Friday, October 23, 2009


Final battle themes and movie music

I love movies. Not in a snooty, “hey look at this film, it’s really artistic” sort of way. I like real movies – popular movies and a few not so much, but not because they’re artsy. I just love the experience of film as an entertainment medium. It takes a lot to make a great movie – so much that often I’m amazed anybody can pull them off at all. Writing, direction, lighting, cinematography, staging, costumes and acting all need to come together perfectly to create the illusion, then it’s all got to be edited, have any foley sounds or visual special effects added, and be scored. Each part can make a huge difference in the film’s quality, but usually only one of those parts can also provide entertainment separately from the film – the music.

There aren’t really a lot of film soundtracks that I’m inclined to listen to, but there are a few. The Conan music by Basil Poledouris, for instance, is extremely listenable (as is Conan the Destroyer – in fact the soundtrack is about ten times better than the movie). John Williams, of course, is the master of movie themes, having created many of the greatest, most memorable pieces of movie music of the last thirty years – themes that speak to our hearts and our souls, that excite us (Indiana Jones) or frighten us (Jaws) or sweep us to the stars (Star Wars or, if you prefer, Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

There’s a little-known theme that’s always been one of my favorites. The Rocky movies are best known for the “training anthem” Gonna Fly Now, or for the theme to Rocky III, Eye of the Tiger. But several of the Rocky films share in common a true piece of magical music that lets the audience know that it’s game time for Rocky Balboa. That symphonic masterpiece is Bill Conti’s Conquest. True, Gonna Fly Now and Eye of the Tiger get all the air time, but when you need to psyche the audience up for the final, final battle of final battles, this tune gets the job done. I got the Rocky III soundtrack, as an LP, for my 12th birthday and this tune always really worked for me. Whether you hear it by itself or you see Rocky getting up off the ropes and pounding Clubber Lang to the ground, it’s just a great piece. If I ever worked out, I would totally work out to this tune.

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