With the release of “Iron Man 3” just around the bend, we felt it might be fun to take a look back at where the musical template for the series originated, in 2008 with the first “Iron Man,” composed by Ramin Djawadi.
A mere five years ago, Djawadi was not the Hollywood blockbuster composer we now know him, for it was actually “Iron Man” that broke him into the big time. Prior to this, he was largely known for his television work (and still is via “Game of Thrones”), with “Prison Break” and the short-lived “Blade” series among his credits. So it seemed natural for him to pull all the stops to impress the world with his first true Hollywood blockbuster score.
“Iron Man” was a very engaging experiment in film score hybridism, as Djawadi blended elements of traditional film orchestration with boisterous instrumentation typically reserved for hard rock. In fact, at times, “Iron Man” felt more like a hard rock or metal opera than a film score bearing rock elements. Since the central theme of the movie was war, Djawadi echoed the sentiment by featuring the string and horn sections battling with the rock-centric guitar and drums. And rather than centering around a superhero theme song or recurring motif, the music was more pulse-racing, incidental action-savvy music; more akin to “The Rock” or “Con Air,” and less reminiscent of “X-Men” or “Batman.”
As mentioned, the score was rife with heavy guitar work and came across almost like a hard rock conceptual album, something that a symphonic metal band would do, like Therion or Savatage. It also bears resemblances to Michael Kamen’s later work, especially when he symphonized Metallica and Aerosmith. There were times on ‘Mark I’ where the tension was reminiscient of Rabin’s own “Deep Blue Sea.” It was undetermined with this heavy rock style of scoring whether Djawadi was trying to stake his claim in a new era of film scoring or if he was just green. This type of scoring was attempted in the past with Joel Goldsmith’s “Kull the Conqueror” but went largely unnoticed. ‘Gulmira,’ for example, was very much like “Kull” with the guitar and drums superseding the orchestration.
That said, the emotional content of the score hit you in waves. The aggression of the hard rock was tempered by moving , tragic moments, like ‘Vacation’s Over,’ where the instrumentation offered a sense of tragedy, with an underlying sense of hope. Ultimately, the score itself was an adventure, with tracks emoting triumph, menace, and intense action.
What is wonderful about Djawadi’s work, and it does not get mentioned enough, is that he actually gave the Iron Man character a theme motif, something that is woefully lacking in modern superhero films.
It should also be noted that segments of the score bore action similarities to Powell’s Bourne series; it was very bass heavy and thunderous, especially on ‘Mark II,’ which utilized electronics befitting Bourne or David Arnold’s modern James Bond scores. It goes without saying that Djawadi used “Iron Man” to experiment with many different music styles in an effort to find his own big-budget niche.
And like the big action scores, it was very bombastic, but unlike these very same scores, “Iron Man” did not suffer from a lot of repetition, so each track benefited from a newfound freshness. One would think that a movie based on machines would be more electronic-driven and cold, but Ramin took a different approach with “Iron Man” and made it very heated and furious, as though he were forging in a furnace of his own.
Ramin Djawadi’s score for “Iron Man” is currently available at iTunes.