When it comes to Elfman I know I normally give my first impressions of a score album after listening to it. I decided for Epic I’ll listen to it a few times (four in this case) before I give my final thoughts about. Usually when I give my first impressions on a score I miss a few things that I notice later after repeat listens. I thought for this score it would be easier to explain what I got from it after a couple more listens this time.
Each listen of “Epic” I enjoyed more and more. It’s a very fun, exciting and adventurous score, imho. It didn’t feel very typical of Elfman, but it felt very much like an Elfman score. If that makes sense. Elfman’s score is very much in the vein of the scores to the Blue Sky Studio animated films. It has the spirit of John Powell’s scores in those films, which I‘m sure Blue Sky Studios wanted. Although, Elfman was respectful and open to that approach he was still able to put his own spin on it, imo.
I’ve already gave my thoughts of the film back in May, which I enjoyed. I found Elfman’s score (in the film) blended with the animation seamlessly. It brought the story, animation, and movie to life, imo. And helped the already stunning animation feel more exhilarating. I thought it carried a lot of weight in the movie and not just emotionally.
The score has a few themes and motifs. The Leafmen, which are the heroes/protagonists of the movie, have a very celtic theme, which is very catchy, festive, celebratory, and even playful. With the Spanish and acoustic guitars, I believe. There’s very good use of the theme in “Leafmen”. “Moonhaven Parade” “Small” and “Epic Finale”. You can hear the theme sprinkled throughout the score as well. I like how many different ways emotionally the theme is played it’s at times heroic, tragic, romantic, whimsical, and intense in certain tracks. Really supporting the many situations the protagonists face throughout the movie. The Leafmen theme never outstayed it’s welcome or felt repetitive either, imo.
There’s an emotional theme which I consider the heart of the score. It’s the Tara theme/Pod theme/Survival theme. In the movie Tara is a goddess who’s looking for an heir to take her place. The Pod, which is suppose to ensure the survival of the leafman, their inhabitants, and forest/home. Once again Elfman makes very good use of that theme throughout the score. You can hear it in the first half of “Tara’s Chambers”, in “The Selection”, ”Ambush”, “Tara’s Gift”, “Rings Of Knowledge”, “Antlers”, in the conclusion of “Escape”, in the middle of “False Start”, in the conclusion of “Epic Final Confrontation”, in ”Return”, “and a snippet of it halfway through “Epic Finale”. The theme is at times is very whimsical (which emphasizes the magic, beauty, and power of Tara/the Pod), touching, tender, and sentimental, imho. I feel that this theme also explores the goal of the leafmen to protect the pod from the antagonists to ensure the forest’s survival, imo. This theme is easily up there with Elfman’s more moving themes, imho.
There’s also a quirky motif for the father, who’s daughter magically shrinks to the size of the leafmen (thanks to Tara) and ends up helping them protect the pod from the Boggans (antagonists that want to rule and destroy the forest) throughout the movie. In the movie the father is an absent minded scientist that’s searching for the Leafmen b/c he’s found proof of their existence but has yet to find and capture one to study. So he sets up cameras and alarms throughout the forest in order to do so. The motif for the father is very jolly, quirky, and comical underlining the eccentricity of the character perfectly with his inventions and devotion of discovering the Leafmen. You can hear the motif in “Meet Dad”, “Alarms“, ”Many Leaves“. And is played more mysterious and elusive at the beginning of “Rings of Knowledge”. It compliments the dad’s excitement of discovering the unknown, imo.
There’s another sentimental theme in the score that‘s mostly played on piano. This one represents the recovering relationship between the father and daughter in the movie. The daughter visits her dad’s place (by the forest ) to spend more time with him. As both of her parents are recovering from a marriage that’s going on the rocks b/c of her father’s devotion to his peculiar profession instead of his family‘s needs. It’s a tender and bittersweet theme that enacts the father/daughter relationship in the story divinely. You can hear the theme opening the track “The Selection”, also in “In the House”, “Epic Final Confrontation”, and at the end of “Return“. The theme is in the vein of Elfman’s emotional father/son theme in Real Steel.
The Boggans also have sort of a motif, which I’m still having a hard time identifying. It’s more dense than his usual villain themes/motifs. I think you can hear it in the middle of “Tara’s Chamber”, in some of “Ambush”, “Girl Meets Boy”, “Kidnapped”, and “False Start”. Though the motif is grim and. threatening as the Boggans themselves are to the protagonists and the forest. This motif is the least interesting of the score, imo. It’s a little too dense and nothing special really, imo, but the choral moments in it are great. It adds a sense doom and dread to the adventure. Also of note it’s the only somber motif in the whole score. Which detractors might find unusual for Elfman b/c overall this score isvery lighthearted as is the movie.
The highlights of the score for me are “Leafmen”, “Pursuit”, “The Selection”, “Ambush”, “Tara’s Gift”, “Small”, “Rings Of Knowledge”, “Antlers”, “Escape”, “False Start“, “Epic Final Confrontation”, “Return”, and “Epic Finale”.
I enjoyed this score very much. It brings a neat counterbalance to Elfman’s other fantasy score this year “Oz The Great and Powerful”, which I also enjoyed . With the exception of the sinister villain music it has pretty much everything an adventure score needs, imo. One of the better scores that I’ve heard this summer also. I was surprised by how dynamic, robust, and affectionate the score was, at times b/c even I didn’t know what to expect from Elfman with this one. Though I figured it would be a fun and exciting score when I saw a preview of the movie. The score deserves more attention than it’s barely getting, imho.