Film scores

Soundtrack review: X-Men: Apocalypse (John Ottman – 2016)

apoca
For me this is John Ottman’s best and most complete work for the franchise

The “X-men” franchise is my favorite superhero franchise. I have a special connection with it and I eagerly await for each movie. I remember when Bryan Singer announced “Apocalypse” even before “Days of future” past came out. Now it’s time to see it. Speaking of the previous movie, it’s my favorite of the series so there are high expectations for “Apocalypse”. The plot has ancient mutant Apocalypse awakens and plans to take over the world, so the X-Men need to stop him and defeat his team, the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse. Bryan Singer’s full time return to this universe also means a stabilization of the musical identity: John Ottman returns for his third score. I love his “X-Men” theme, but as far as scores go, Henry Jackman and John Powell’s efforts are still my favorites. I like that this score’s cue titles suggest a film mix. I have to mention that in the back of my dreamer mind, knowing that the movie is set in the 80s and having heard Ottman’s score for “Nice guys” recently I had hopes of a 80s inspired score.

But this is the X-men universe, dark and dangerous and the decade the story takes place has nothing to do with it. There is also a little villain named “Apocalypse” and he gets the epic theme he deserves. The opening cue has all the grandeur I imagined and also evokes to me ancient times and immense power with thunderous choir and percussion. John Ottman knows the “X-men” sound well since he created most of it and I would recognize this theme as being written for this world anytime. The opening motif which sounds like the biggest hammer in the world dropping reminds me of the way “Batman vs Superman” started. I love a musical statement like this.

The epic ancient choirs continue in the prelude with vibes of mystic rituals and unnatural powers. A couple of cues in and I’m already involved in this score, immersed in it. John Powell’s “Last stand” is my favorite “X-men” score because it sounded louder and more no restrains epic than any other score. “The transference” channels the same energy and I feel motivated and invincible. The entire musical pre main titles sequence that blends into the magnificent “X-Men” theme is a lesson in epic film scoring. I feel such joy to be able to listen to such a score!

Once the storm has passé we get a surprisingly quiet and melodic insight into Eric’s new life. John Ottman can write emotion just as well as epic and he wastes no time in showing us the musical range of this score. Between these two ends of the specter “Apocalypse” also has dark and tense moments that send chills down my spine. Usually I can’t connect very well with moments like these in action score but this time the subtext, dark and alive and the constant menace in the music makes me enjoy it and feel it.

Eric / Magneto gets the best themes in this score and rightfully so since he’s such a fascinating character.
“Eric’s rebirth” fits him like a glove (or a helmet) and I can’t wait to see what it’s about in the movie. I like how the composer manages to express through his music the duality of feelings towards Eric: the sadness of Charles for losing a friend to the dark side and the hope and admiration for his powers. “Contacting Eric / The answer!” is one of my favorite cues from this score because of that. “The Magneto effect” is another highlight.

The action parts of “Apocalypse” have no restrains. This is what I love about “X-men”: not hiding away from their powers and abilities. The music shows me this and it’s as epic as a score for mutants should be.  It’s as if the orchestra itself ad super powers under John Ottman’s guidance. He knows these characters inside out. The music is limitless, loud and exciting in the most spectacular moments and quiet and emotional when it goes inside. “You can see” coming right after the unbelievable “Beethoven Havok” shows the wonderful duality in this score. my favorite non action piece is “A piece of his past”.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” gave me everything a fan of epic superhero movies and music needed. For me this is John Ottman’s best and most complete work for the franchise and I hope he stays for future movies as well. It also includes my favorite rendition of the “X-Men theme” in the end credits. My heart was still beating fast long after the last notes faded. Also, congratulations to the choir that took this score to another level.

Cue rating: 97 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 63 / 76

Album excellence: 82%

Highlights:

Apocalypse

The Transference

Pyramid Collapse / Main Titles

Eric’s New Life

Just a Dream

Going Grey / Who the F are You?

Eric’s Rebirth

Contacting Eric / The Answer!

Beethoven Havok

You Can See

New Pyramid

Split them Up!

A Piece of his Past

The Magneto Effect

Jet Memories

Great Hero / You Betray Me

Like a fire

What beach?

Rebuilding / Cuffed / Goodbye Old Friend

You’re X-Men / End Titles

Rest Young Child (Vocal Version) (with Jasper Randall)

 

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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