Welcome to Soundtrack Saturday, folks! This here is a new semi-regular feature on Collider where we infuse your weekend with a little soundtrack love, singling out some of our favorite scores and soundtracks throughout film history and why they’re so memorable.
We begin with a Thomas Newman score. The 12-time Oscar nominee has crafted innumerable noteworthy scores throughout his career, and his lengthy 105-credit resume ranges from The Shawshank Redemption to Revenge of the Nerds to Finding Nemo. It says something about Newman’s stature that he’s who Steven Spielberg turned to when John Williams was unable to score this weekend’s Bridge of Spies, and so with that release in mind, I’d like to single out my personal favorite of Newman’s oeuvre: WALL-E.
Newman was tasked with a massive challenge in WALL-E given that the Pixar film’s entire first act lacks a shred of dialogue. Music would be absolutely essential to effectively conveying the film’s plot, tone, and themes for this “silent” section, working in concert with the gorgeous visuals to introduce viewers to the world of WALL-E before the story shoots off into space and takes a narrative turn.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Newman knocks it out of the park. The score’s opening moments are tinged with intrigue, immersing viewers into the film’s future with the looming question of “What happened?!” hanging overhead. But then the score shifts towards playful as we meet WALL-E, the adorable robot living a life of solitude on the abandoned Earth. Newman doesn’t lay the sci-fi aspects of the score on too thick, instead layering them underneath a classically beautiful piece of film music. The cohesiveness of Newman’s score is somewhat astounding, as he seamlessly transitions from curious to sweet to frightening to romantic without ever jarring the audience.
And speaking of romantic, director Andrew Stanton crafted WALL-E as a love story after all, and Newman’s themes for EVE are sweeping and otherworldly—it’s almost as if you, the viewer, feel lifted off your feet as WALL-E and EVE are dancing amongst the stars. Stanton’s direction and visuals are a huge part of this, but Newman’s contribution cannot be overstated—the score is essential to WALL-E working as well as it does.
Stanton’s film is undoubtedly one of Pixar’s best, a masterpiece some might say (ahem, yours truly), and masterpieces don’t rise to greatness thanks to one or two aspects of a film. They’re the result of everything working perfectly together, and that’s absolutely true of WALL-E, especially when it comes to score. Whether you’re enjoying it within the context of the film, carrying you from scene-to-scene, or simply listening Newman’s score on its own, it remains a genuinely great piece of music and one of the best film scores of the last decade.