Whenever popular artists are tapped to create an original score for an upcoming movie, their fans momentarily hold their breath. The possibility of being highly disappointed with the outcome runs high, and the idea of their favorite musicians being paid to produce content in a specific way is at odds with their own anti-corporate maxims.
While it may be too soon to tell if the Chemical Brothers’ offering for Focus Features upcoming “Hanna” is the perfect musical backdrop for the visual elements of the film, the score holds its own just as if it were an independent release from the popular electronic duo and will keep most of its fans happy.
“Hanna” tells the story of a 16-year-old assassin (Saoirse Ronan) raised by her ex-CIA father (Eric Bana) who embarks on a deadly mission. Hanna then discovers some secrets about herself through the intelligence agent (Cate Blanchett) tracking her down.
The Chemical Brothers certainly had some interesting plot material to serve as inspiration for the score, and for the most part they succeed in creating a mood ripe with the emotional intricacies one might associate with such a story.
“Hanna’s Theme” embodies the film’s main juxtaposition of a teenage daughter assassin by combining a cutesy, youthful vibe with grittier electronic elements. The title track’s marimbas and whispery vocals sound like something out of a child’s music box, but the harsher mechanical sound that begins to creep in foreshadows Hanna’s troubled future.
“The Devil is in the Details” continues this child-like theme with a riff that seems more appropriate coming from the speakers of the neighborhood ice cream truck than accompanying an action thriller movie.
Yet the listener can visualize the gradual transformation of Hanna’s actions beginning with the haunting melody of “The Sandman,” which still retains elements of the main theme but indicates the eventual darkness to come.
While much of the album is no more than 30 second tonal segues that will set the action for the film’s plot, the full-length tracks are characteristically visceral and meaty electronic ballads. “Car Chase (Arp Worship)” and “Container Park” are most reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers’ most popular work, with the heavy synthesized beats blended with more airy breaks found in the duo’s previous songs like “Galvanize.”
The catchy main beat from “Container Park,” used extensively in the television marketing for “Hanna,” serves as the perfect crescendo for what is sure to be the climax of the film.
However, the soundtrack for “Hanna” is not without its faults. Many diehard fans may feel as if the few full-length songs are much tamer than normal Chemical Brothers’ fare. But songs like “Escape Wavefold” help to make up for any lack of substance, with screechy electronic tones that drive the track’s abrasive energy and resonate like a chemical burn to the ears.
While many of the tracks may seem more reserved than what fans have come to expect from The Chemical Brothers, the duo has done a great job at embodying the themes from another work of art into their own, without sacrificing their own unique style and sound.
Last year, many fans were critical of Daft Punk’s release of the soundtrack for Disney’s “Tron: Legacy,” claiming that the duo had ignored their roots. Some fans still refuse to view it as an “actual” Daft Punk album.
While much of that criticism was unwarranted grumbles from impatient fans who had waited nearly six years for a full-length original studio album from Daft Punk, the message was still clear: fans were not going to pull any punches regarding soundtrack composition.
This was not The Chemical Brothers’ first attempt at a movie soundtrack -they composed three original songs for the Academy Award-winning “Black Swan” – and it shouldn’t be their last. The “Hanna” soundtrack is both obvious in its cinematic source material and instantly recognizable as the work of The Chemical Brothers, a must-have for any fans of the British electronic duo.