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Soundtrack review: Ready Player One (Alan Silvestri – 2018)

Blockbuster Film scores

Soundtrack review: Ready Player One (Alan Silvestri – 2018)

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“Ready Player One” is a 2018 American science fiction adventure film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name. The film stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance. The film is set in the year 2045 where much of humanity, to escape the desolation of the real-world, use the virtual reality software OASIS to engage in work and play. Wade Watts (Sheridan) discovers clues to a hidden game within the program that promises the winner full ownership of the OASIS, and joins several allies to try to complete the game before indentured players working for a large company, run by Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn), can do so.

This movie is pegged as the ultimate geekgasm for 80s kids, chalk full of pop culture references and flashbacks so I am definitely in, can’t wait to see it. The surprise comes from the composer since everybody expects a Spielberg movie to have a John Williams score. But John is not getting any younger and Spielberg just released “The post” and because of this, Robert Zemekis’ usual composer of choice Alan Silvestri stepped up. To me Silvestri in top form for a fantasy action movie is as safe a bet as Danny Elfman’s for dark and horror fantasy. I have actually been missing a classical Silvestri score and in 2018 we are expecting two of them, this one and the new Avengers movie.

The score opens with “The Oasis”, a choral piece that opens up a fairy tale world; this first cue is light and playful. The religious like sound blends into the second cue “Hello I’m James Halliday” with an organ motif at the beginning. I like it that Silvestri goes big on the choirs for particular moments in this score, I love me an epic composition with bold choirs and the occasional fanfare and this is what I expect from Silvestri. As the music develops, here elegant, there explosive I almost forget that I was maybe expecting some 80s sounds in there, be they rock or synth. The first traces of them come in “Sorrento makes an offer”, but nothing more than traces.

A score as long as this (84 minutes) is bound to have down moments as well as the epic thread has more depth than just non stop action. Even during those moments the music is enjoyable and lyrical, with even a tender flute based theme in “Welcome to the rebellion”. It’s so easy to enjoy this score because it’s orchestral, it’s melodic and the cues are all pleasant. The music is comfortable to the ears both when it’s quiet and when it suddenly soars either in romance or in action.

As the score develops I keep waiting for that cue that would make me fall irremediably in love with this album, that standout piece. I am enjoying the score overall but sometimes the cues drag a bit and I keep searching for that peak track; I finally get it in the cue “Looking for a truck” that gets close to the brilliance of “Back to the future” or his other 80s gems. Overall though it’s as if Alan Silvestri is keeping his sound just a bit restrained, without his usual exuberance, maybe trying to replicate the usual complexity of a John Williams score by trading some of his straight up adventurous joy.

What’s missing from this album are proper themes, memorable themes; Alan Silvestri does a good job of delivering his usual, solid and vivacious action style in support of the movie without making the music memorable as a standalone listening experience. Enjoyable, not memorable. It will be hard for me to hum or remember a particular cue but I will recommend this score because it’s close to a classical Alan Silvestri composition and I liked it.

Cue rating: 78 / 100

Highlights:
Looking For a Truck
She Never Left
End Credits

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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. Mallory 20th April 2018

    That’s a real shame, cause you won’t get a better chance to write great, memorable sweeping music for an A list Hollywood studio if you don’t do it here. This is a Steven Spielberg film, based around 80’s nostalgia. There’s no way that anyone would have been encouraging Silvestri to be restrained, or make the music like wallpaper – like all other Marvel movies of today, and the like. I guess the sad thing is that Alan Silvestri just can’t write those kinds of scores anymore. He’s been away from them for too long. The last ones were in the 1990s.

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