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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Independence Day - David Arnold - Soundtrack review

The first time in his life, German-born director Roland Emmerich directed a sequel of his own movies, and now the audience and the critics are thinking whether this was a good idea. So?

The movie

I have to say I like the new “Independence Day – Resurgence”. This movie is just a very good popcorn movie, nothing more, but also nothing less. I still like the first one from 1996 better because, at that time, it was a great new experience: A German director went to Hollywood and created one of the best disaster movies ever. This movie has great entertaining scenes, amazing special effects, especially when the White House is blown up, and made Will Smith into a star. The scene when Will punches the Alien in the face and says “Welcome to Earth” is still one of my all-time favorite scenes. Fox pushed trailers showing the fiery destruction of the White House in the presidential election year and created the effect that the audience really wants to see the movie. Here is the trailer:

The trouble with the sequel is that we are just spoiled with great effects these days, but also that there is not really a cool young actor in it. No idea if this is a problem of the younger generation, but it seems that the young generation cannot act anymore. Same with the new “Star Wars”, where are the Harrison Fords of the new generation?

The music

Composer David Arnold, born 1962, is a British composer that worked together with Emmerich on “Stargate” and created a lovely score for that SF-movie classic. Emmerich hired him again to compose the music for “ID4” and “Godzilla”, but Arnold seems to be more known for his scores for five James Bond movies. In my opinion, his scores are far better than some of the later John Barry scores, and I personally do not like Thomas Newman’s scores to the last two James Bond movies. For Bond, Arnold, a huge John Barry fan, created exactly the right mixture of orchestra and modern instruments, and his scores are highly enjoyable. Barry was pleased by Arnold's interpretation of his work and recommended him as new James Bond composer.

If you compare the “ID4” music with the new soundtrack for the ID4-sequel, you really see how good the original score is. Arnold composed a majestic theme that was used in the end credits of the new one, and the score won a Grammy those times. Arnold recorded the score with an orchestra of 90 musicians, a choir of 46 people, and "and every last ounce of stereotypical Americana”, producer Dean Devlin commented: "you can leave it up to a Brit to write some of the most rousing and patriotic music in the history of American cinema."

I found two live performances: the first one is conducted by George Korynta, the Prague Film Orchestra is playing:

but I like the second one better, conducted by David Newman, performed by the Vienna's Radio Symphony Orchestra even though this version is three minutes shorter than the original end credits:

The soundtrack has received two official CD releases. RCA released a 50-minute album at the time of the film's release, then in 2010, La-La Land Records released a limited edition 2-CD set with the complete score plus 12 alternate cues. Because there are these two CDs, I will just mention a few tracks.

My favorite one is the last track, “End Credits”, a wonderful 9-minute track that uses all the themes of the score, especially the famous fanfare. This track you can play in a concert hall without any change, and I was so lucky to hear this during the live performance of “ID 4” in the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 22th, 2016. Except for this fanfare, there are two more themes, one for the quieter moments of the score, and then the third theme for the aliens. The second theme, you can hear, for example, in “Aftermath”, and especially in the patriotic “The President's Speech” (starting at 1’22). Will Smith has a special theme that you can hear in “The Wedding” and “Cancelled Leave”.

Here is the music to the “End Title”:

Other highlights of the score are: “First Sighting/AWAC Attack”, “The Darkest Day” - the Aliens are there!, “Base Attack” – a great action piece, and, of course, the music for the showdown: “The Launch Tunnel/Mutha Ship/Virus Uploaded”, and finally “Victory” as a more patriotic one again.

“ID4” is not only a highlight of film music in the 1990’s; it is one of the last really great orchestra scores in the tradition of John Williams’ orchestral force. Arnold worked together with Emmerich on “Godzilla”, also a nice score, but for me, overall, “ID4” is Arnold’s best score.

It seems that except “ID4” and the James Bond movies, Arnold’s career was not very popular. This is sad because he showed that he can create highly enjoyable music, but perhaps he needs again a good picture to proof it? Give it to this man, please!

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2016, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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