Friday, April 15, 2016

Watchmen (Bates, 2009)

     This "unfilmable" 1986 comic was finally made into a movie in 2009 and ended up being one my favorite films of that year.  Despite making a significant change to the ending, it still successfully managed to create a rich alternate Earth history populated with damaged superheroes.  For the original score, composer Tyler Bates and his team had a fairly difficult mission of navigating through a hugely diverse selection of strongly-identifiable licensed music, used both as underscore and as source music.  For this reason, the Bates score release sometimes seems to be missing something when listened to on its own, and works much better when worked into a chronological playlist incorporating the licensed tracks (available on the "Various Artists" CD soundtrack).  A few additional cues can be found on orchestrator/co-composer Timothy Williams' site.

     Since the licensed music already provided strong melodic themes on their own, Bates seemingly chose to use more "texture-based" motifs for the film's characters in the underscore.  For example, Dr. Manhattan's scenes all feature arpeggios or ostinato patterns (call them species of  "Manhattan Clockwork" textures, if you will), often with choral elements and leaning towards the ethereal or gothic (Philip Glass' music was tracked in for most of his major scenes, but additional music from Bates follows in the same style).

     Rorschach is often seen walking in the rain and accompanied with a voice-over ("Rorschach's Journal...").  Fittingly, these scenes are accompanied with several kinds of "Rorschach Noir" textures: dark, romantic (and self-conscious) melodies, rhythms and atmospheres using 80's synth textures similar to those found in the film score of Blade Runner, and sometimes enhanced with rhythmic electronic pulses.  For indoor "Rorschach Investigation" scenes, Rorschach's textural motif is basically "dark ambient", and is featured when he explores the murdered Comedian's apartment, and in the flashback scene to the brutal child-kidnapper case.

     When Dan and Laurie (Nite Owl II and Silk Spectre) don their costumes and get ready for action, they get a soaring brass "Hero Fanfare", in the same tradition as Erich Wolfgang Korngold's adventure scores or Danny Elfman's Batman.  In the rescue/fight scenes they get various modern-style groove-based action cues (but not melodically connected really).  The retired members of the Minutemen get more wistful string-based textures, harkening back to "the good old days".

    All of these stylistic references work very well in the picture, since Watchmen is at heart an ironic/dark take on traditional superhero film tropes.  Bates had a team of several people helping him out with orchestration and electronics, and because of this (and the way the characters' themes were designed as described above), the full score can have a somewhat schizophrenic tone, but it works well enough in the film, especially as textural and connective material in between the revealing "jukebox hits".

     Despite seeming initially "athematic" on the first few listens, it's an enjoyable experience as a fractured narrative (which it essentially is in many respects).  Finally, the track cue "Just Look Around You" stands as the heart of the film.  It doesn't aim for any referential textures, but it perfectly captures and enhances an important and complex emotional climax.

     In the chronological breakdown below, ST indicates the Various Artists soundtrack and "web" indicates a cue found on Timothy Williams' website ("Score" is pretty self-explanatory).  Beneath the titles are the track durations for original underscore, or the year of release of the licensed music (which often skillfully informs the film-goer the time period of a flashback).
Trk Title Artist/Composer Film sequence
ST 2 Unforgettable
Nat King Cole Source music from a Veidt TV commercial: the Comedian (Eddie) is attacked in his home by a masked assailant.  He is defeated and thrown out the window to his death.
"Just a matter of time, I suppose."
ST 3 The Times They Are A-Changin'
Bob Dylan Opening montage of historical events involving the rise and fall of the Minutemen, and then the Watchmen.
Score 3 Tonight the Comedian Died
Tyler Bates 0:00: Former Watchman/current vigilante Rorschach investigates a murder scene ("Rorschach's Journal" voice-over).  (Rorschach Investigation texture: ambient textures/pulsing bass/murky impacts/howling winds, rhythmic electronics).
0:54: Rorschach reaches the victim's balcony.  He realizes it's the Comedian's place.  (de-tuned piano motif, ambient textures with more piano ornaments/electronic sirens).
"…all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'Save us.'  And I'll whisper, 'No.' "
2:00: Rorschach uncovers the Comedian's hidden armory (distant slam, bass pulsing/piano tremolo/sinister humming/etc).
"Tonight, a Comedian died in New York."
Score 6 You Quit!
Tyler Bates After Rorschach leaves Dan (Nite Owl II), he walks the dark, rainy streets and resolves not to compromise even in the face of Armageddon (Rorschach Noir texture: noir electric guitar and pulsing synths).
"First visit of evening fruitless.  Feel slightly depressed."
Score 7 Only Two Names Remain
Tyler Bates While reflecting on how dysfunctional the Watchmen became, Rorschach breaks into a military research facility to see Jon (Dr. Manhattan) and Laurie (Silk Spectre) (electronic "mission" rhythms/suspense music with echoes/bass pulses).
"I shall go tell the indestructible man that someone plans to murder him."

99 Luftballons
Nena Laurie meets Dan for dinner.
Score 5 We'll Live Longer
Tyler Bates Laurie tells Dan that Jon thinks nuclear war is coming, and that she feels distant from her super-powered husband (soft noir-ish strings/ethereal synth figures).
"I think the Keene Act was the best thing that ever happened to us."
"Well, we'll live longer anyway."
ST 4 The Sound of Silence
Simon & Garfunkel Rainy blue montage of heroes gathering for the Comedian's coffin burial.
Score 10 The Last Laugh
Tyler Bates Sally Jupiter reflects on the Comedian in California.  The Comedian's coffin is buried in NY (soft strings/synth/brass figures, sad/resigned).
"It rains on the just and the unjust alike.  The Comedian was a little bit of both.  And he always thought he'd get the last laugh."
ST 11 Ride of the Valkyries
(from Die Walkure, 1856)
Richard Wagner/
Budapest Symphony Orchestra
At the ceremony, Jon remembers the Comedian: Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian terrorize the Vietcong "Apocalypse Now" style.
ST 5 Me and
Bobby McGee
Janis Joplin Flashback: Source music on jukebox as a pregnant Vietnamese girl approaches the Comedian.  Eddie kills the girl and Jon does nothing to stop him.
"She was pregnant...and you gunned her down."
"That's right......and you know what? You watched me.  You really don't give a damn about human beings...  You're drifting out of touch, Doc."
ST 6 I'm Your Boogie Man
KC and the Sunshine Band Dan's graveside memories of the Comedian: a protest riot gathers during a police strike.  The Nite Owl and the Comedian arrive, and the Comedian gets out of control.
"Goddamn, I love working on American soil, Dan."
Score 8 The American Dream
Tyler Bates 0:00: Flashback continues: In the aftermath of the riot, Eddie tells Dan that masked heroes will soon be outlawed (tragic trumpet/strings/timpani).
"What the hell happened to us?  What happened to the American Dream?"
 "What happened to the American Dream?  It came true!  You're looking at it"
0:57: In the present, the burial ceremony concludes.  Rorschach follows the Comedian's former arch-villain Moloch home (ethereal synth/el. guitar looping/high choir/piano/percussion).
Score 9 Edward Blake/
The Comedian
Tyler Bates 0:00: Moloch tells Rorschach that he has terminal cancer (low sustained textures).
0:32: Rorschach walks through the rainy streets, reflecting on the Comedian's enigmatic visit to Moloch (flashback montage) (Rorschach Noir texture with additional synth lead figures)
1:52: Rorschach reflects on the story of Pagliacci (electric slide guitar solo begins).
"I heard joke once.  Man goes to doctor, says he's depressed.  Life seems harsh and cruel.  Says he feels all alone in threatening world.  Doctor says treatment is simple.  'The great clown Pagliacci is in town.  Go see him.  That should pick you up.'  Man bursts into tears.  'But doctor,' he says, 'I am Pagliacci."  Good joke.  Everybody laugh."
ST 7 You're My Thrill
Billie Holiday Source music: Dr. Manhattan makes love to Laurie as two of his duplicates.
ST 2 Unforgettable Nat King Cole Source music, TV: Laurie visits Dan after leaving Jon.

(Act II.3 from "Satyagraha",
temp alternate)
Philip Glass/
Tyler Bates
("Protest" credited, but unreleased film track is different, Glass possibly used as a temp only) Laurie leaves Jon.  Jon reflects on an old  picture of Janie and himself (soft textures and Manhattan Clockwork string rhythms/piano/choir).

Something She Has to Do
(from The Hours,
temp alternate)
Philip Glass/
Tyler Bates
("Something She Has to Do" credited, but unreleased film track is different, Glass possibly used as a temp only) Laurie confides in Dan about Jon's distant behavior.  Jon gets dressed and arrives at the TV Station (string theme with high piano figures, cello tremolo, all building to Manhattan Clockwork with strings/choir).
Score 15 What About Janey Slater?
Tyler Bates While interviewed on TV, Jon is told that his ex-girlfriend Janie has been suffering from cancer.  Janie speaks up and blames Jon.  Jon makes everyone disappear (quiet flutes leading to tremolo figures on strings/timpani/brass/choir - ie Manhattan Clockwork textures).
"I said leave me alone!"
ST 8 Prophecies/
Pruit Igoe
Philip Glass (Manhattan Clockwork texture all the way.)
0:00: Prophecies: Dr. Manhattan arrives on Mars.  He reflects randomly on his life: childhood, relationship with Janey Slater, his accident and history (flashback montage).
3:32: Pruit Igoe: Dr. Manhattan's accident transforms him (briefly intercut with childhood). 
"Oh God.  Jon?"
5:29: Prophecies: He becomes a part of America's armed forces.
"I don't think there is a God.  And if there is, I'm nothing like him."
7:30: Dr. Manhattan becomes interested in Laurie and breaks up with Janie.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Tears For Fears/
Studio Group (muzak version)
Source music at elevator bank, as Veidt (Ozymandias) talks about Alexander the Great and his own plan to destroy the energy barons of the world.
(web) Cyanide Sniper
Tyler Bates/
Timothy Williams
The elevator door opens and an assassin opens fire (high strings into suspense and accelerating action rhythm on brass/strings/percussion/choir, ending on subdued textures).
(web) Moloch Is Dead
Tyler Bates/
Timothy Williams
0:00: While investigating Veidt's would-be assassin, Rorschach discovers Moloch dead and is framed.  The police move to surround the building (brass accent, suspense textures with rhythmic "mission" music episodes).
"I hope you're ready, hero."
"When you are."
0:31: The police move in ("mission" strings, brass accents, ambient Rorschach Investigation texture, brass accents).
(web) Rorschach Escape
Tyler Bates/
Timothy Williams
Rorschach fights the police but is overcome by numbers.  His mask is removed (lurching and them rhythmic action figures with brass/drums/piano/string rhythms, male choir).
"Give me back my face!"
Score 16 I'll Tell You About Rorschach
Tyler Bates Rorschach begins telling the prison psychiatrist about a disturbing kidnap case (flashback montage).  In the flashback, when the killer confesses, a disturbed Rorschach kills him anyways (Rorschach Investigation texture: echoey percussive noises, low piano accents/ambient textures/ synth/electronic swells/pulses/buzzing).
"It was dark when the murderer got back.  As dark as it gets."
(Score 21) I Love You
Tyler Bates After Laurie accidentally fires the Owlship's flame throwers, Dan comes down and they flirt (pastoral el. guitars, joined by soft strings, edit of first half of track 21).
Score 13 Dan's Apocalyptic Dream
Tyler Bates In a dream, a naked Dan and Laurie embrace, become costumed, and then are destroyed in a nuclear explosion (ambient textures/siren-like figures, building to climax with a subtle scream).
Score 4 Silk Spectre (Owl Ship)
Tyler Bates/
Timothy Williams
Dan and Laurie decide to suit up and go for a ride (Hero Fanfare: rhythmic choir/brass swells over harp/brass fanfares/string rhythm).
"Let's take Archie out."
Score 1 Rescue
Tyler Bates Dan and Laurie see a burning building with kids inside.  Dan blasts open a water tower to reduce the flames.  Laurie drops into the building and ushers the kids to the Owlship as the building explodes (electronic beats become a heroic march/groove with heavy guitar/drums/choir/brass/strings).
ST 9 Hallelujah
Leonard Cohen Dan and Laurie get turned on by their own heroism.
Score 11 Prison Fight
Tyler Bates Dan and Laurie fight through inmates during a prison riot in order to find Rorschach (heavy rock groove with added electronics).
Score 2 Don't Get Too Misty Eyed
Tyler Bates Hollis Mason gives Sally Jupiter a long-distance call to reminisce, just before he is killed by Top-Knot street punks ("old-fashioned" melancholy/sweet figures in violins/celli with some supportive wind/horn figures).

Waylon Jennings Source music on jukebox: Dan and Rorschach interrogate a thug in a bar for clues to the conspiracy.
Score 14 Who Murdered Hollis Mason?
Tyler Bates After seeing a news report of Hollis' murder, Dan goes berserk.  Rorschach ends up restraining him (Rorschach Investigation texture, building strings/choir leading to Hero Fanfare).
"Daniel, not in front of the civilians."
Score 12 Just Look Around You
Tyler Bates 0:00: While in his floating Mars city, Dr Manhattan tells Laurie that life is insignificant (ambient/ticking textures becoming poignant strings/choir/brass/winds, harp/strings).
"In my opinion, the existence of life is a highly overrated phenomenon."
1:38: (partially unused) Jon shows Laurie a cross-temporal view of things (Flashback: Sally and her husband fight over Eddie).
1:56: Flashback of Eddie being friendly with Laurie after the first Watchmen meeting.  Laurie sees that the Comedian was actually her father.
2:53: With her vision over, an upset Laurie pounds on and destroys Jon's crystal city.  Jon comforts her and claims her birth to be a miracle (sweeping figures become more strident, joined by Manhattan Clockwork tremolo in celli, joined by chorus, swooping synth/cymbal, smaller more sympathetic figures on winds/harp/strings, brass/low strings, resolute swells with more vocal elements).
"To distill so specific a form - from all that chaos - is like turning air into gold, a miracle.  And so...I was wrong.  Now dry your eyes, and let's go home."
ST 10 All Along the Watchtower
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Pull back from Mars to show smiley face.  Dan and Rorschach speed towards Antarctica to confront Veidt at his Karnak base.  The Owlship crashlands, and the two continue on foot.  Veidt sees their approach on his monitors.  They enter his compound.
"Adrian's a pacifist, a vegetarian, for chrissakes.  He's never killed anyone in his life."
"Hitler was vegetarian."
Score 17 Countdown
Tyler Bates 0:00: (edit) Dan and Rorschach attack Veidt in his HQ.  Veidt explains his actions and motives while easily fending off his former team mates (brass swells as Hero Fanfares and fight action rhythms, intercut with longer suspense textures).
"Of course, my moral safeguards gave me pause at the necessary sacrifice."
1:24: Veidt reveals that he triggered his nuclear Armageddon plan 35 minutes prior to their confrontation.  A bomb is teleported to NYC.  A street scene follows as wristwatches stop and citizens look up.  The bomb begins its final implosion cycle (suspense rhythms building with poignant rising brass/drums/choir).
2:06: Veidt's bomb goes off in Times Square, decimating the city (dramatic/sweeping chorus/strings).
Score 18 It Was Me
Tyler Bates Henry Kissinger tells President Nixon that the explosion was caused by Dr. Manhattan.  Jon and Laurie arrive in the ruins of NYC.  He realizes Veidt framed him and teleports the two of them to Veidt's Antarctic Karnak base (rhythmic strings/piano, high violin tremolo, building to Manhattan Clockwork texture joined by ambient swells/piano).
"This wasn't caused by nuclear warheads.  It was me.  I did this..."
(web) Vapor
Button 1
Tyler Bates/
Timothy Williams
Veidt disintegrates Dr. Manhattan in a trap.  Laurie shoots Veidt.  He feigns injury, but then knocks her down (violin suspense, building choir/brass, male choir/suspense strings/brass, brief Hero Fanfare).
"Veidt, you bastard!  If you've hurt her, I'll - "
"Dan.  Grow up."
(web) Vapor
Button 2
Tyler Bates/
Timothy Williams
Veidt taunts Dan, but a gigantic Dr. Manhattan suddenly appears (quiet textures, drums kick off brass swells/ticking/rhythmic strings, quiet textures with subtle Manhattan Clockwork string tremolo/choir, swelling suspense cadence).
"I'm very disappointed in you, Adrian...  The world's smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite."
Veidt moves to turn on the TV for his final endgame move.
Score 19 All That Is Good
Tyler Bates
"This is a day we shall never forget.  And yet, we go forward to defend the human race, and all that is good and just in our world."
0:00: After Nixon announces that WW III is averted and the world is now united against a greater evil (Dr. Manhattan),  Veidt and the others decide whether this deception should be exposed or not.  Rorschach resists (ambient textures joined by Manhattan Clockwork electric guitar looping/piano, then low strings/brass, electronic ornaments/Clockwork strings/trumpet, fateful brass/strings/choir).
"Never compromise.  Not even in the face of Armageddon.  That's always been the difference between us, Daniel."
2:32: Dr. Manhattan confronts Rorschach outside in the snow and eventually kills him for the greater good (previous texture developed: el. guitar looping/synth/piano/cymbal rhythm, joined by voices/strings/brass/etc, building in intensity, ending with falling soprano voice, subtle electronics).
"Suddenly you discover humanity?  Convenient."
4:07: Dr. Manhattan tells Laurie he's leaving the galaxy and then departs (building tremolo strings/brass/choir).
Score 20 Requiem (excerpt from Mozart's "Requiem")
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Dan and Laurie give Veidt withering looks and then depart Karnak.  The Owlship flies off.
Score 21 I Love You
Tyler Bates 0:00: In California, Dan interrupts a heart to heart between Laurie and her mother Sally (pastoral el. guitars, joined by soft strings). 
1:20: Montage of scenes of the destroyed cities being rebuilt, ending inside the offices of the New Frontiersman (drums and bass enter with el. slide guitar solo, strings take over).
ST 1 Desolation Row
My Chemical Romance As a New Frontiersman writer gazes at Rorschach's journal, Rorschach's voice-over reads his opening entry.
"Rorschach's journal, October 12th, 1985.  Tonight, a comedian died in New York."
End credits song 1.

First We Take Manhattan
 Leonard Cohen End credits song 2.

Rescue Mission
Tyler Bates End credit addendum for Ultimate Edition.

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning (remixes) Smashing Pumpkins Theatrical Trailer 1

Take a Bow (Black Holes and Revelations) Muse Theatrical Trailer 2

Angel (Mezzanine) Massive Attack TV spot

     Miscellaneous additional source cues include The Outer Limits (1963): Theme, Panic (Dominic Frontiere), The Outer Limits Control Voice (Vic Perrin), and the 80's MTV Theme ('Man On The Moon', Jonathan Elias and John Petersen).  A little over half an hour of original film score remains unreleased.  Bates also composed music (unreleased) for the animated side-feature "Tales of the Black Freighter" and the tie-in video-game "Watchmen: The End Is Nigh".

Interview with Tyler Bates
Tyler Bates Homepage (includes "Shipwrecked" from Tales of the Black Freighter)
Tyler Bates demonstrates the GuitarViol and analyzes "All That Is Good"
Timothy Williams Additional Music

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