Film scores

Soundtrack review: The BFG (John Williams – 2016)

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“The BFG” is a 2016 American fantasy adventure film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison, based on the 1982 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. The film stars Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader. In the film, an orphan girl befriends an elderly giant and accompanies him on a mission in Giant Country that involves stopping the man-eating giants. The trailer looks amazing and I can’t wait to see the movie. Since it’s a Spielberg movie, the score is written by John Williams. With “Harry Potter” in my I expect the maestro to take me on another sweeping magical journey.

My favorite thing about John Williams has been the way he creates memorable themes. I have very few of his scores on my list of favorites though because I can’t connect very well with the way he writes the normal cues, the ones that should create the musical story. He writes very nice orchestral music, melodic and charming but I have difficulties finding an emotion to relate to. There are moments in “Dream country” when I feel like closing my eyes to let the dreams come, moments that make me think of the Golden Age of film music. I get carried away by the beauty of the music but it’s an “in the moment” type of thing. The score is very enjoyable and in the context of the movie it will be even better but the pleasant sensation is all I will be left with: the music is written in such a way that it follows the story, the movement of the characters and I won’t be able to remember motifs or separate themes from the standalone listen.

The good thing is that even when John Williams writes a functional score, the music is delightful. I am enjoying myself listening to “The BFG” and I often find myself smiling or fretting when the score suggests it. Each cue is busy and varied, made of short motifs that burst and play with each other and wrestle and play hide and seek and then other comes and so on. These motifs never make up one coherent and memorable theme though and I miss that. I keep making a parallel with Harry Potter because that was JW’s big fantasy / children score before and I struggle to find that magic in “The BFG”.

Fans of John Williams will like this one because it’s his usual excellent composition, only minus a recognizable theme. The playfulness of the music made me enjoy this score and left me with a nice sensation when the score was over.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 25 / 65

Album excellence: 39%

Highlights:

Overture

To Giant Country

Sophie’s Nightmare

Sophie’s Future

There Was a Boy

Meeting the Queen

Finale

Sophie and the BFG

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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