Composer: John Rowley
Label: Lakeshore Records
Release Date: April 27, 2010
It’s difficult not to like the Defendor: Original Motion Picture Score after watching the movie (in my case, after watching the film four or five times, because I am so infatuated with it) — assuming that you enjoy it, of course. The soundtrack doesn’t have the same level of grandeur that I’ve come across in many other film scores, but I attribute that to the fact that the majority of the soundtracks I’ve been exposed to are from horror movies or thrillers, where the music is used to startle or make audiences anxious, rather than from action comedies like Defendor.
Overall, the Defendor soundtrack is what you might expect of a score created for a limited release superhero movie starring Woody Harrelson: upbeat, but with a sinister undertone that hints at the complexity of the seemingly simple film. The childlike tones of tracks like “Defendor Attacks Dooney” contrast with their titles and the on-screen action that they accompany and, in doing so, contribute to the film’s comment on the merits of a (mentally) simple man, Arthur Poppington, aka Defendor (Harrelson), and the childlike way he attempts to make a change in the world: by dressing up as in a costume and fighting bad guys with handfuls of marbles and a very lethal trench club.
The Defendor soundtrack was composed by Toronto-based musician John Rowley, whose past work includes the scores for Rookie Blue, Wild Roses, Weirdsville, The Best Years, Fugitive Pieces, Citizen Duane, Cake, One Dead Indian, The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico, and The Dark Hours. The composer comments on his experience with the Defendor score (released on April 27th by Lakeshore Records and available digitally through iTunes and Amazon Digital) in the press release for the collection, saying “Defendor was a dream project for me. Where film music is usually subtle, even to the point where it is not noticeable, the superhero genre demands music that is bold, anthemic and memorable.” Rowley continues, “Director Peter Stebbings and I had the idea that the music in the film should be the soundtrack that plays in Arthur’s mind as he dons the guise of Defendor. As such, the score draws inspiration from familiar and classic superhero themes.”
Rowley’s soundtrack opens with “Defendor Opening Titles,” a 1:06 variation of the type of stately superhero intro theme you might expect of a film like Defendor, complete with drum march. From there, the music is organized around major events in the film’s plot — those familiar with Defendor will recognize the film’s trajectory as described by the soundtrack’s song titles. For example, “I’m Taking The Front Door” references Defendor’s exit from the local police precinct, when he decides to “break out” through the front door of the building after being arrested for assaulting an undercover officer, while “Captain Industry” accompanies the scene that describes how Defendor discovered his nemesis.
“While we wanted pay homage to classic superhero themes, it was also important that the music reflect the tremendous heart, humor and DIY aesthetic of Woody Harrelson’s Arthur,” Rowley says. “So, while the score has elements of great bombast, bravado and a ‘big’ Hollywood sound, these are balanced by smaller moments of lightness, tenderness and even tragedy. In the end, I hope the score reflects Defendor’s persona: no superpowers, but a hell of a lot of heart.”
Personally, my favorite track from the Defendor soundtrack is #5, “A Jar of Wasps,” in part because of the scene referenced in the track’s title and in part because of the classic “Old West” sound used in the song’s opening. I can just imagine that song playing in Arthur’s mind as he holds a jar of “angry wasps” in the air, poised to unleash them on his foes. The contrast between the song’s opening and the remainder of the 1:58 track is somewhat startling, but in a pleasing way that brought me back to the track time and time again.
The only suggestion I could make to improve upon the Defendor soundtrack would be to include the first song that plays during the film’s closing credits, “Help I’m Alive” by Metric. Not only is it a great song, but it works perfectly for the close of the film and would’ve been a fitting way to conclude this collection.
On a side note, I highly recommend listening to the Defendor soundtrack prior to watching the film for the first time, if possible, because it is interesting to see how the soundtrack is pieced together with various parts of the film.
- “Defendor Opening Titles” (1:06)
- “Defendor Interrupts Dooney & Kat” (1:39)
- “Defendor Speaks” (1:22)
- “I’m Taking The Front Door” (1:14)
- “A Jar Of Wasps” (1:58)
- “We Can Always See The Same Moon” (3:06)
- “Captain Industry” (2:17)
- “Defendor Attacks Dooney” (2:56)
- “Scoping Kristic’s Place” (1:20)
- “Why Do You Smoke Bling?” (3:07)
- “Kill The Fly” (1:46)
- “Phone Home” (1:03)
- “I Should Warn You/Stay Down” (2:02)
- “Guns Are For Cowards” (1:54)
- “Court Is Adjourned” (2:33)
- “Oink Oink, Motherf*****r” (2:28)
- “Final Assault” (2:09)
- “You Killed My Mother” (3:24)
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars