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Wanted by Danny Elfman


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Wanted (Soundtrack) byDanny Elfman

Composed by Danny Elfman
Lakeshore Records (2008)

Rating: 7/10

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“DANNY ELFMAN weaves, what seems to be, nearly a dozen different motifs and other slightly less descript musical segments together to give WANTED its density.”

It’s the Little Things That Count
Review by Christopher Coleman

The Summer of 2008 seems to be one major-hype-job after another.  From IRON MAN to SPEED RACER to PRINCE CASPIAN to INDIANA JONES to THE INCREDIBLE HULK and now to WANTED.  Before the fervor of one of these megamovies has even reached its peak, another one is released.  The fervor over WANTED, like all of these others, has been built up for months.  WANTED has had the unique position of being "that film" that looks like it would end up being something different...something edgy...something to make audiences sit up in their seats and say, "I ain't seen that before!"  Director Timur Bekmambetov (of the NIGHT WATCH trilogy fame) was brought on to make the film-adaptation of Mark Millar's graphic novels do just that.  Yet another starring role for actor James McAvoy, plus Angelina Jolie, and Morgan Freeman gave WANTED the immediate gravitas needed to get audiences interested in this story early on.  Veteran composer DANNY ELFMAN was brought on to add his unique musical voice to this first part of a rumored trilogy.

From the dawning of the first teaser, I already picked up the scent of The Matrix all over this film.  Some of the commonalities are no doubt coincidental others perhaps were unavoidable.  The cubical-nerd, the sexy hit-woman, the African-American guru?  Yes...that's the easy stuff to spot.  There are more subtle connections to The Matrix as well.  For most movie-goers, it seems that these similarities were no fact some revel in them.  Unfortunately for me, I found myself thinking about those connections and not focusing on the story of WANTED like I should have.  Accept for a few choice moments of action, the first half of the film was a surprisingly flat experience.  When not thinking about Neo/Wesley, Trinity/Fox, Morpheus/Sloan, I was thinking, "Can this be it?  Is this the movie so many are going ape over?"  Is this all there is?"  Thankfully, as the plot zigs and zags halfway through, the answer is a resounding "No!"  Thankfully, in the blink of an eye, the plot gets turned on its ear and suddenly the story achieves escape velocity and leaves the dead-end gravity of the abundance of stylized violence.  So how does DANNY ELFMAN's score fair in both the flat-half and the slap-you-in-the-face-pay-attention-half?

After a not-so-great year of 2007, with lackluster efforts for THE KINGDOM and MEET THE ROBINSONS, the first half of 2008 has already packed a pretty good whallop from the composer.  Already released was his work for STANDARD OPERATING PROCECURES and with HELLBOY 2 on tap for July, ELFMAN drops in his score for the highly-anticipated WANTED. Given the connections to the Wachowski Brothers watershed, 1999 effort, I could not help but expect something similar in terms of the tone of the score.  As it turns out, just as the film is, DANNY ELFMAN's score has much grittier and grungier feel than Don Davis distinctively post-modern effort.  Before I distance Elfman’s latest effort completely from the Davis’ work, there are select moments that are indeed reminiscent. The appearance of one of The Matrix’s musical calling cards is adapted for Wanted. These “reflective brass” swells which generally denoted moments of nature-defying feats in The Matrix are less pronouced in the context of the film (if not edited out completely) than on the WANTED soundtrack. Perhaps contributing to the flatness of the first half is the film’s reliance upon source cues (none of which make the soundtrack-cd) over original score. Danny Elfman's rock-cut, "The Little Things" (1) serves as some what of a turning point as the character of Wesley goes from an apologetic accountant to ruthless assassin. From that point the movie veers away from the source material to Elfman's score.

"Success Montage" (2) establishes one of the principal themes of the score. Strings, woodwinds and later brass deliver an interesting Eastern-Europeanesque melody – behind it layered several Elfman-monikers: brass swells, pulsating percussion, and electronic accents. Perhaps the most intriguing theme of the score, it only shows up a few more times and in abbreviated statements see: “Rats” (10) , “The Train” (11) and “Revenge” (12). In “Fraternity Suite” (3) unsurprisingly we get Elfman’s theme for this ancient and secret fraternity of assassins that have been taking out uniquely selected targets for centuries. To help convey their sense of power and purpose the theme contains a methodical pulsating of both strings and percussion. Conveying the age of this group is an all male chorus vocalizing some sort of Gregorian chant. The two elements weave together to give this elite bunch of heavies a distinctive musical personality. The composer calls on this theme at key moments such as: “Welcome to the Fraternity” (7), and the concluding track “Fate” (15). DANNY ELFMAN gives the central character, Wesley, his own 4-note motif which starts to take hold around the middle of the film. By track 11, “The Train” he brings it to the forefront – not all that unlike John Powell’s work for The Bourne series. The last major motif I’ll mention is for the tatoo-laden, femme fatale, Fox. Through her character and storyline, Elfman is able to add yet one more thread to the eclectic tapestry. In track 8, “Fox’s Story” we most clearly hear a middle-eastern vibe being woven into the score and even the employment of, what sounds to be, something in the duduk-family. In track 13, “Fox’s Decision” we get a reprisal of her motif which combined with the piece’s emotion apex makes this one of the more enjoyable tracks of the release.

In the end, while the comparisons to THE MATRIX are as about as apt as the comparisons made between THE WATER HORSE and E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (ie. rather ridiculous), WANTED is an effort to be applauded. For the score, DANNY ELFMAN weaves, what seems to be, nearly a dozen different motifs and other slightly less descript musical segments together to give WANTED its density. As it appears that this will become a franchise of its own, and if Elfman returns, he has laid down quite a few musical ideas that can be explored more fully later. WANTED, the film, didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. At first, the score didn’t light to big of a fire for me either, but as I continued to listen, I found myself appreciating it more. If you are a one of the many Elfman-fiends out there, there is little doubt you’ll want to add this to your collection. For others, you, as I do, may find STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES a more intriguing score from Elfman.

Rating: 7/10


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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 The Little Things 3:26  **
2 Success Montage 3:32  ****
3 Fraternity Suite 3:28  ****
4 Wesley's Office Life 5:15  ***
5 The Scheme 1:44  ***
6 Fox in Control 2:16  ***
7 Welcome to the Fraternity 4:28  ***
8 Fox's Story 3:29  ***
9 Exterminator Beat 2:52  ***
10 Rats 3:28  ****
11 The Train 3:59  ****
12 Revenge 4:33  **
13 Fox's Decision 2:29  ****
14 Breaking the Code 1:21  ***
15 Fate 1:46  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 48 minutes  




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