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Soundtrack review: Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson – 2018)

Blockbuster Film scores

Soundtrack review: Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson – 2018)

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“Black Panther” is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay by him and Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences.

“Black Panther” has received critical acclaim and is already regarded as one of the best superhero movies so I can’t wait to see it. I was also happy to see Ludwig Gorasson write the score since he impressed me with his “Creed” music and I had had enough of the generic sound with which Marvel (the exception being the awesome “Thor: Ragnarok”) has infused its recent movies. Right from the opening cue “Wakanda origins” I get the feeling of a musical breath of fresh air with the penetrating and addictive rhythmic tribal sound that makes me think of ancient visions. Since the movie is so different from the rest of the Marvel movies the composer also wrote a score like no other, a score that combines melodies with textural sounds that make this feel like more than just a musical score as it somehow places me in the middle of the action with the sound effect and vocal chants. I am impressed by a cue like “Royal Talon fighter” because it feels like an entire story in itself, from cold and tense motifs to an inspirational ending that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

The story is deeply rooted in Africa and Ludwig Gorasson makes it clear through his music as well with the haunting ethnic singing in “Wakanda”, a theme to match the land. The cue sounds like a prayer, a ritual with the wooden percussion sounds, the voice and the spectacular buildup. Three cues in and I am already in a world I haven’t visited before, a much welcomed change for the sound of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; plus it’s always easy to enjoy the relentless, addictive pace of African percussion, especially at a very loud volume. If you don’t enjoy that particular sound you will have trouble with portions of “Black Panther”; me, I just get riled up and motivated when I listen to “Waterfall fight”.

I like how easily, seamlessly the composer transitions his music, sometimes in the middle of a cue, from basic tribal to epic orchestral and back to celebratory choral. This makes each cue feel longer and more deceptive and the score just sucks me in with every passing minute. I never know where a particular cue might take me or whether a minute of solo African percussion might lead into a dramatic, inspirational trailer like motif. The more I listen to the score the more I feel as if I have been transported in the world of Wakanda with everything it means and the feeling of discovering an entirely new world is just like no other. I am not just discovering the new world, it’s like I am part of building it or like I am witnessing it being built from scratch, from basic to complex, from little to plenty, all through the music.

The greatest strength of this score ironically lies in the diversity of the music; Ludwig Gorasson goes from purely ethnic to almost golden age like drama and romance. I listen to “Ancestral plane” and I swear I have no trouble saying that this is the most Miklos Rozsa like piece of music I have heard in a long long time; the alternation of styles is both natural and insane in how well it works: “Killmonger” starts with a desperate African battle cry and morphs into a melodic electronic piece before going back to hums that act as just another instrument. I must admit I haven’t heard film music quite like this. It’s a fusion of styles and moods like no other, a fascinating musical journey and a labyrinth of sounds that I am glad I get to experience.

If the movie “Black Panther” is considered a game changer same could be said for the score as well. The Marvel Cinematic Universe sound had gotten stale lately and had lost its identity and Ludwig Gorasson came and just created a new planet, a brand and fresh new world that make quite an impression on me. His music is experimental, varied, fascinating, mystical. The score is 95 minutes long and every one of them is worth your time. The music if “Black Panther” is a journey that I want to experience over and over again although in this case nothing compares to the first time, to the excitement of discovery and building of this new world. It’s twice in a row now that a Marvel score has enchanted me beyond belief so I can’t wait for what comes next.

Cue rating: 98 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 87 / 95

Album excellence: 91%

Highlights:
Wakanda Origins
Royal Talon Fighter
Wakanda
Warrior Falls
The Jabari
Waterfall Fight
Ancestral Plane
Killmonger
Phambili
Casino Brawl
Busan Car Chase
Is This Wakanda?
Killmonger’s Challenge
Killmonger vs T’Challa
Loyal to the Throne
Killmonger’s Dream
Burn It All
Wake Up T’Challa
The Great Mound Battle
Glory to Bast
The Jabari Pt II
A Kings Sunset
A New Day
Spaceship Bugatti
United Nations / End Titles

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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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1 Comments

  1. Craig Reiter 3rd March 2018

    90 minutes of migraine inducing noise. I couldn’t pick out one coherent or original musical idea in this endless dreck. And who’s brilliant idea was it to hire an inexperienced Scandinavian hack to score a film about a fictional African kingdom. Pathetic!

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