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The Incredible Hulk by Craig Armstrong

The Incredible Hulk

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The Incredible Hulk (Soundtrack) by Craig Armstrong

The Incredible Hulk
Composed by Craig Armstrong
Marvel Entertainment (2008)

Rating: 8/10

Buy The Incredible Hulk by Craig Armstrong  from Amazon.com

 

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“The score for THE INCREDIBLE HULK doesn't make you feel like flying above the clouds or brandishing your latest super-gadget, but instead, it makes you want to rip a couple of theater seats up and go a few rounds with the obnoxious group sitting behind you in the theater.”

Musical Brutality
Review by Christopher Coleman

THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a bit of a reboot of the franchise - a much needed one. Ang Lee's attempt in 2003 fell flat with most critics and audiences. However, the failure of THE HULK did open the door for the "big guy" to come back, re-envisioned, after only 5 years. Director Louis Leterrier certainly didn't have the longest history of film making behind him prior to this film (which became another reason to substantiate doubts). With only THE TRANSPORTER 2 on his directorial resume, there was much room left to question the level of entertainment audiences would experience. To the suprise of some, myself included, Leterrier and company pulled it off. The tone and even the film's structure, to some degree, pays homage to the well-respected, 70s-television series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. This new INCREDIBLE HULK features solid writing, acting and action sequences which only get better and better until we reach the rock-em-sock-em finale! Indeed, our conflicted, yet lovable superhero is back and better than ever and one big reason for this is CRAIG ARMSTRONG's pile-driving score.

One thing this Hulk-film has going for it is that it does not carry the enormous amount of overhead that other superhero-movie franchises have. SUPERMAN RETURNS had to live up to the brilliance of John Williams' unforgettable music from SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. BATMAN BEGINS had to face up with Danny Elfman's iconic theme from the last generation of Batman films. Even this year's IRON MAN had to oddly meet expectations placed upon it by the inclusion of Black Sabbath's own "Iron Man" in it's trailer. Sadly, Danny Elfman's eclectic score for the 2003 film was forgotten as quickly as the film itself, so the only real legacy that CRAIG ARMSTRONG would have to contend with (aside from the comic books themselves) was the, late, great, Joe Harnell's tender, piano theme from the CBS television series. Armstrong deals with that issue honorably with a quote of the "Lonely Man" theme a quote in "Bruce Goes Home." (disc 1, track 11).  With due respect being paid to the Hulk of yester-decade, CRAIG ARMSTRONG moves the franchise along by providing a new, musical environment to tell this compelling story. Contained amidst almost two hours of music, are two new Hulk-themes: one twistedly, effective and the other more fitting a superhero.  There is also a beautifully contrasting love theme and tour-de-force action cues. Beyond all of this, Armstrong weaves these disparate elements together, providing a musical experience that helps to make THE INCREDIBLE HULK a true, stand-out effort.

The first of the Hulk's new themes is founded upon 3, low-register notes. In the film we get an immediate dose of the new motif as the opening titles play. On the special, 2-disc soundtrack from Marvel Entertainment, we hear the motif just at the conclusion of track 1 of disc 1, "The Arctic" (a segment of the film that was apparently edited out). Armstrong makes adequate use of the the new theme throughout the score. The simple theme is most often performed on low string and brass ("Favela Escape" "That is the Target" "Give Him Everything You've Got," "Grotto"). The clearest performances, of course, can be found in "Hulk Theme" (disc 1, track 22) and a fully "hiphopized" version at the conclusion of the second disc, "Hulk Theme (End Credits)." The 3-note section of the theme is often accompanied by a second 5-note segment which features a peculiarly appropriate pitch-bend. The overall effect is quite memorable. Further, CRAIG ARMSTRONG has blended three characteristics together that would normally be at odds with one another. Somehow, in this new Hulk theme, is a sense of power, yet of fun, and still with a degree of "creepiness." As the Hulk moves from oddity to hero, Armstrong introduces a more suitable motif for him. While this new theme is stealthily introduced right at the onset of the score (The Arctic), it has gained its full gravitas by the conclusion of tracks like: "Stern's Lab" (disc 2, track 10), "Harlem Brawl" (disc 2, track 15) and "Hulk and Betty" (disc 2, track 14).

Of course, The Hulk isn't just about being a creepy, powerful superhero that is fun for us to watch smash anyone dumb enough to get in his way. Somewhere buried in the sea of green muscle is the delicate-looking and tormented scientist, Bruce Banner. Armstrong goes beyond the "Lonely Man" quote in defining the docile Dr. Banner. Established in "Rocinha Favela" (disc 1, track 3), Banner is given a soft and subtle, descending theme which can also be heard in "Mr. Blue" (disc 1, track 7), and Bruce Can't Stay (disc 1, track 19), . In "Bruce Must Do It" (disc 2, track 14) Banners theme reaches its crescendo as he chooses to face his nemesis, Abomination.  The romantic relationship between Banner and Betty Ross is well represented by Armstrong's love theme. His short but beautiful theme is introduced in "Return to Culver University" (disc 1, track 13) and explored further in "Reunion" (15).  While there are other brief quotes, the love theme makes its most dramatic appearance in "Bruce and Betty" (disc 2, track 22). The human element of THE INCREDIBLE HULK is well undergirded by CRAIG ARMSTRONG's talent for creating emotional melody.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK is certainly not devoid of action and this is another area where Armstrong excels. Early on we hear an action-motif somewhat reminiscent of John Powell's work for THE BOURNE series. Jabbing strings overlaying electronic percussion convey a sense both intrigue and danger; however, Armstrong adds an additional layer of strings which lightens the piece above the pure heaviness of Powell's work for THE BOURNE films. This action theme returns in "Favela Escape" (disc 1, track 8), and "Give Him Everything You've Got" (disc 1, track 18). As the story intensifies, the music moves from a "chase oriented" style to a relentless, full-frontal attack mode. Craig Armstrong displayed his ability for forceful and complex action music early in his career in PLUNKETT & MACLEANE and not since that 1999 score has the composer had the opportunity to indulge his gift for musical brutality. As entertaining as some of the early action pieces are, Armstrong's work for the last reel of the film packs a monsterous whallop. As the Hulk and Abomination finally collide, so do their primal themes; the ferocity of their fight being made even more forceful by Armstrong's music. "Abomination Alley" (disc 1, track 27), "Harlem Brawl" (disc 2, track 15), and finally "Hulk Smash" (disc 2, track 17) dive into the low-frequency-depths of an ocean of strings, brass, and percussion. The climactic action music is made distinct (in particular from a pure Media Ventures/Remote Control sound) as layered on top of this very primal foundation is Armstrong's signature sound of pulsing strings, brass blasts, percussive slaps, and electronic ticks.

A true surprise. That is what THE INCREDIBLE HULK has proven to be; both in terms of the film itself and CRAIG ARMSTRONG's score. The film stands toe-to-toe with IRON MAN and I'd wager will hold up well against THE DARK KNIGHT as well. Comic book heroes has certainly not been Armstrong's forte, and that may be the one reason why he was able to deliver something fresh.  His talent may have something to do with that, too. THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a vastly different experience from any of the other superhero films of late and the same can be said of the score. The score here doesn't make you feel like flying above the clouds or brandishing your latest super-gadget, but instead it makes you want to rip a couple of theater seats up and go a few rounds with the obnoxious group sitting behind you.  Marvel Entertainment's 2-disc release gives us more than an ample supply of the score...including a few pieces whose scenes must have hit the cutting-room-floor. Marvel's digital download release from AmazonMP3 only delivers a 22-track subset of the physical release, but for the budget conscious, it does provide the basic palette of the musical score. For fans of the Hulk and/or Craig Armstrong, the 2-disc release is a no-brainer.

Rating: 8/10

 

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 The Arctic 2:46  ****
2 Main Title 2:38  ****
3 Rocinha Favela 3:11  ****
4 A Drop of Blood 1:35  ****
5 The Flower 2:49  ****
6 Ross' Team 1:33  ****
7 Mr. Blue 1:03  ***
8 Favela Escape 3:35  ****
9 It Was Banner 1:32  ***
10 That is the Target 5:33  ****
11 Bruce Goes Home 1:25  ****
12 Ross and Blonsky 3:15  ***
13 Return to Culver University 2:38  ****
14 The Lab 1:16  ***
15 Reunion 3:37  ****
16 The Data/ The Vial 1:20  ****
17 They're Here 3:07  ****
18 Give Him Everything You've Got 6:08  *****
19 Bruce Can't Stay 1:53  ****
20 First Injection 1:03  ****
21 Is it Safe? 1:07  ***
22 Hulk Theme 3:59  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 57 minutes  
       
Disc 2      
1 Saved from the Flames 0:53  ****
2 Grotto 2:53  ****
3 Arrival at the Motel 1:47  ***
4 I Can't 2:15  ****
5 Abomination Alley 3:56  *****
6 Bruce Found 2:51  ****
7 Bruce Looks for the Data 1:05  ***
8 NYC Cab Ride 1:17  ****
9 The Mirror 1:17  ****
10 Stern's Lab 4:16  *****
11 Bruce Darted 3:00  ****
12 I Want It, I Need It 1:35  ***
13 Blonsky Transforms 1:15  ****
14 Bruce Must Do It 2:11  ****
15 Harlem Brawl 3:50  *****
16 Are They Dead? 2:40  ****
17 Hulk Smash 2:24  ****
18 Hulk and Betty 1:49  *****
19 A Tear 1:01  ****
20 Who's We? 0:55  ***
21 The Necklace 1:44  ****
22 Bruce and Betty 5:06  ****
23 Hulk Theme (End Credits) 3:58  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 54 minutes  

 

 
   

 

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