- Composed by Lorne Balfe
- Varese Sarabande / 2011 / 57:28
Ironclad. Twelfth century. King John. In the 1950s, the film music fan’s preconception of what the music for this film might sound like would have been grand, orchestral statements, marches and processionals – or, to put it succinctly, Miklós Rózsa. Of course, things change. By the 1980s, one might have thought of leitmotif, more subtlety, of Lionheart perhaps. In the 2010s, there’s only one possibility – post-Gladiator world music. The fact that the score is – inevitably, unimaginatively, and as it turns out desperately disappointingly – by a Zimmer alumnus can only drive that point home. Wailing voices, ethnic instruments from the wrong place, heavily electronically-processed sounds – if that’s your thing, you will be filling your boots with this one. I haven’t seen the film so of course for all I know, this is the single greatest marriage of picture and music since Once Upon a Time in the West, but I’m left scratching my head as to how this music could ever be attached to a film about what this film’s about. Its closest relative in these seemingly laughably inappropriate historical scores is probably King Arthur; with that, it almost seemed like the composer was having a bit of a laugh himself (not even Hans Zimmer could have been serious in delivering that music for that film). It’s happened enough times since that presumably the joke’s on someone else.
The hour-long album contains a few lovely passages when the composer, Lorne Balfe (getting his first solo credit on a major film) tones things down – “Hunger Sets In” doesn’t sound like it should be a particularly lovely piece, but it is – and it’s a great shame he wasn’t able to explore that side of things more fully. The bulk of it, the action music, seems to be based on the same eight or ten bars continually repeated – or maybe that’s just the sound of me hitting my head against the desk repeatedly as I listen to it. It’s not entirely without merit, and maybe I’m being too harsh on Balfe because it’s just so boring hearing the same thing over and over again, but there’s nowhere near enough of it to justify an album of this length. I know full well that there will be people who will gobble this up – there must be many more of them than there are people like me, else scores like this wouldn’t appear every two weeks as they seem to at the moment – they will note that the music is only available as a download in the US, but a physical CD has been released in Europe. For the world outside the US and Europe, I’m afraid it’s anyone’s guess. **