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Stardust by Ilan Eshkeri


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Stardust (Soundtrack) by Ilan Eshkeri

Composed by Ilan Eshkeri
Decca Records (2007)

Rating: 8/10

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Listen to this soundclip of StardustShooting Star (352 kb)

Listen to this soundclip of StardustTristan and Yvaine (352 kb)

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“The score ranges from the very soothing and beautiful to epic blasts of bold, "Goldenthalian" creations. While the movie may be a little elusive in quantifying, ILAN ESHKERI's score is not. It is simply one of 2007's most entertaining listens - start to finish.”

Robert DeNiro as Cap'N Shakespeare (Stardust)Just the Other Side of the Wall
Review by Christopher Coleman

As the summer of 2007 tails away, director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) brings Neil Gaiman's graphic novel, STARDUST, to the big screen.   With a stellar-cast such as:  Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfieffer, Peter O' Toole, and the narration of Sir Ian McKellen, the film would seem to be in good hands in that department.  Bringing on composer Ilan Eshkeri was also a promising move. Although his engaging score was poorly represented on the DARK KINGDOM: THE DRAGON KING soundtrack, what was evident in the two tracks that did find their way onto that release was that Eshkeri could do fantasy.  STARDUST would afford him the perfect opportunity stretch his legs more fully.

STARDUST is an interesting film - dubbed an adult-romantic-fantasy.  It has drawn comparisons to Rob Reiner's classic THE PRINCESS BRIDE, but such comparison's are misplaced. Vaughn's movie does tell its fairy-tale story with subtle wink, but it doesn't approach clever and classic humor of THE PRINCESS BRIDE.  On the other side of things, STARDUST has its moments, but certainly doesn't take itself as seriously as many fantasy films do.  This film is just a hard film to qualify...which makes the movie experience a little awkward while remaining enjoyable. Further confusing the issue of categorization is STARDUST's sumptuously serious score.

ILAN ESHKERI wastes little time in hinting at his musicscape for STARDUST. "The Prologue (Through the Wall)" tells the listener that we are dealing with faerie story here. Subtle, ethereal voices give way to slowly swelling strings and brass which finally yield to a bit of comedic pizzicato. The opening track concludes with a surprisingly rhythmic section representing our first visit into the other-worldly kingdom of Stormhold.

Moving onward from track 1, the music becomes soft and romantic.  First we have "Snowdrop" (2) - an initially quiet and melodic piece with an undercurrent of mystery.  Following this we have our hero's theme briefly introduced in "Tristan" (3).  Tristan's theme doubles as the film's main love theme and is performed most poignantly in "Tristan and Yvaine" (13).  As we reach track 4, "Shooting Star" Eshkeri now lets loose a torrent of orchestral flare.  Strings sing, horns blare, and the choir adds their heavenly accent to one of the most rapturous pieces of this or any other soundtracks from the first half of 2007.  And if that's the stuff you like, there is more.  You'll find similar moments worth a few successive listens to be  "Septimus" (7), and "The Star Shines" (19). 

Following "Shooting Star," we are introduced to the story's antagonists - the three witches, lead by Lamia (Michelle Pfieffer).   The three are in search of the fallen star that will ensure their youth for another few centuries.  The musical representation of Lamia and crew is distinctively marked by low strings, percussive accents, and even a bassoon lead. As Lamia and her support team get an ample amount of screentime,  soundtrack offers a healthy number of tracks for our malevolent characters:  "Three Witches" (5), "Creating the Inn" (8), "Lamia's Inn" (9) and "Lamia's Doll."

One of the most entertaining bits of the movie is Robert DeNiro's character of Cap'n Shakespear.  He and his flying airship crew are fit with their own theme which captures the essence of their harrowing profession of harvesting lighting by flying among the thunder storms.  While at first being given a threatening introduction in "Cap 'N Shakespear" the captain and his motley crew's music takes on a more "delicate" nature as "another side" of the brazen captain is revealed.  In "Flying Vessel" we have a bit of evocative music that has already become trailer-material.  And Eshkeri mixes in a bit of Dvorak and Offenbach as Tristan and Yvaine are enter-trained by Cap'N Shakespear aboard his ship.

STARDUST comes to a rousing conclusion with the percussive "Zombie Fight" (18) and then the climactic piece "The Star Shines" (19).  The majority of "The Star Shines" is tensely dark, but it finishes with a full symphonic blast of Yvaine's theme.  "Coronation" (20) gives us a nice recap of STARDUST's major themes and ends Eshkeri's effort on a satisfying and triumphant note. 

Much ado has been made about the group TAKE THAT's song "Rule the World" not appearing on the soundtrack.  For the score fan, this will not be a problem at all.  (For once those who get their compilation soundtracks months before score albums are released (if at all) can get a taste of what the score community feels.)  Still, "Epilogue" (21) is Eshkeri's own arrangement of the Take That's composition and their own performance of the piece will appear on their album releasing sometime in October 2007.

Ilan Eshkeri delivers some very entertaining music for STARDUST. With clearly defined themes and motifs and the big, bold performance of THE LONDON METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA, the score, although occasionally overpowering some scenes, is one of the films high points. As a stand alone listening experience, STARDUST does even better. The score ranges from the very soothing and beautiful to epic blasts of bold, "Goldenthalian" creations. While the movie may be a little elusive in quantifying, ILAN ESHKERI's score is not. It is simply one of 2007's most entertaining listens - start to finish.  The best compliment of ILAN ESHKERI's work for STARDUST may ultimately come when it is used as score for some of the many fantasy/fairy-tale films that will across our screens in the years to come.

Interestingly, Decca opted to release the full soundtrack on iTunes weeks before the official soundtrack CD would be available.  Now trust me when I say that this music deserves to be listened to in much higher fidelity than Apple's little proprietary format can deliver (not to mention the abysmal, low-quality rips and re-rips floating around the net.  The dynamic range in this (and many other scores) is just not well served by iTunes or any compressed format.  It's certainly understandable if you couldn't wait for the CD release, but do yourself a favor and pick up the CD anyway.

Rating: 8/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Prologue (Through the Wall) 3:45  *****
2 Snowdrop 2:46  ****
3 Tristan 0:40  ****
4 Shooting Star 3:26  *****
5 Three Witches 2:42  ***
6 Yvaine 2:48  ***
7 Septimus 1:22  ****
8 Creating the Inn 1:58  ****
9 Lamia's Inn 8:04  ***
10 Cap'n' Shakespeare 1:27  ****
11 Flying Vessel 3:41  ****
12 Cap'n' at the Helm 1:01  ****
13 Tristan & Yvaine 2:05  *****
14 Pirate Fight 2:03  ***
15 The Mouse 2:25  ***
16 Lamia's Lair 3:57  ****
17 Lamia's Doll 1:41  ***
18 Zombie Fight 1:08  ***
19 The Star Shines 3:21  ***
20 Coronation 2:32  ****
21 Epilogue 0:52  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 53 minutes  




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