Composed by Alan Silvestri
Warner Brothers (2007)
Here to Kill Your Monster (275 kb)
Seduction (352 kb)
was the Best of Us (352 kb)
More clips from
Beowulf at Amazon.com
Silvestri delivers a more than a satisfactory effort and he remains
true to his exceptional form of the past but still shows his
advancing talents with his craft.”
I Have Come to Score Your Movie!
review by Christopher Coleman
say...you have a movie here...
They say... your movie is cursed...
I am Silvestri ... I will score your movie."
Being anonymously written somewhere around the 8th century, the poetic
tale of the hero, BEOWULF, has long been a part of western thought and
consciousness. It has been analyzed and written about by countless
scholars and made into a handful of films. The latest effort to transport
the beloved poem into the present is director Robert Zemeckis' fully,
computer-generated version. The choice to go "CG" has been met with
varying degrees of acceptance, some saying that the use of computer graphics has
cursed the film. In the light of successful marriages between traditional
photography and photorealistic CG work in recent years, it is viable to
question the directors choice. What might the cost be, if any, for
succumbing to the seduction of CG?
Regardless of where you might land on this issue, one Zemeckis choice that
has gone unquestioned was calling upon his long time collaborator, ALAN SILVESTRI. The two have had successful and memorable collaborations on
projects such as: the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, FORREST GUMP, CONTACT,
and most recently THE POLAR EXPRESS (Zemeckis' first all CG film).
Once gain Silvestri has arrived to score Zemeckis' movie.
This latest incarnation of BEOWULF contains the overall spirit of the
poem, but does depart in a few significant ways. Of course this has drawn
the ire of many who love the poem. Also, those who seem to demand absolute
photo-realism in their CG characters have had their own problems with this
film. But when it comes to the story this version of BEOWULF seeks to tell
and its applicable themes - the movie works.
While the CG, at times, seems more akin to a "Shrekian" tale (especially
in the beginning of the film), the content and action is certainly nothing
that a big, green, gnarly ogre (or his sidekick smart ass) would want any
part of! This is an adult tale with very adult themes and is well
executed. Unlike 99% of anything animated in 3-D, you may find yourself
thinking about this film long after it has ended...and not about the how
real or unreal the film looked, but about the characters, the story, the
thematic elements. What more could a director want?
But to the score...Certainly ALAN SILVESTRI's score helps to engage the
viewer throughout the film. It is unlike any Silvestri score since VAN
HELSING in 2004 or moreover JUDGE DREDD in 1995. In BEOWULF, Silvestri
maintains his propensity for memorable themes and adrenaline filled action
sequences. Having listened to BEOWULF just prior to seeing the film, I was
admittedly a bit disappointed. Perhaps I was unconsciously wanting
something a little closer to Shore's Ring-work (It has been 4 years. You
know). After seeing the film, as one might expect, my opinion of Silvestri's work
easily raised a couple of notches. I wager those of you
who dive into BEOWULF, sans the in-movie experience, will feel similarly
until you do.
The score for BEOWULF seems to hang on three major themes: two
representing Beowulf and one for his nemesis. The first is Beowulf's
main theme which runs through the first half of the film. It is introduced
immediately in the film and likewise on the soundtrack in "Beowulf Main
Title" (1). It's an aggressive, pounding theme featuring, at first, an all
male chorus, later augmented by female voices, and grungy, but lofty
brass. Interestingly, starting the score off with a clearly synthesized
element caught me off guard. Not only is it synthesized, but its vibe is
circa the 1980s! However that flavor is not long-lived as the live
orchestral elements and choir completely take over within about 10
seconds. Synthesized elements remain in the score but are more subdued
than this initial volley. Beowulf's theme bursts its way back into the spotlight in track 4,
"What We Need is a Hero" where Beowulf and his thanes are introduced
traversing the stormy seas. The deceptively simple theme is clear in what
just it is trying to communicate - pure, unadulterated
hubris! Such a theme is perfect for the early-Beowulf: young, strong
and arrogant. Seemingly, there could hardly be a more appropriate type of
theme for this figure; however, this young hero would be changed by his encounter with the
monster, Grendel, and moreover his mother - thus introducing another major
thematic element of the score.
One of the counter points to the testosterone-laden music for Beowulf is
the seduction-theme. For those who perused the official movie site prior
to the film's release, you heard this mysterious and sinister diddy as
you entered the site. The piece is dark and spacious with reverberating
harps, deep hits of percussion, and slender, sneaky strings. The second
half of the theme is innocently mesmerizing - finally beautiful as the
seduction is completed (see "The Seduction" 10). Grendel's mother,
surviving through to last scene of the film, brings the film to a somewhat
surprising conclusion; one that features a reprisal of the
seduction-theme, "The Final Seduction" (16).
Beowulf's second theme is introduced in track 7, "A Hero Comes Home." This
is a brief vocal performance, sung and played in the movie by Queen
Wealthow (Robin Wright-Penn). In sharp contrast to Beowulf's first theme,
this is a somewhat melancholic melody which eventually comes to dominate
the second half of the score as Silvestri expands on its simple roots
greatly. There is a wonderful statement of the theme in "I Am Beowulf"
(9): played on brass and then majestically by the full orchestra and
voices - interrupted just briefly by Beowulf's original theme. Again, we
hear a kingly performance of the theme in track 12, "He Has a Story to
Tell." Finally, as the Beowulf completes his inner journey, transforming from the self-serving to the self-sacrificing, the
bravado of his original theme has been dwindled down to the employment of only
its first three notes. Beowulf, at the end, is better defined by this
softer, but still heroic music. Lastly, he is both mourned and honored through his
second theme in "He Was the Best of Us" (17).
Unfortunately, the final
performance of this theme comes in a pop version "A Hero Comes Home (End
Credits Version)" (17). The synths which introduce the song are only
trumped in their abrasiveness (and dated quality) by the lead vocals by Broadway-musical star, IDINA MENZEL, (Wicked, Rent). Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard collaborate
again in hopes of recapturing the magic (and award-attention) of their
piece, "Believe" from THE POLAR EXPRESS, but Menzel's voice just doesn't
work for this song. So in an otherwise enjoyable musical experience
BEOWULF comes to a disappointing, pop-sell-out conclusion.
Interspersed throughout the film and soundtrack are a number solid action
pieces. Alan Silvestri has long been one of Hollywood's best when it
comes to crafting vibrant, multi-facted, action pieces and BEOWULF is no
exception. "I Did Not Win the Race" (6), "Second Grendel Attack" (8)
and the finale "Beowulf Slays the Beast" (14) should all be etched into
Silvestri's placard of his all-time, top action cues. Silvestri
flawlessly composes for and conducts a 97 piece orchestra and 40 voice
choir, not to mention a host of electronic elements and
squeezes out every ounce of musical emotion each performer can deliver.
I give kudos to director Robert Zemeckis for daring to take a classic
piece of literature and not only bring it to big screen, but to do it in
such a radical way. I give him further kudos for being "non-radical"
and realizing that he was in need of his hero-collaborator once again and
gave ALAN SILVESTRI a chance to score his movie. For BEOWULF,
Silvestri delivers a more than a satisfactory effort and he remains true
to his exceptional form of the past but still shows his advancing talents
with his craft.
||I Did Not Win The Race
||A Hero Comes Home (Robin Wright-Penn)
||Second Grendel Attack
||I Am Beowulf
||He Has A Story To Tell
||Full Of Fine Promises
||Beowulf Slays The Beast
||He Was The Best Of Us
||The Final Seduction
||A Hero Comes Home (End Credits Version) (Idina Menzel)
||Total Running Time (approx)