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Beowulf by Alan Silvestri


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Beowulf (Soundtrack) by Alan Silvestri

Composed by Alan Silvestri
Warner Brothers (2007)

Rating: 8/10

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Listen to this soundclip of BeowulfI'm Here to Kill Your Monster (275 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of BeowulfThe Seduction (352 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of BeowulfHe was the Best of Us (352 kb)


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“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 Have Come to Score Your Movie!
review by Christopher Coleman

Beowulf"They 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.

Rating: 8/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Beowulf Main Title 0:54  ****
2 First Grendel Attack 1:50  ****
3 Gently As She Goes (Robin Wright-Penn) 1:36  ***
4 What We Need Is A Hero 1:40  ****
5 I'm Here To Kill Your Monster 1:47  ****
6 I Did Not Win The Race 2:16  ****
7 A Hero Comes Home (Robin Wright-Penn) 1:08  ****
8 Second Grendel Attack 4:02  ****
9 I Am Beowulf 4:32  *****
10 The Seduction 4:03  ****
11 King Beowulf 1:44  ***
12 He Has A Story To Tell 2:42  *****
13 Full Of Fine Promises 1:11  ****
14 Beowulf Slays The Beast 6:01  ****
15 He Was The Best Of Us 5:23  ****
16 The Final Seduction 2:25  ****
17 A Hero Comes Home (End Credits Version) (Idina Menzel) 3:13  **
  Total Running Time (approx) 46 minutes  




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