Why You Should…
If you don’t mind a choral and organ led horror journey by Shapiro, that surprisingly injects some throwbacks to its predecessors.
Why You Shouldn’t…
If the complete shift in tone or style is enough to affirm Bernstein’s entry as the definite ghostbusting score.
Release Date: July 15th 2016 (GENERAL RELEASE)
Composer(s): Theodore Shapiro
Label: Sony Classical
Produced By: Theodore Shapiro and Paul Feig.
Orchestrated By: John Ashton Thomas, Pete Anthony, Rick Giovinazzo, Randy Kerber & Mark Graham.
Conducted By: Mark Graham.
“Ghostbusters” title song performed by Ray Parker Jr
Soloist: Christoph Bull
The saturation of reboots of beloved franchise took an arrow to the knee with Paul Feig’s 2016 adaptation of GHOSTBUSTERS. For quite some time, the potential resurrection of the cult-hit supernatural comedy was a fervent topic of debate within the confined quarters of the cinematic industry, with only a handful of half-conceived details emerging to public availability every few months/years or so. The fracture of a cohesive workmanlike spirit among the initial cast of the first entry resulted in the inability to create a satisfying narrative for a modernized continuation. For fans of the initial entry that debuted in 1984, much frustration would be experienced with the way that low-key comedic director Paul Feig chose to present this “updated” re-imagining. Firstly, the shifting of the primary four leads in gender was a noteworthy decision, if only for the rather amusing stupor that it resulted in. There is nothing inherently wrong with using female lead characters to anchor and narrate a film, and if you look back on history, there have been various examples that have earned respect and admiration from the audience in making them love these characters and their adventures regardless of gender. Not this one. Since the sudden surge in modern feminism, the rather elusive mentality of voices on the internet have decried this movement as sinful, and have actively expressed displeasure in the film’s potential to be successful on its own terms. It doesn’t help your film when you make headlines for having the most disliked video ever on YouTube, truly a shocking distinction. Secondly, the mindless lambaste with which Feig and the studio decided to target the audience was immensely unfair to the average individual’s credit, throwing striking accusations of sexism if one were to dislike the film. The stale chemistry between the new leads, as well as a thinly written screenplay and the complete disregard for the franchise’s respected material was what ultimately sank this film’s ship as a worthwhile venture at the cinemas, however, with any cries of positive critical reception being drowned alarmingly by the overwhelming hatred towards Ghostbusters, and a dismal fiscal output. To look back and reflect upon the intensity in which we react to films these days truly shows how much tastes and perspectives have changed, and semblances of civility are a rare commodity indeed. One such member (if at all, the only one!) of the film’s production to walk away completely unscathed, however, was composer Theodore Shapiro.
To the average listener, much of the recognition that lies with the music for Ghostbusters has always been dominated by Ray Parker Jr.’s title song, once extremely catchy to the eighties public, now an outdated but harmonically pleasing memory. Elmer Bernstein‘s dutiful score remains a fond choice for the late composer’s aficionados, because of its surprisingly personality. Whilst Randy Edelman‘s sequel score was a step down in regard, the continued presence of the song made it worthwhile for a forgiving audience. For any acceptors of that song, it makes its appearances here too, Shapiro loyally guiding it through the score. For Shapiro, his ability to over-punctuate the comedic films of the 21st century has served him well, and Ghostbusters serves as a fine example of this. His technical mastery is obvious in every cue, and from an analytical perspective, one might find many things to desire. But the most intriguing thing, ironically, is a lack of that aforementioned comedic spirit in the score itself. When you listen to a cue such as “The Aldridge Mansion”, you hear some of the well-built dread that comes with the prospect of entering a spooky house filled with malevolent spectral beings. The standard waterphone of horror sounds, eerie minor-key ostinatos that recall many a Jerry Goldsmith score, vibraphonic textures and bleak tonal warmth is present. The quality of recording is astute, a further aspect of Shapiro’s well polished skill. The most prevalent new theme of sorts that he establishes is a series of four notes on pipe organ, heard in the cue.
“Never Invited” allows for a more energetic demonstration of lively strings and woodwinds, with a sudden turn to choral territory with the new theme, which can safely be attributed to the ghosts. This thematic idea is sufficient but underdeveloped, absent past the halfway point within the score. That ghostly aspect is highlighted in the following, “Distinct Human Form”, using the choral soprano regions to perform more sinister statements of the ghost theme. Plenty of stock glissandi and dissonance are afloat, and the first interpolation of the Ghostbusters title song appears, in its interlude form at 1:47. It makes a further appearance in “Ley Lines” in more vibrant form, with a brief but gratifying burst of energy. The reboot theme is characterized by a fanfare towards the cue’s end, but bizarrely sounding like a lampooned Bruce Broughton theme. Ominous brass and organ shades inhabit “The Universe Shall Bend”, and Zimmer-like ostinatos open “Subway Ghost Attack”, with familiar glissandi culminating in a whirl of choral terror and some interesting timbre shifts, with snares and percussive riffs complementing choral bursts in counterpoint. Some form of a secondary motif in “Ghost Girl” is vague, though the sparsity of the texture allows for the haunting aspect of her form to shine through. You have to admire the raw edge in “Mannequins”, the sharpness of every dynamic and accent ringing crystal clear with impressive clarity. Lovely piano work comes in “I Will Lead Them All”, with a pronounced horror wail from the choir that impressively dissolves into ghostly ostinatos of a lesser volume.
The weakness, however of the score, lies in its rendering of the villain, Rowan North, an embittered scientist so temperamental enough to electrocute himself to death and assume state as a ghost (never stick an electrode in crazy, kids!). For all the choral shrieking and glissandi, not once does sufficient material for the scientist materialize. Any form of attributable identity for the character falls down to a glass pitch and a series of tortured violins, with choral rage. Some life finally comes back in “The Fourth Cataclysm”, and its unbridled energy makes the listener wish Shapiro had consistently employed this further, gratifying in liturgical chanting and precise percussive flare. The rotation of chord progressions is satisfying too, with a theremin for cuddly horror effect. At some point, you’ll be inclined to sit back and think how many times Bernard Herrmann‘s Mountaintop motif from the classic Journey To The Center of The Earth has been inserted an ambiguous filler progression on brass. This continues in “Balloon Parade”, with a more forceful propulsion in rhythm and muscular bass drum slamming. The reboot theme appears several times through “Battle of Times Square”, with relentless push for triumphance and colour, and the bridge interlude of the title song by Parker Jr is surprisingly effective. To his credit, Shapiro injects much needed vitality in the last three cues, all full of choral chants, organs, rippling snares and brass pomp. But ultimately, Ghostbusters, for all its strengths, never truly captures the persona of four women trying to rid their home from ghosts with as much flavour nor spirit as one would hope, remaining cold and passionless without its final few cues. Praise is needed for the raw orchestral dominance, as well as his stylish integration of the title song in cues, despite the bulk of the material passing in anonymity. Regardless, there will be a mass crowd who will face difficulty warming up to this score, with barely any form of emotional connectivity despite Shapiro’s consistent mannerisms. The composer deserves finer projects than these, with at least some form of inclusion into either of the two factions of superhero universes worthy of his talents. A serviceable work that serves its film well, but is clouded by the shadow Bernstein set decades ago.
(all music written by Theodore Shapiro)
1) The Aldridge Mansion (2:57)
2) The Garrett Attack (1:29)
3) Never Invited (1:23)
4) Distinct Human Form (2:26)
5) The Universe Shall Bend (2:22)
6) Subway Ghost Attack (3:21)
7) Ghost Girl (0:59)
8) Mannequins (2:12)
9) Ghost in a Box (0:50)
10) Dr. Heiss (3:21)
11) Ley Lines (3:47)
12) Pester the Living (2:48)
13) I Will Lead Them All (2:16)
14) The Power of Patty Compels You (2:16)
15) The Fourth Cataclysm (3:32)
16) Balloon Parade (1:58)
17) Battle of Times Square (3:20)
18) Entering the Mercado (2:31)
19) Behemoth (3:43)
20) Into the Portal (3:07)
21) NY Heart GB (0:49)