By Charlie Brigden
Well, it’s finally happened. Another small screen property heads to the big screen, taking a massive leap and possibly leading the way for others to follow where no other webseries has gone before. Yes, webseries. Not just a webseries, but the webseries. And with composer Bear McCreary along for the ride, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie will surely have an array of great music to score a guy on a couch swearing at NES games.
In case you’re not aware of the Angry Video Game Nerd (or AVGN), it’s a show that’s been running for a while at Cinemassacre that takes the worst video games around and has the Nerd (James Rolfe) come up with all kinds of colourful metaphors as he analyses what’s wrong with the games. The movie has him actually moving off his sofa and travelling to Arizona and the fabled E.T. landfill – which was actually dug up recently and proved to be more than a myth. Appropriate, given that the E.T. game for the Atari 2600 has a reputation as the worst game ever made.
Not only having a lot of experience writing and adapting music for video games, McCreary also has a history with AVGN, having scored the Christmas 2010 episode, so his knowledge of classical and film music and the chiptunes of Nintendo and Sega makes him the perfect guy for the job. But while he wrote the score, he still has to pay his respects to what has come before, namely the AVGN theme written by Kyle Justin, and opens the album with an awesome chiptune rendition of the melody. McCreary does well working the theme into the main score, layering it so it barely sounds like the theme but just gives a hint. Until the end that is, when it comes out in full.
The score has a really good sense of variety that fits with its video game homaging, and McCreary is brilliantly adept at allowing the video games to manifest naturally as an retro-evolution of sorts, moving from the orchestra to chiptunes from the eight and sixteen-bit eras. The score moves from what you might expect in heavy metal guitars to ethereal waltzes to eastern melodies to even Morricone whistles. There’s a lot of music that sounds vaguely familiar, which is where McCreary has layered in the game music, and which activates the part of your brain that spent years playing Mario whilst growing up and which completes the puzzle. Or maybe that should be Tetris.
Naturally, there’s a lot of weird music in here as well. Some bits are really creepy, with theremin used to great effect, heavy metal guitars combined with what sounds like score from a level of Sonic The Hedgehog. And then there are the Michael Jackson ‘sham-on!’ vocals which are just crazy – is this McCreary and Rolfe’s tribute to Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker? I guess one thing is that amongst all the craziness the score never really gets that emotional, but then I don’t know how much of that is its intent. But there are some lovely warm melodies in there that are one of McCreary’s lesser-known trademarks, and when it gets to the end and throws out the AVGN theme in full with those soaring strings it’s fab. The cherry on top is an extended version of the theme with the original lyrics – these classics:
“He’s gonna take you back to the past,
To play those shitty games that suck ass.
He’d rather have a buffalo take a diarrhoea dump in his ear.
He’d rather eat the rotten asshole of a road-kill skunk and down it with beer.”
Do I need to say any more? No, no I don’t.
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie is out on September 1 from Sparks & Shadows