By Alice O’Neill
Composer Henry Jackman Gets It Right In This Is The End
For the apocalyptic comedy, This Is the End, composer Henry Jackman taps his own roots of classical composition honed in strict British schools from the age of six onward. Later, at Oxford University, the classicist learned to love electronic music. And he quickly discovered the music industry. Today Jackman composes for major films in all genres and has built a solid reputation worldwide.
This Is The End is a contemporary setting but moviegoers likely will recall Hollywood’s Golden Era as swelling strings and heavenly choirs hail the end of days in this outrageous comedy. The film narrowly missed an NC-17 rating, ending up with a rightly deserved “R” for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use, and violence.
That “heads up” warning will not deter audiences who crave over-the-top horror comedy. If this describes you, go buy a ticket. It’s money well spent. If you have a queasy stomach, bring a puke bag. There’s lots of blood and a decapitated body whose head rolls around the floor, making a mess of the Hollywood mansion which doubles for James Franco’s home. That’s how I remember the scene. Jackman’s score highlights all the action. Loud noises from exotic instruments meld perfectly with horrific visuals. I don’t recall how long the gory scene goes on, but it’s unforgettable. I remember lots of red—fire, blood, and the glaring eyes of a monster dragon.
Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen co-wrote and co-directed. In an early scene at LAX as Rogen and Jay Baruchel head to their car, a bystander yells, “Hey, Seth Rogen, what up, man?” The stage is instantly set, you realize. Okay. They’re playing themselves in a weird reality show. Other recognizable stars playing themselves: Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, James Franco, and Danny McBride.
If you grew up watching HBO’s Entourage, you’re properly grounded for the party at James Franco’s Los Angeles mansion. It’s as if you got a full backstage pass.
I laughed out loud a few times, at the usual male riffs on blowjobs, jackoffs, and pissing feats. Despite supernatural monsters breathing fire and a long parody of THE EXORCIST, the film’s core, from beginning to end, is the value of genuine feelings of friendship and helping others. That’s a theme young males can identify with and embrace. Nothing new but it’s still good to see some positive philosophy in a summer flick.
Composer Jackman does not use his music as a character. Neither does he use it to denigrate the action viewers see onscreen. This classically trained musician/composer plays it straight. You will believe in the Rapture. Jackman’s music makes it so.
The lone female, Emma Watson (Hermione in the Harry Potter films) is a feisty fighter, who bursts out of a bedroom wielding an ax after overhearing the boys discuss, in an inane way, who would probably rape her. Now, if ever there was an act that is not fit for comedy, it’s rape. But the scene of the guys musing is funny but only as they dismiss the idea. But it points up the ridiculous way their minds work. Emma has heard enough. She fights and exits the mansion with determination. Cheers went up in the theatre for this diminutive Supergirl.
These are actors, we’re reminded, and they’re not in a movie but in the home setting of one of the guys, and their dialogue is made up on the spot, not the well-crafted thoughts of a well-paid screenwriter. Hold on. Except, the lines we laugh at are actually the well-crafted lines of Seth Rogen as he explores the inner workings of the gang. Of special interest is Michael Cera, who plays the heavy and gets his just reward. This character is evil personified. There literally is no redeeming quality seen.
The religious heavy handedness is played for laughs. My favorite scene: Everybody is stoned and Jay Baruchel is reading from The New Testament. He shows a picture of Satan and exclaims, “I know that dude. He’s from Where The Wild Things Are!”
When the boys go to Heaven it’s a trip tailor made for the characters we’ve come to know. Jackman’s symphonic music accompanies the boys skyward in goose-bumpy, transporting rapture scenes. The Apocalypse is played straight– a disaster that forces the guys to come to terms with their impending, demise.
More comedy for those in the know: Michael Cera’s chained sex slave is a shaved-head Channing Tatum, Hollywood’s latest authentic movie star, a bona fide actor who currently headlines the action thriller White House Down and graces the July 2013 cover of Vanity Fair.
From the opening scenes at LAX – “Hey, Seth Rogen, what up?”–to the final scenes of dope-heavy Heaven, this outlandish comedy satisfies every lowbrow fan.
By Alice O’Neill
Q. & A. with Henry Jackman, Music composer, This Is The End
Q. Where did you receive your Music education?
From age 6 on, at strict British schools where I had a formal, classical music education. Then, on to Oxford University. There I was fascinated with electronic music. And I soon discovered the music industry.
Q. Usually music is added after the filming is complete. Were you ever actually present during filming of This Is The End?
No, but I did meet with Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. Interesting, humorous, very intelligent.
Q. What was the nature of collaboration with director Evan Goldberg? Give me an idea of your modus operandi.
Seth and Evan had a rough version of the completed film. I went away and wrote the 8-minute theme – Apocalypse theme. Chords, harmonization’s, etc. I played around with different instruments. Choirs. Then I wrote the individual pieces. Finally, I rehearsed with a symphony orchestra. Then we integrated the score into the film.
Q. What kind of staff do you have?
Not a large, permanent staff. But a composer depends on a Music Editor who has a vital function. Jack Goldman was music editor on THIS IS THE END. Traditionally, the relationship of composer and music editor is a true collaboration. It was with Jack and me.
Q. Favorite film you’ve composed music for?
Q. Favorite films of all time that you did not compose for?
Ridley Scott’s Alien and Blade Runner.
Q. What influenced your film taste?
I enjoyed all big movies. Not a snob. Regular taste. Jaws, Indiana Jones, Star Wars.
Q. What’s been a big commercial hit?
G.I. Joe: Retaliation now in theaters, which has already brought in more than $300 million at the global box office.
Q. What’s next?
Dreamworks’ animated film Turbo, opening July 17, 2013, and Captain America 2, upcoming next year. Very pleased with it.