Many scores have come out recently that I wanted to talk about but could not for various reasons, such as lack of time and illness. Instead of focusing on only one of them this week, I decided to give several of them some attention in my second Spotlights article for 2023. To be fully transparent, I know Diego Navarro and Bartosz Chajdecki personally after meeting them several times at festivals.
The Marvels – Laura Karpman
The Marvels is the first Marvel movie that blends stories from their films and TV shows into one. The movie revolves around three superheroines, Captain Marvel, from the film with the same name, Ms. Marvel from the TV show Ms. Marvel and Monica Rambeau, who appeared as a child in Captain Marvel and got her powers in the TV Show WandaVision. Different composers wrote the music for these predecessors, and the job for The Marvels was given to Laura Karpman, who had also composed the music for Ms. Marvel.
The orchestral score sounds very traditional, mainly revolving around two excellent themes. One of them is a theme that represents the heroes as a group and can be heard many times in the score. You can find hints of Karpman’s old theme for Ms. Marvel from the Ms. Marvel TV show, but the original theme for Captain Marvel by Pinar Toprak has disappeared. The second theme is for the antagonist and is quite interesting, with all kinds of weird but amazing flute sounds. You can hear both themes in the first two tracks. Overall, I think the score is solid and well-implemented, but I was hoping for something fresh and more exciting for a new Marvel movie.
El Cuco – Diego Navarro
Long-time collaborations between composers and directors do not only happen in Hollywood. Spanish composer Diego Navarro has been working with director Mar Targarona on several movies, including her latest one, El Cuco (The Cuckoo’s Curse). This horror movie is about two couples switching houses, while one of the couples is withholding a dark secret.
This is not the first horror score Navarro has written for Targarona. His work for The Wasteland has received some praise, and the music for El Cuco is even better. It has a powerful main theme that can be heard in “El cuco (Tema principal),” which is tense and beautiful at the same time. The score contains the usual musical horror tropes, but the theme integration and the gorgeous, emotional tracks in between make this one of the best horror scores of 2023 for me.
Two wonderful featurettes about El Cuco‘s music:
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – Pinar Toprak
Avatar: The Way of Water is not the only Avatar product that has come out in 2023. Gaming company Ubisoft also made a game, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. The game takes place around the same time as the second movie but in a different area on Pandora, where a couple of other native clans are struggling with the human invasion. Pinar Toprak was approached to compose the music for the game, to continue the music that James Horner had created for the original film. If you listen to the score for the game you can clearly hear his influence. The album contains some stunning highlights that bring you back to the world of Pandora, with “The People’s Cry” as the main highlight, but a track like “Wild Sky” also fits in that category. It was interesting to witness what Simon Franglen and Pinar Toprak have created based on Horner’s legacy, but in very different styles.
Różyczka 2 – Bartosz Chajdecki
If there is one thing I would like to change about the music by Polish composer Bartosz Chajdecki is to get more of it released. Since being blown away by his music for Czas Honoru in 2011, I have followed his career, including his latest score for the drama movie Różyczka 2, which was luckily released. I do not know much about the film since I do not speak Polish, but I do know that Chajdecki’s music is some excellent work. One of Chajdecki’s strengths is to write gorgeous melodies, performed by smaller ensembles, which gorgeously flow into each other to generate all kinds of emotions. In addition to many impressive tracks by these musicians, the album also contains some stunning vocal tracks like “Aria (W dawnym stylu)” as the first track and “Fuga (Bonus track 3)” as the last one. When you decide to listen to those two tracks, though, please do not forget about all the other tracks in between as well. You will not be disappointed.