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Tyler Bates

Watchmen [Original Motion Picture Score]

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In films like Watchmen, based on comic books (sorry, "graphic novels") about superheroes in silly costumes, the struggle between Good and Evil is paramount. In the necessarily over-the-top music written by composers such as Tyler Bates to accompany all the special effects, a different struggle plays out, that between the orchestra and the synthesizer. The big budgets and the endless chase and fight scenes call for large orchestras full of dozens of string players sawing away, not to mention a large chorus singing "Ah" in an urgent manner. But that isn't enough. The superhuman efforts of the characters also require electronic accompaniment, especially in terms of percussion, and the composer must augment the strings and voices with lots of organized noise, some of which is indistinguishable from sound effects. In the battle between natural and unnatural sounds that is the score to Watchmen, the synthesizer generally comes out on top, although the Hollywood Studio Orchestra and the Hollywood Film Chorale do not give up without a fight. There are passages meant to accompany down moments in the film when the audience is allowed to catch its breath (or go out for popcorn), and Bates sets them to wistful string parts. But sudden crescendos lead to loud climaxes that then fall away immediately, all of which is easier to achieve through electronic means. And then, of course, there are all those industrial sounds. The writing of a film score is always both a technical and a creative achievement; for Watchmen, Tyler Bates may have had to worry more about the technical aspects than indulge in the creative ones, and while he's constructed an efficient aural background to the action, this is not a memorable work on its own. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi

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