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Junkie XL, Brian Tyler, Marco Beltrami Discuss Scoring for Superheroes and Franchises

Junkie XL, Brian Tyler, Marco Beltrami Discuss Scoring for Superheroes and Franchises

In the Hilton Bayfront’s Indigo Ballroom on Thursday, the “Musical Anatomy of a Superhero” panel marked it’s third year at Comic-Con. Moderated once again by Deadline Hollywood’s Anthony D’Alessandro, this year’s event featured five of the past year’s most prolific and celebrated composers working within the action genre. With guests including Blake Neely (Arrow, Flash, Super Girl), Brian Tyler (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Furious Seven, Iron Man 3), Marco Beltrami (the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot),Tom Holkenborgbetter known by his EDM handle, Junkie XL–(Mad Max: Fury Road, Batman v. Superman), and Christophe Beck (Ant-Man), the body of work covered by panelists was impressive, if not exhaustive. After a brief video montage and musical medley showcasing their respective works, D’Alessandro gave each artist a brief moment to reflect on his experiences working within the superhero genre.

Following a queue from the new Super Girl score, D’Alessandro asked Neely how he was managing three different DC television properties at once. The composer quipped, “I actually have five shows, but we’re not talking about the other two, because I don’t want to freak out.” He credited his team for sharing the workload, and hit an earnest note in describing the latest score as an homage to his greatest influence, John Williams. “If you haven’t seen it, referring to ABC’s new show, “it’s been leaked on the internet all summer.” 

Tyler (who looked like David Beckham with a Conan-like coif, I might add) was up next. Following a dramatic, score-driven clip from Avengers: Age of Ultron, he spoke to the complexity of merging multiple franchise and character themes into a single score. “You really want to make sure it all works together. You try to connect them, and try to do something entirely out of the box.”

Next in line was Beltrami, who spoke to a queue of his Fantastic Four score without an accompanying film clip. The score, eerie and mysterious, landed it in musical territory leaning towards fantasy. Asked to describe the scene that accompanies the queue, Beltrami explained the piece as a prelude created with influential composer Philip Glass, from which the rest of the score was adapted. When asked if the new film would be darker than the previous two incarnations of the Marvel franchise, he stated bluntly, “I don’t know, I’ve never seen them,” receiving chuckles and light applause from the audience.

The highlight of the panel was Junkie XL’s anecdotal experiences working on George Miller‘s Mad Max: Fury Road. Following a brief clip of the flick’s dust storm scene, Junkie XL described how he was thrust into the epic project with hardly a moment to think, first receiving a call from a Warner Bros exec, a few hours later finding himself on a flight to Sydney, and, upon landing, immediately being thrown into a theater to watch an unfinished cut of the film: “It had no beginning, it had no end, and it was still three hours long.” He composed 53 different versions of the score –over 100 hours of music– before the piece was finalized. Asked by an audience member about what considerations he took when scoring for a female voice, he clarified, “I don’t think strong music for men has to be written by a man or strong music for women has to be written by a woman. Furiosa was a strong character and she needed a strong score.”


To cap the panel, the audience was treated to a campy, but entertaining, clip from Marvel’s upcoming Ant-Man (in the scene, Paul Rudd, as Ant-Man, navigates a sewer surfing on a raft constructed from agreeable ants). Beck explained that, “as a composer, its extremely challenging to keep up with [the Marvel] process,” which always tends to be in a state of creative flux and experimentation. He described the work on Ant-Man as very challenging, very rewarding, and very much “by the seat of your pants…I would do it again in a heart-beat.”

Were you at the Musical Anatomy panel? Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image via DeviantArt //zabraxxas

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