Review: Film music of Hans Zimmer Vol. 2
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A legend in scoring's collection scores!
There are probably only a handful of film composers that can be listed as legends – composers who have in some way changed the sound of cinema through innovation and creativity, and in their wake influenced up and coming composers, and have at some point been imitated or blatantly ripped off. I would go so far as to place Hans Zimmer very high on that list. For the last few decades, Zimmer has made a name for himself by “coloring outside of the lines”, as it were. From his humble beginnings of sharing writing duties for television and film, to the turning point in his career when he won his first Academy Award nomination for Rain Man, Academy Award, Golden Globe and two Grammy wins for The Lion King, and numerous other nominations and wins, including another Golden Globe win for Gladiator and two additional Grammys. His unique blend of electronic and acoustic instruments and use of so many different musical styles has given him a range that few other composers have achieved.
Silva Screen Records’ release of Film Music of Hans Zimmer Vol. 2 showcases how varying his musical voice can be, and how perfect it can be for the movie he’s scoring. From animated family fare to Hollywood blockbusters, he can convey joy, terror, madness and action for any setting. Even within one film or a film series he can employ many different styles, as is evidenced in selections from the three Pirates of the Caribbean films he scored (Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End and On Stranger Tides). While they all work in that famous main theme, they all seem to convey their own little stories. Davy Jones, for instance, with its music box opening and soon becoming dark and foreboding, as if to tell us of the love and heartbreak that this poor sailor feels. But then we have Drink Up, Me Hearties which is a sea shanty in orchestral form, as is Jack Sparrow, a theme for our favorite ne’er-do-well Captain. The latter, however, has a little pipe organ thrown in, as if to imply the threat from Davy Jones that Jack is dodging. But with both, you have those images of tall ships and the wide open sea, cutlasses and cannon fire. And undead monkeys.
Similarly, we have Molossus from Batman Begins, which is an action piece which showcases the main theme, which is one of the finest superhero themes to come about in film. It is brass and percussion giving us the sense of law and order, the struggle of good over the forces of evil. On the flip side, there’s Why so Serious from The Dark Knight, which is a piece set in madness, as if to portray the mental instability of The Joker. It really is the polar opposite of Batman’s theme of justice with its unsteady tempos and hints at dissonance. There are times when his scores go against the idea of established or expected themes, like Woad to Ruin from King Arthur, which doesn’t incorporate either Celtic or Romanesque themes, but is a beautiful, though dark, orchestral piece with chorus. And Discombobulate from Sherlock Holmes almost has a Middle Eastern flair to it, with synthesizers and strange stringed instruments. The two selections here from Inception – Dream is Collapsing and Time – really acknowledge the strange, unsettling nature of the world the Nolan’s film resides in, with diverse sounds blending together to create a wholly strange and yet enticing soundscape. Sometimes he seems to be going for the homage, like This is Going to Hurt from The Ring, which sounds like something that Bernard Herrmann would have written for Psycho, with staccato percussion and violins. Again, with Homeland from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, he gives us a sweeping Western-style sound, like you would expect from any of the classic Western epics.
He can even go right for the emotion button, as is evidenced in Leave No Man Behind from Black Hawk Down, or Honor, from the HBO mini-series The Pacific. The former is piano, woodwinds and violins painting a picture of fallen soldiers and the comrades fighting to save them. Honor is a patriotic military theme conjuring up images of soldiers from the Second World War. Red Sea from The Prince of Egypt goes back and forth between the triumph felt by the Israelites and the oncoming danger presented by Ramses and his Egyptian soldiers. And then This Land from The Lion King is a beautiful epic piece of chorus-backed orchestra that gives you that Disney-film, feel-good moment.
Some selections seem like throwaway pieces – Injection from Mission Impossible II, the end title theme from The Peacemaker, and Zoosters Breakout from Madagascar. Instead I might have liked something from Gladiator or The Last Samurai, but alas, they were featured on Volume 1. Still, they do represent the many varied films and styles that Zimmer has played with over the years. We again have the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra performing here, and they do a marvelous job of bringing Zimmer’s music to life, pretty well matching the original recordings. The sound is superb and crystal clear, and allows for every nuance to be heard. Again, this is the sort of CD that will only attract or appeal to film buffs, collectors, or anyone who might be a fan of Hans Zimmer’s work. So it is to those that I would recommend picking this 2-disc collection up, because his work is always a joy to listen to, be it for superheroes or pirates, dream-invading conmen or duty-driven soldiers, spies, detectives, kings or beggars. He is one of the new legends in Hollywood, you can’t deny it, and he’s going to be here a while.
Film Music of Hans Zimmer Vol. 2 is available from Silva Screen Records.
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