Film scores

Soundtrack review: Pixels (Henry Jackman – 2015)

On paper, “Pixels” is an 80s boy’s dream come true. I am giddy just reading the plot… Aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults – and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders. It stars Adan Sandler, Kevin James and Peter Dinklage as the once kids who used to save the world from invaders at arcades and now must do it in real life. This sounds so cool; I will rush to see it. I am expecting an 80s golden score which will tingle my nostalgia sensors. Henry Jackman wrote it and he is one of my most trustworthy composers. Giddy up!

I might be a kid again waiting to hear the basic and simple electronic beeps of the arcade game but I find myself thrown into a really dangerous world. The opening cue sounds like something you would hear on a “Man in black” score so right of the bat I know that Jackman went for the serious Sci-fi vibe instead of comedic or 80s. The music is dark and sprinkled with some choral inserts that still make me think of MiB. I don’t know why my mind goes to that but so far I can’t separate this score from that memory.

“The conspiracy” triggers other memories; this is a cue reminiscent of the dawn of Sci-fi movies. It’s a cue as simple and menacing as you would hear in the early alien movies. “Level 2” makes me think of Star Wars and I realize that Henry Jackman went all out Sci-fi with this score. There’s no trace of laughter or synthesizer. This is a military / alien score. Just listen to “Hand – eye” with its marching percussion and alert pace. The music is excellent, inspiriting, and motivational and I am way past invested in it. I can work with this, regardless of my expectations about the sound because the score is just brilliant.

I don’t even realize how time passes when I listen to “Pixels”. The music carries me with it; it’s alert and exciting and goes into full epic hero mode for a while in “Call in”. The military marching sound never leaves the score. I am swimming with this dark river of sound and I don’t care where it takes me. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the clever and alert pace of Henry Jackman’s composition but I am just beyond excited to be listening to this. The music never stops and never loses momentum. This is a tight and dense score which doesn’t let any air in. It’s powerful and compact and I would take these 37 jam packed minutes over a 70 minutes long score full of holes. We needed Henry Jackman to remind us how awesome Danny Elfman used to write. I still get this weird feeling that this score sounds like golden age Elfman and he doesn’t write like this anymore so it’s nice we have someone to feel the Sci-fi adventure void.

Just count this as one of the most fun, awesome, fast paced and exciting action adventure scores of the year and rush to get it. It will become one of the most played scores in your collection. “Pixels” stormed it, swept me off my feet and then left me there with an unbelievable rush inside. I will play it again right now, of course. I am so happy when I hear a score like this, there’s actual joy and a need to jump from my seat and share this with everyone.

Cue rating: 96 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 29 / 37

Album excellence: 79%

Highlights:

Invasion

The Arcaders

Conspiracy

Level 2

Hand-Eye

Pest Control

Call In

Unconditional

Power Up

Gobble Or

Shoot

A Dream

Mothership

Roll Out

High Score

Arcaders

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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