For those unaware, Basil Poledouris, composer of 'Starship Troopers' as well as many other films, passed away about two weeks ago. Somehow, this fact slipped by me, and I just heard the awful news today. Over on YouTube, there are a few tributes to the composer, which feature scenes from the films he composed along side his enchanting music, and I just couldn't help but weep a few minutes into watching them.
I'm 23 now, and 'Starship Troopers' was one of the very few scores to excite me beyond reason as a teen. I recall sitting in the theater, as the the young soldiers bravely dropped from spaceships to the bug planet Klendathu, and I don't think before, nor since, have I ever felt so riveted by a scene and its music. Not only is every single technical aspect of that five minute scene of the most pristine quality (in my opinion, director Paul Verheoven's most phenomenally orchestrated sequence ever to grace the screen), but at least half of the goosebumps on my body at that moment were a consequence of Basil Poledouris' unashamedly heroic, majestic music; rarely had I heard such a glorious musical portrayal of the proud, honorable sentiments of Human conviction, patriotism, and grandeur. It was a moment I'll always remember.
Now that I think of it, 'Starship Troopers' was probably the very first score album I actually purchased myself, having given two or three before as a youngin' when requested for gifts (James Horner's 'Braveheart' and Hans Zimmer's 'Crimson Tide' if I remember correctly). I was 13 at the time. Because of this, a great deal of sentimentality runs through my veins for the score. In the decade since, I've come to view Verhoeven's film in a different light, which makes Poledouris' score somehow that much more brilliant. All of the triumphant "hurrah" moments I was so moved with at one point are in fact a huge element of the film's mind-boggling (but justified) cynicism, and its subversive tone boiling beneath the service. The way I see it, Poledouris' score, as well as many other factors, disguise this with the sheer, unadulterated emotion that comes from our natural instincts as Humans to submit to the wonderful (but dangerous) emotions of pride and glory amongst such circumstances (what better than a united Human war against aliens?). And yet, when detaching from your own powerful but limited emotions, one is able to view the film on a more objective level, and the result, to me, is a grotesque display of our species' arrogance and naivety; the brilliance shines through because it's so difficult to avoid feeling exultant at our ingrained instincts, but the result of such uncontrolled, selfish dispositions are ultimately contrary to the intellectual and, more importantly, good, moral beings we potentially are. Regardless of where this debatable neurotic tendency gestates (fear?), it is incredibly powerful and gratifying in the best and worst ways... That power, even "with" the knowledge of its inherent, potentially ailing consequences, is so very powerful and so awesomely gratifying; as such is Poledouris' wonderful, bombastic music.
I don't mean to be so long-winded, but I think that in this respect Poledouris' score, like the film, is genius on an intellectual level. That being said, I'm much more appreciative of that aspect of the whole project when I view the film; the music, when listened to separately -- I just let myself go with those gooey, affecting moments of heroism. I, honestly, can't think of a better score within the past decade that displays these sentiments. One thing which Poledouris is so amazing at is not only writing forceful themes and motifs, but literally -- commanding -- an orchestra, like so, so few modern film composers are able to do. His orchestrations are stellar, chaotic yet orderly, harmonious but still exuding rawness. And, they're HUGE; epic in scope, and LOUD, without ever letting this sheer volume diminish the intricacy or complexity of the music. This is so demonstrated in this album; at 30 minutes, it's short, but it's so very concise, and the overall effect in limiting its time is an unrelenting, consistent taste of orchestral power. So gloriously yummy.
Now, perhaps, it is not as good as, oh, Basil's "Conan the Barbian", but that score, one must remember, is one of the very best ever written for a film, so you can't really give 'Starship Troopers' a hard time for that. To me, it's still one of Poledouris' very best scores (that's saying something), and one of the better scores of the late 90's, if not the entire decade. The action is so riveting, so splendidly written, I'm not sure how anyone would fail to be moved by it. God bless this man, hopefully residing in Heaven, doing what he does best for the infinite souls who rest there (only us grand Humans, of course; arachnids? Humbug.