Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Incredible Hulk I - First Impressions


First impressions? A strong score. VERY strong. Too strong? Quite possible.

The bleak, brutal opening in 'The Arctic' (a cue ultimately not used in the film) meshes nicely with the first real performance of the Hulk theme in 'Main Title', with basses and slamming drums building into a splendid cacophony of restless, rollicking rhythm. The theme itself is simple and (as many reviewers have pointed out before me) practically primal. Three notes, but it's just one pitch across two octaves, rising in the centre: bum, BUM bum. Or something like that. It gets all manner of variations throughout the nearly two-hour running time of the album, and it never fails to excite. (Except in the really, really lame sampled rhythms of the 'End Credits.' Gosh, that cue makes me cringe.)

This album is very loud and very propulsive: the brooding nature of the few quiet tracks just can't compensate for the sheer size of the remaining cues, and while there are certainly more themes than the Hulk's little signature tune, none of them are as memorable.

One kinda strange thing about this music is the way it's orchestrated and performed: sometimes it sounds so precise and amalgamated that it's VERY hard to tell whether you're listening to samples or live orchestra. In most percussion-related instances, I'm fairly certain it's electronic, but it gets fuzzy when we're talking about cellos, basses and stuff. It's not that annoying, but it certainly gives the score a ghost of a Remote Control flavour. This being Armstrong (a composer with whom I am only familiar on a cursory level), the approach does sound better than anything Zimmer & Buddies would have composed, but the execution has an uncanny similarity.

The album is a 2-disc job on CD-Rs, pressed on demand by none other than Amazon.com. The sound quality is professional, of course, and there are no complaints about the amount of music, but it seems kinda cheap. It's like a King telling a peasant he can have as much chocolate Malt-O-Meal as he wants, but in a paper bowl. The actual food is tasty enough, and the gesture is certainly generous, but it's hard to consume a lot of it at once, and who knows how well the vessel will hold up? It cheapens the gesture a great deal. Did this make sense?

As mentioned before, the sheer mass of powerful music here makes listening to it for any great length of time all but unbearable, but luckily, it also makes customizing your listening experience an easy task. How many times did you buy a score and wish that some cue not included on the CD had been included, and vice versa? With the complete, entire score available all at once (no waiting for years and years for a specialty label to get ahold of it), just pick your favourite cues and makes your own version of the album (or, as I like to do sometimes, a single suite). Balance it any way you want with quiet and loud tracks, and there you are! Granted, it will take a certian familiarity with the film and all the music on both discs to get a good idea of what to include in your own abbreviated version, but the music doesn't vary a whole lot. It shouldn't be hard.

More thoughts on 'Hulk' in a bit, stay tuned...