- Composed by Marc Streitenfeld
- Sony Classical / 2012 / 56:55
In Prometheus, Ridley Scott returned to the universe of in my opinion his finest film, Alien. It’s split critics and audiences down the middle, a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The Alien series has been blessed with some wonderful music that has often been created in trying circumstances. Jerry Goldsmith was generally accepting of filmmakers making changes to his scores but took real exception to the way his music was treated in the first film (“Ridley’s got an editor [Terry Rawlings] who’s got a big record collection and thinks that means he knows something about music.”) James Horner and James Cameron were reportedly on the brink of (or maybe even beyond that, depending on who you believe) actual physical violence on the scoring stage for Aliens. The music Elliot Goldenthal considers his masterpiece, Alien 3, was unrecognisable in the film from the way he had intended it to be used. But all three of them wrote brilliant music for their respective films; not necessarily surprising, since they spent years and years learning their craft, studying and training and toiling away to get themselves where they did. All of which is in stark contrast to Marc Streitenfeld.
The fact that I’m half way through this capsule review and haven’t mentioned Streitenfeld’s music yet is because there’s really not a great deal to say about it. It is exactly as could have been predicted – slick, professionally-orchestrated by his team, and very bland. The occasional hints of Goldenthal (the motif that comes in during “Weyland”, the way percussion is laced through some of the tracks) serve mainly to enforce how good this could have been. There’s a theme by Harry Gregson-Williams, “Life”, featuring a noble horn solo which is easily the best thing in the score; and Scott used it in many of the film’s key moments, replacing Streitenfeld’s music for those scenes, and it seems a pity that Gregson-Williams didn’t score the whole film. Inevitable though it is to consider what could have been, it’s only fair to consider what actually is, and take the musical history away and what’s left is something that on its own terms is, as I said, bland, but far from awful. The cold music for the android “David” is cleverly done, the overt nods to Goldsmith, Horner and Goldenthal (only the former is credited, but there are clear echoes of the other two as well) are well-integrated. Streitenfeld’s own primary theme, heard in the opening cue “A Planet” and more fully later on, is his main melodic contribution, and it’s decent enough; in “Collision” it’s actually really impressive, as the orchestral shackles are fully removed. I have to say that throughout, there are good ideas here, they’re just not executed as skilfully as they should have been – the cold austerity is never expressed as well as it was by Goldsmith, the action never as exciting as Horner’s, the sheer terror never as forceful as Goldenthal’s. Despite all this, the album is listenable throughout, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of here. Each score Streitenfeld writes is better than the one before so perhaps one day he’ll turn into a really good film composer, but he’s not there yet and it’s extremely odd that he gets to experience his learning curve not in the classroom but on $250m blockbusters. ***