What happens if a secret government agency puts together a team of supervillains and psychopaths in order to make the world a more peaceful place? Well, something really strange for sure. But Marvel had an enormous success with their unusual characters represented by the “Guardians of the Galaxy”, so maybe DC said: “Hey, we can do that as well – can’t be that difficult!”. Now by the time that the film has finally been released in theaters all over the world, the long anticipated comic adaption saw itself unexpectedly confronted with mixed to exremely negative response, contrasting early fan reactions to the trailers, but still selling millions of dollars. I’ve finally been able to see the movie last Friday (okay, it has been released last Thursday, so the “finally” is maybe a little bit out of place…) and unfortunately, it is mostly true: The film suffers from a bad script and a non-existing character development, their actions are far too stereotypical for supervillains and you really have to question yourself what the motivation of the main antagonist, Enchantress, is all about – okay, she wants to reign the world, pretty obviously, but give me a reason!
Apart from this issues, it was quite intersting to see Academy Award winner Steven Price being attached to a major summer blockbuster after he had been replaced by Christophe Beck on Marvel’s “Ant-Man” last year. It is presumable that he was director David Ayer’s choice for composer as they have already collaborated on Ayer’s WW2 action drama “Fury”.
Price is a composer who divided film music fans with his breakout score for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” which mostly avoided orchestral sounds and was dominated by electronica and sound effects. For Ayer’s “Fury”, he basically wrote the same score all over again. Luckily, there’s been a different approach for “Suicide Squad” in which the British composer creates a soundscape incorporating huge orchestra, a choir and, of course, those earlier mentioned electronic sounds that won him the Oscar: Great conditions to write unique music for what could have been a very special score. Well, could have been…
The album kicks off with “Task Force X” which offers the listener a 7-note main theme that represents the cazy band of supervillains. Unfortunately, Price avoided to write an individual theme for each of them (or at least the most important of them), providing only one single musical identity. At least, Harey Quinn and the Joker get something like a “love theme” that first shows up in “Arkham Asylum” and returns later on in “Harley and Joker”. With another musical idea, a simple but effective piano motif associated with Deadshoot and his daughter, showing up the first time in “I’m Going To Figure This Out”, that’s basically it.
Speaking of the rest of the score, there’s a lot going on in the action department: Cues such as “That’s How I Cut and Run”, “This Bird Is Baked” or “She’s Behind You” feature aggressive string ostinatos, massive brass and electronic pulses (don’t forget, despite the general use of orchestra, it’s still Price!). The other tracks are basically atmospheric underscoring or another heroic breakout of the main theme featuring the brass section’s overdosis of power.
And that’s probably the score’s biggest problem: It lacks a true musical identity, you can’t connect to it on an emotional level. As a result, the music feels emotionless and shares the same problems as the movie: Character trademarks, relationships and interactions between the main protagonists are not sufficiently explored, there’s almost no musical or thematical development within the whole score (and it runs for 72min, not speaking of the bonus tracks which make for an even longer album) and the action writing is far too simplistic and generic.
Overall, one can get the impression that this has been a truly wasted opportunity. Price could have brought something really fresh and new to the superhero franchise but fails to accomplish this by providing yet another generic score entry in the DC Cinematic Universe that takes itself too seriously without having any real subsistence. For last year’s documentary “The Hunt”, Price showed that he is capable of creating something memorable, but his music for “Suicide Squad” is – and I’m really sorry to say that as I’ve been really looking forward to that score – a major disappointment in an already disappointing year of film scoring.
Music composed by Steven Price. Orchestrations by David Butterworth and Jennifer Hammond. Album produced by Steven Price.
1. Task Force X
2. Arkham Asylum
3. I’m Going To Figure This Out
4. You Make My Teeth Hurt
5. I Want To Assemble A Task Force
6. Brother Our Time Has Come
7. A Serial Killer Who Takes Credit Cards
8. A Killer App
9. That’s How I Cut and Run
10. We Got A Job To Do
11. You Die We Die
12. Harley And Joker
13. This Bird Is Baked
14. Hey Craziness
15. You Need A Miracle
16. Diablo’s Story
17. The Squad
18. Are We Friends Or Are We Foes?
19. She’s Behind You
20. One Bullet Is All I Need
21. I Thought I’d Killed You
22. The Worst Of The Worst
Available on WaterTower Music.