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Clash of the Titans
  • Composed by Ramin Djawadi
  • Sony Music / Amazon CDR / 2010 / 75:18

In 2004 I wrote a review of a score by Hans Zimmer (and friends) called King Arthur.  The score has largely been forgotten today, but I managed to remember my review and – believe it or not, not just in the interests of being lazy – I think it’s worth repeating the first five sentences of it here:

It may be a facile argument to make, but I’m never one prone to missing out on such an opportunity: it strikes me that Hans Zimmer is the McDonald’s of the film music world.  Wherever you go in the world, whichever country you visit, chances are you’ll not be too far away from a McDonald’s, where you can buy some food (well, some loose definition of it) that tastes absolutely identical to a purchase made 3,000 miles away in another branch of the corporation.  There’s no local flavour or consideration: it’s one-size-fits-all.  Now, think about Hans Zimmer’s film music.  Whenever he’s scoring an action movie – whether it be ancient Rome, American firefighters, a nuclear submarine, a prison break from Alcatraz, whatever – he wheels out the same bag of tricks, making the vast majority of these things almost entirely interchangeable (give or take the odd distinctive theme or two) and rarely specific at all to the project-at-hand.

Since then, his empire has become even more dominant in terms of the number of films they score between them; and my statement above has just become more and more true.  When Craig Armstrong’s music was tossed from Clash of the Titans and Zimmer was engaged to supply music for the film (the main score credit this time going to Ramin Djawadi), of course it didn’t really matter whether there were two days, two weeks or two years to provide the score.  It also doesn’t matter whether it was Djawadi, Zanelli, Jablonsky or whoever else’s turn to get the main credit.  Creativity is neither allowed nor possible in an environment like Zimmer’s Remote Control – there’s a standard formula which must be followed, at all times, regardless.  If it’s an action film, the score will be written along certain lines, and that’s it.

Ramin Djawadi

I don’t need to say what Clash of the Titans is like – there can be few people reading this review who don’t already know.  If truth be told, it’s probably a little better than its obvious model, Transformers (and a further step up from the objectionable Iron Man), but that’s no great claim to fame.  I don’t blame Djawadi, Jablonsky and the others – they all have bills to pay, and must earn money to do so, just like the rest of us.  The people to blame are the filmmakers who keep asking for this type of music – and the inescapable truth is that they wouldn’t keep asking for it if they didn’t have evidence to suggest that it’s what audiences want.  So, audiences, blame yourselves.

It’s so frustrating that the music for virtually all blockbuster action films has to sound like this.  The argument “if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it” is another frustration – there isn’t really much choice!  Films like this – however lousy – used to provide such a rich canvas for talented film composers.  One need look no further than the first Clash of the Titans for an example.  Remote Control scores certainly have their place, and they work well in certain films; just not every action film that gets made!  The better Remote Control scores are the ones with the best tunes, and there are no good tunes in Clash of the Titans – just a load of bombast, which in places is reasonably enjoyable (even so, the orchestration is typically banal).  It’s just getting so boring.  I hope that in six years time I won’t still be banging my head against the wall in frustration, and coming back to this review of a score which will undoubtedly be long-forgotten by then to pull out the old quote once more.  **

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