286/366 – Building Musical Identity In Movie Franchises
Over time, movie franchises, especially those in the geekish genre, tend to establish expected trends and identities, and this is done in a variety of ways. It could be a memorable character, an epic, plot-shattering event or two, or an iconic object, like a weapon, item, or other artifact. The point is that the identity is unique to the series and that it’s used in a way that people recognize right away.
Music has been used for centuries to establish a kind of mood or identity, and as it made its way into being paired with cinema, it became a huge part of ensuring that identity was recognizable and iconic. When it works, it means that as small as a few beats of measure and music are enough to cause a reaction. Star Wars, of course, is one of the best and most well-known examples of this. You know that when you hear the familiar chords that signal the presence of the Force and of the Jedi. Indiana Jones has a theme that has carried across a ton of movies that showcases the action and adventure of that series and the drive of its titular character. Even lesser known franchises such as Resident Evil or Underworld, have created a style or a a set of musical beats that signal that as the signature of that series.
It’s pretty obvious what effect the right kind of musical composition does for the intangible aura that surrounds a movie franchise. When you hear that familiar set of notes, even without anything being on the screen, you know what’s coming, and audiences react to that. When a theme begins playing, even if it’s been worked into another musical piece in the soundtrack, you know something significant is happening on the screen. There’s certainly a challenge to keep that theme fresh and not overexposed, but for the most part people understand and appreciate its presence in a movie.
Unlike TV series, which have weeks to build a rapport and to of course get the music in your head, movies (even the ones who spawn multiple entries in a series) only have a limited time to capture and hold an audience’s attention. If they can use an amazing set of music to help do that, more power to them, because if music has proven anything, it’s that it has power and sway over people’s feelings that very few non-verbal ways of communicating can have. It’s a powerful tool, and the best movie franchises know exactly how to maximize it.