Few composers have shaped the soundscape of Hollywood cinema for the past 30 years quite like Hans Zimmer. From "The Lion King" to "The Thin Red Line," "Gladiator," "Dune: Part One," and his work on Christopher Nolan's films, Zimmer's best soundtracks are capable of telling gripping stories all on their own. Just as impressive, in many ways, is the list of movie composers mentored by Zimmer, including Benjamin Wallfisch ("It," "Blade Runner 2049," "Shazam!," "The Invisible Man") and Henry Jackman.

Since his days working with Zimmer on projects like "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Dark Knight," Jackman has firmly come into his own as a composer. The movies he's scored going back to 2010, including "Winnie the Pooh," "Captain Phillips," and "Kong: Skull Island," vary greatly in genre and tone. But just like Zimmer when he's bringing his A-game, Jackman excels at being able to tweak and adapt his musical style to fit the needs of any given film or even a specific scene. Say what you will about "The Gray Man" ("[It's] not astoundingly bad, just there," to quote /Film's review), but Jackman's pulse-quickening 17-minute suite for the movie might be the most exciting piece of film music anyone's crafted in 2022.

In the case of his new film, Disney Animation's "Strange World," Jackman told /Film's Jack Giroux his goal was to craft "strange and otherworldly harmonies that are much closer to concert music" to match the movie's pulp sci-fi throwback vibes. It was all part of his attempt to make the film's story of adventure and discovery feel almost mythical in nature — with Jackman citing a key moment from John Williams' classic score for "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" as his "go-to example" of what that sounds like.

The Power Of Harmonic Dissolve

The opening to "The Empire Strikes Back" echoes yet also differs from that of "Star Wars: A New Hope." Both films begin with the famous "Star Wars" opening crawl accompanied by John Williams' triumphant main theme. They then pan down to reveal a shot that features a Star Destroyer traveling in outer space. However, where Williams' music picks up again as the action kicks off in "A New Hope," his post-crawl score for "Empire" (like its opening shot) is much more subdued and ominous.

Henry Jackman deemed this "the ultimate version of what I call harmonic dissolve" in his interview with /Film. It's a subtle effect too, so much so that you might not realize Wiliams succeeds in creating "some seriously complicated atonal harmony," Jackman noted. "It all starts sounding like Stravinsky." Williams' score maintains its menacing aura as the movie shows an Imperial probe droid being fired from the Star Destroyer and crashing on Hoth, only to emerge from its icy surface like a monster rising from the depths of the planet.

"Never has there been such a good job where you don't need any talking," Jackman argued. "The music is giving you that, 'The story begins.'" Williams' music makes the sequence "almost mythic," Jackman added. "This [probe droid] is coming out and going onto the planet, and the way the harmony completely dissolves in this incredibly highbrow piece of music that quite frankly, you could put up against Stravinsky and you'd go, 'Is it Stravinsky?' Well, no, it happens to be John Williams, but it's basically as good."

No slouch himself, Jackman is already on his way to joining Williams and Hans Zimmer in becoming a titan among modern Hollywood composers. You can hear his latest soundtrack by catching "Strange World" in theaters.

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