Happy Friday to one and all and I hope you enjoy this coming Memorial Day Weekend. Here at the Temp Track, I hope to get two more posts up this weekend following this one. One of which might be delayed because I will be doing some limited transcription for it. Anyway, on to three quick shot reviews to kick off the summer film score season plus a long-delayed review.
Iron Man 2 (John Debney) – Let’s just get this out of the way, John Debney’s Iron Man 2 score is a step up from Ramin Djawadi’s score for the first film, but, just like the sequel itself, I still found it lacking. In the case of the film, I felt that it was too safe and didn’t take any chances (especially with how it handled Tony Stark’s drinking problem), not to mention the complete lack of character development. In terms of the music, I felt the most effective aspect of the film was in its deployment of songs by AC/DC throughout, especially the opening sequence utilizing “Highway to Hell.” According to the credits, Tom Morello, formerly of the band Rage Against the Machine, provided additional music. I’m not sure without seeing the film again how this worked, but if I remember correctly, there were some more guitar/rock non-song tracks that I might have been from Morello’s hand. Anyway, in the end, I felt that the score, like the film, was okay, good in places, but lacked that something special that made me want to run out and buy the score album or see the film again.
Robin Hood (Marc Streitenfeld) – To begin with, a few comments on the film. Much has been said about the gross historical inaccuracies of the film, and I’ll give you that. The film is flawed to be sure, and the characters of the film are very ill-defined such that outside of the main characters, I really couldn’t tell you who anyone is. And the characters themselves are very one-dimensional, which is indicative of the film as a whole. But, that being said, this is a Ridley Scott film, and if you go to a Ridley Scott film hoping for rich story lines and deep plots, then you are looking to the wrong director. One goes to a Ridley Scott film for amazing visuals and on this count Robin Hood delivers.
The score is by Marc Streitenfeld who has been Scott’s composer of choice since A Good Year (2006), and while I was not wowed by his work on either American Gangster or Body of Lies, shortly after Robin Hood began, I knew I wanted to pick up the score album. In it, he mixes modern scoring practices (lots of strings and percussion, careful use of brass) melded with the occasional traditional British Isles instruments (lutes, drums, small bagpipes) to great effect. In many ways, it reminds of elements of McCreary’s Battlestar work, though in my opinion, a lot of composers have started to borrow heavily from what he did on that series. But, in the case of Robin Hood, the usage of such instruments is logically warranted and well done. My biggest complaint is that either the sound system of my theatre was bad/adjusted wrong or the film was poorly mixed (I’m guessing the former), because there were some muddy parts of the film where I had a hard time separating out the audio elements. Regardless, I found the score exciting and fresh, and, unless something better comes along, I’m adding it to my short list of Oscar contenders along with Danny Elfman’s Alice in Wonderland score (of which I meant to put a review up for months ago, but I still have yet to see the film).
Dark Void Zero (Bear McCreary) – And speaking of Mr. McCreary, I finally downloaded this $3.99 gem from iTunes last night. This is a short score album for a DSi game that is made is the best NES 8-bit tradition. The project had its origins in an 8-bit version of the original Dark Void title theme that McCreary made as a joke, but the powers that be at Capcom liked it and decided to actually make the game. The score itself is retro-cool to its very core and anyone who was alive in the 8-bit era and played titles like Contra, Metroid, or any other classic NES game will find lots to love. What is most interesting about this score is how it fits into a larger cultural trend of 8-bit retro nostalgia, and furthermore, a growing genre of music using 8-bit music chipsets or synthesizer patches. I might talk about this a bit more in a future post.
Anyway, be on the look out for a few more posts this weekend and grill up some hamburgers and hot dogs for your friends at the Temp Track. We’ll take them to go.