- Performer: John Williams
- Audio CD (June 28, 2005)
- SPARS Code: DDD
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Soundtrack
- Label: Decca
- Run Time: 116 minutes
- ASIN: B0009A3ZZI
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,351 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
War of the Worlds
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War of the Worlds (Soundtrack)
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The motion picture event of the summer stars Tom Cruise, is directed by Steven Spielberg and features music by John Williams. The movie opens the day after this soundtrack is released and John Williams is probably the most well-known film music composer ever (and certainly Spielberg's favorite), responsible for the soundtracks to Star Wars, Jaws, E.T, Harry Potter, Schindler's List and more. Decca. 2005.
John Williams continues his longtime collaboration with Steven Spielberg in this adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel of the same name (previously filmed in 1953). Considering that the movie depicts a gigantic Martian invasion, you'd think Williams would have fully gone into his familiar bombastic mode, but he's refrained from doing so. While the composer makes full use of the outsize orchestra at his disposal, he prefers juxtaposing layers and building atmosphere rather than hitting you over the head with dramatic arias. "The Intersection Scene," for instance, begins slowly and minimally, then progressively builds into an ominous pounding; Williams then inserts spooky, otherworldly banshee-like effects that escalate into a frenzied pitch before abruptly disappearing as the track begins its descent back towards calm. The sound is genuinely scary and could lead to a spike in blood pressure among impressionable listeners without the help of visuals. "Probing the Basement" is another example of Williams masterfully building anxiety. War of the Worlds culminates with "Escape from the Basket," in which Williams methodically builds tension over close to ten minutes. And refreshingly, even when the action picks up, he mostly avoids the clichéd thundering timpani that often plague this type of score. --Elisabeth Vincentelli
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The action set pieces are riveting. While the shark theme of "Jaws" is not referenced directly, when the alien machine first rises out of the intersection sink hole to face the soon-to-be doomed masses, the motif certainly has the familiar mood of mindless, relentless and impending attack that is a reminder of the shark in "Jaws" - to great effect.
One of the best things about this science fiction thriller is that it manages to remain true to H. G. Wells' original story and keep the theme of warfare and the consequences of war always front and center.
Williams picks up on this thematic core and avoids dull bombastic audio assaults in favor of assisting suspense scenes with sometimes almost subliminal sounds as well as the exciting adventure passages so effective in the Spielberg thriller films.
If this score does contain a central music theme, it is the elegy music for trumpets and strings that is connected to the sorrow of war and this still unsettling H. G. Wells story of unexpected invasion and destruction that continues to fascinate and inspire creative minds.
And capping it all off, a wonderful, atypical John Williams score that hits all the right notes!
This score is in a class with "Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind," "Images" and "Jaws." It's some of the most imaginative scoring Williams has attempted, and it's a propulsive masterwork of orchestral color, timbre and imagination.
I "choose" to believe that the cue "Epilogue" was a Williams tribute to the late Jerry Goldsmith, inasmuch as the entire piece could just as easily be fitted into Goldsmith's score for "Alien." The piece says "Nostromo" to me! It's elegant, stirring and reminded me that I remember thinking, at the time "Alien" was opening, "How on earth is Goldsmith going to measure up to Williams' two epics about space?" And then he delivered his usual brilliance without any similarities between his score and Williams'.
This score features some of Williams' best action music EVER...and it's the kind of stuff most folks into film music salivate over when it's coupled with tonal writing.
This CD soundtrack is a mesmerizing listen. I'm hooked, I tell you, I'm hooked. It's one of the best scores written in recent years by anyone.
This year, Williams has performed a similar feat, first bringing us his brilliant, Wagnerian finale score for "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith", full of bombast and more themes than a Mahler symphony. Now, for his 21st feature film collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, Williams brings us one of the most brilliant and radical scores he has ever composed: "War of the Worlds".
I'm not going to talk much about the plot of the film (you can see it for yourself); suffice it to say that aliens invade Earth at the dawn of the 21st century and man must find a way to defeat the invaders before he is eliminated from Earth forever. With this scenario in mind, Williams has fashioned a brilliant example of modern concert composition, blurring the line between tonality and atonality so finely that one must focus the ears more than usual to appreciate the subtleties of the score.
Unlike Williams's most famous works (i.e. "Jaws", "Star Wars", "Raiders of the Lost Ark") there are no themes in this score that you will be whistling long after you've listened to the CD. In fact, unlike Williams's typical work, theme is hardly discernible on this album. There is a short motif, typically performed by the low brasses, that represents the alien invaders, and another theme played primarily in the strings that could be called a "reflection on mankind" theme; this theme is featured most prominently in the final two tracks.
Beyond these two themes, most of Williams's work is scene-specific underscore, similar in approach to his "Minority Report" score from 2002. The action sequences are scored with pulsating string and percussion syncopations, with the brasses interjecting occassionally to emphasize these offbeats. Much of this album features quiet music that will require one to turn up the volume, the most prominent example being "Probing the Basement", in which shrieking violin harmonics underscore an alien inspection of a cellar in which the protagonists are hiding.
Do not purchase this album if you are merely a casual film score or Williams fan who enjoyed "Star Wars" and "E.T.". You will be greatly disappointed, and might find this score to be nothing but noise. However, if you have heard or own Williams's score to "Minority Report", or have a great appreciation for serialist music and modern atonal compostion, this album will surely satisfy. "War of the Worlds" may not be Williams's greatest score, but it is his most daring and unique score of the last 10 years, and it is refreshing to hear a great master take a chance and create something completely different than his typecast work.