This Tuesday, E and I rode to the movie preview theatre in a dusty cab, the exhaustion of the past week rendering us woolly – a kind of disorientation that makes everything that had been familiar up until then feel alien and pointless. It had been the kind of week that came out of nowhere – it is not lost on me that the best way to describe it is that we had been sucker punched. I could do without the poetry of it all, thank you very much. Spending an evening watching a pre-summer blockbuster was not high on our list of things to do but we had to get back to work and this seemed an alright way to do it.
We settled in and the movie began. With a song. A slow boil, crunchy guitars and soaring orchestra cover version of the Eurythmics’ classic Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This).
I can best describe the opening sequence of Sucker Punch by likening it to a very specific moment on a rollercoaster – the one where you realize exactly how fast the ride is going to go. You’re strapped in, the cars have only just begun to move, and your brain is aware that you will be in for some high-speed action shortly. You’ve been on a rollercoaster before, you know what it’s all about. Even so. Every time you get back on a new ride, there is that one moment when you realize – very physically – exactly how fast this thing that you’re sitting in now is going to go.
The opening sequence features no dialogue. The song plays out under the action and it is riveting. One part of my brain tried to identify the singer – I shouldn’t have bothered. It was not someone we had heard in a song before. It was the film’s leading lady Emily Browning. At this point in the film, we are only just beginning to learn about her character Babydoll.
When I listened to this version of Sweet Dreams again after having watched the film, I realized this was not so much Ms. Browning but Babydoll whose entire story comes through in the vocal. Her voice is fragile, beautiful, exhausted, worldly-wise, near-broken but still a fighter – it’s everything we see in Babydoll for the rest of the film. It is this skill, the ability to communicate such a wide range of emotions – sans any overwrought vocal gymnastics – that makes Ms. Browning a very very impressive musical performer in my opinion.
Not nearly as emotional but just as engaging is Bjork’s Army Of Me, remixed and featuring Skunk Anansie. This song scores a fight sequence set in a Japanese pagoda and brings to mind the sound and look of Oren-Ishii’s theme and the fight in the snow from Kill Bill. That driving beat is totally badass and works every time.
Speaking of driving beats, just when you’re sort of getting used to the high-octane arrangements, the mother of all beats, the original stomper kicks in – that of Queen’s We Will Rock You. Nuff said.
The men behind the music are composers Tyler Bates (300, Watchmen, Californication) and Marius De Vries (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Kick-Ass). I did a lot of research but could not find a single in-depth interview with the composers about their approach to conceptualizing and creating this score. Maybe I’ve been searching sloppily, because I can’t believe no one wants to ask these men how they provided such a spectacular musical accompaniment to this balls-to-the-wall piece of action-adventure-drama-opera-fantasy that has set the bar very very high for the summer’s entertainment.
What were their inspirations? What did they discover as they began to work on the tracks? How did they stay on the right side of loudness vs. intensity, energy vs. assaulting the senses? I have a lot of questions – if someone could facilitate an email interview that would be awesome (just putting it out there…).
For now I’m waiting to buy my own copy of the soundtrack to listen to at home. This weekend, you should buy a movie ticket and soak in the experience that is Sucker Punch.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – Emily Browning
Army Of Me (Sucker Punch Remix) – Bjork feat. Skunk Anansie
White Rabbit – Emiliana Torrini
I Want It All/We Will Rock You Mashup – Queen w Armageddon a.k.a. Geddy
Search and Destroy – Skunk Anansie
Tomorrow Never Knows – Alison Mosshart and Carla Azar
Where Is My Mind? – Yoav feat. Emily Browning
Asleep – Emily Browning
Love Is The Drug – Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac