As we conclude Wolverine’s story arc in Logan, James Mangold re-teams with composer Marco Beltrami to give Logan the closure the character deserves. The entire film set out to defy genre and studio tentpole expectations, including the early hiring of composer Cliff Martinez. Mangold, in his effort to try something new thought an electronic composer like Cliff would break the mold only to figure out that he wanted to backtrack on that decision and go back to his regular collaborator, Marco. Marco jumped on the project and was given direction to stay away from big orchestra, big melodies and anything conventional. The finished product is a subtle and intimate score that keeps its modern feel by embracing a rough and gritty approach while still embracing a western feel and emotional undercurrent.
The score in itself is a testament of Marco to work with very strict direction and how he and Buck Sanders can manipulate sounds to craft a unique soundscape. And while the film and score succeed as a whole, there are moments that probably could have used some of that conventional stuff that James Mangold was so hellbent on not having. The sparse and melancholic tone of the score is perfect for Logan’s character and the build to the climax, but what was lost in the film and the score itself was the bond between Logan and Laura we were supposed to be witnessing. By keeping everything about the score low-key, the score misses opportunities to really push the emotional connection between the characters. Which is a shame, because Mangold and Beltrami embraced melodic arcs in the fantastic score to 3:10 To Yuma, which has a climax that really gave you goosebumps. Here, almost all the work is left to the actors, and thank goodness the acting in the film is top-notch because they rarely get help from the score and editing to make those emotional beats hit. So in the end, the score here fulfills its duty to give Logan some sort of sonic landscape, but if the goal of it was to find more subtle emotions then it falls a tad short.
Directors don’t need to be afraid of melody. It’s possible to create sparse, intimate and gritty music that can defy genre expectations yet still be melodic and thematic. Look at anything that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have composed. Logan’s score is an overall success, but not without feeling a little barebones when it comes to character development and an emotional payoff. The film’s strengths are in the acting and the writing, but in an effort to be “unconventional” Mangold directed Beltrami to avoid melody and orchestra. The result is a unique score that blends modern harshness with western flavors to paint an old and tired character about to finish his journey. The style works incredibly well for the action scenes without a doubt. The action felt very visceral and intimate without ever needing to be grandiose. It’s just in the character and emotional arc department that could have used a little more melody and personality. Overall Logan as a film and a score is a great closing chapter to Wolverine’s story that dared to do something different for the sake of story over spectacle.
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