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Nolan's film scores contradicts his viewpoint on surround sound mixes

Posted: December 15th, 2020, 2:12 am
by MuffinMcFluffin
I know I'm not going to get this point across correctly, but I'll try and be to the point.

I have appreciated what like Nolan's composers have brought to his films since The Dark Knight, as their signature sound definitely offsets the generic scores you hear in many action films. I like the character that they provide to each film, and just how memorable they can be. They are simply masterful.

However, there are quibbles with them being played: they are distracting from what I'm seeing on screen. Yes, I think they enhance and elevate the action moments, but I think of them more as in a supplementary way rather than in a complementary way. I think they dilute my visual senses, as my brain is now thinking about two things at once. During action scenes, these scores are so loud and distinguished that it's hard to think otherwise. Other bland, generic scores may be something I won't care about when watching the movie or when the movie is over, but they are still complementing those moments that I am tuned into watching onscreen.

I think the fact that Nolan's scores can be played and enjoyed without the visual kind of is a part of the problem. It's just too good that it can be distracting. As a silly example (and a West Coast one at that), it's like having an In-N-Out Burger with McDonald's fries: they are the best of both worlds, but in the end I actually prefer having In-N-Out's fries with its burger, as they really complement each other in taste.

This is even especially true for dialogue scenes, where the score just rummages through and sucks some of the emotional impact out of the moment for me. This depends on the scene and the film of course, but Nolan's scenes sometimes blend together because of the score continuation and they don't really let you break (I'm not talking about montage-y scenes which he is so good at and should have a score, but I'm talking about just regular scenes played out).

Again, I know I'm not getting this point across correctly, but this ties into his preference of not having surround sound audio in his films. He's willing to push to 5.1 audio for home video, but he won't resort to 7.1 or 11.1, because he doesn't like anything that distracts the viewer from what you're watching on screen. Personally, I think his musical scores do exactly that. They heighten things (the fact that you can just insert his scores into any of his other films is indicative of that), but they are also dividing my attention at the same time. I can't process what I want to process because the score wants to give me some of it as well.

This is a personal opinion, and perhaps a sole opinion at that. I still don't know how to put this into words, but I thought I'd give it a shot here. I don't mind if Nolan continues his own score trend, but I do hope he can realize that an 11.1 surround mix would also not exchange focus on visual impact any more than he already has it.