were very good. It’d be great to see Harry Potter win anything at the Oscars this year, but I have a bad feeling about it seeing that it didn’t get any nods at the Golden Globes. Guess we’ll have to wait and see!


  2. I’m getting a little bit annoyed with Michael Giacchino’s scores – they’re beginning to get a little samey and I find I can’t listen to them long without my ears feeling like they’re being attacked! While I bought Super 8’s score, I can’t listen to it that often.

    Henry Jackman has totally come out of nowhere for me too with his score for First Class. I can’t get tired of listening to that one. Just a great mix of classic with a bit of a rock influence.

    Thor’s one of my favourites for the year, same with Apes. There are some bits in the Ape score that bring tears to my eyes!

    I kinda really love Trent and Atticus’ work on Dragon Tattoo. Not as great as Social Network, but it reflected the film well.

    A few other favourites for me were Fast Five’s score from Brian Tyler – I’m beginning to get hooked on his action film scores.

    Cliff Martinez’s work on Drive. Subtle, but oh so good!

    The Chemical Brothers work on Hanna – excellent film with a brilliant, dance-y soundtrack that worked with the film. Very different, but kinda like what these dance acts and established bands are doing with scores these days.

    I’ll be quiet now!


    • Wow! What a comment! 🙂

      I knew Giacchino did the score for Super 8, but I haven’t listened to it before. I really love his score for Star Trek, but I will admit that even though Up was a nice film, I immediately got tired of the score and didn’t bother buying it.

      I’m glad you really enjoy Henry Jackman’s score for First Class too. Easily my favorite of the year.

      Patrick Doyle did an excellent job on both Thor and Apes’s scores this year. I definitely bought tracks from both of those scores.

      My deal with Trent & Atticus’s score for Dragon Tattoo is that it felt like it retained TOO MUCH of the same quality of their work for Social Network. I get that it’s “their thing,” and they’re establishing themselves with a certain sound, but maybe I just wasn’t blown away like a lot of other people. I felt like they were so original and fitting for Social Network, and then went and made a VERY similar soundtrack for Dragon Tattoo.

      OK, I haven’t seen Fast Five yet, so I haven’t looked into the score, but I’m definitely a fan of Brian Tyler. The first time I heard Tyler was on the Eagle Eye score, and now I own that one. It’s actually one of my favorites. I think he’s still establishing himself as a composer, but I look forward to hearing more of him.

      I DID see Hanna! I wasn’t blown away by the film (found the ending annoying, really), but I did think it was very good in terms of being an action film and the story line, and all around, original. I actually own a track or two from that soundtrack as well, and I thought the Chemical Brothers were incredible on it. I also heard that it was the first time the Chemical Brothers did work on a film score soundtrack before (correct me if I’m wrong). Definitely very different, definitely very cool.

      I love talking film score, so never feel the need to be quiet. I love hearing what other people really enjoyed from last year.


      • Brian Tyler’s working on the TV show, Hawaii 5-0’s score at the moment too. And it shows. It’s such a fitting score to it. He’s fast becoming a favourite of mine. Someone to fill the gap Hans Zimmer has left me.

        It’s funny you should say that about Trent and Atticus’ score work. I’ve just got into Nine Inch Nails and so much of their work on Social Network and Dragon Tattoo sound exactly the same as songs they’ve done years ago. Well, not exactly the same of course, but the same themes and etc. Still, can’t help myself but love their stuff.

        Giacchino’s score for Super 8 is really similar to Star Trek, only I definitely prefer Star Trek. I’ll check out MI4 though, not had a listen to it yet!


        • I always find it cool to hear that film composers aren’t just using their talents with movies, but also extending them to TV shows. That’s really cool – I’ll have to check it out sometime.

          I think the reason I’ve said that, too, is that I don’t have a lot of background knowledge of Trent and Atticus. I’ll have to look into them more.

          You should definitely check out MI4 and let me know what you think! I really enjoy it.


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