Summer blockbusters present musical challenges

Mon Apr 19, 2010 2:22am EDT
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By Jeff Bond

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When John Debney came to score "Iron Man 2," he faced a particular challenge: Being consistent with the first outing in the action franchise, while adding his own distinct voice.

"It's quite different from the first score, but it retains a lot of the same cool elements," Debney says. "There's a lot of guitar in it, but most of it is couched with the orchestra, so we never lose sight of that whole thing."

"That whole thing" means the vast enterprise referred to as a tentpole or summer blockbuster. Composers tasked with scoring these movies not only have to contend with super-heated action, rapid-fire editing and overpowering sound mixes; they also have to cope with schedules that can be in flux right up to the end of postproduction -- and convey a sense of bigness that belongs with budgets reaching $200 million and more.

Ramin Djawadi scored the first "Iron Man" with a strong dose of metal guitar, and director Jon Favreau wanted to keep some of that while exploring a new direction. He also wanted to maintain the continuity of the rock guitar aspect that characterized the hell-raising persona of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his "metal man" alter ego, Iron Man.

"As Iron Man has evolved from his scrappy beginnings, we want to establish him as being more comfortable with the mantle of a superhero," the director says.


A blend of classic orchestral film scoring from Debney; rock stylings courtesy of guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine; AC/DC songs -- and even a surprising touch of Walt Disney -- contributed to that.

"What I like about Tom's guitar is that he tunes it down, doubles up, sometimes double-records and triple-records the guitars, and the orchestrations are built around his guitar work," Favreau adds. "It was interesting to see John collaborate with Tom, people who come from two different sides of the music business."   Continued...

<p>A scene from "Iron Man". REUTERS/Paramount</p>