Ridley Scott’s latest period piece sees him reunite with Russell Crowe and get to grips with a grittier Robin Hood. The film’s received generally mixed reviews (it’s clearly not going to replicate the success of Gladiator). Scott has always been somewhat eccentric when it comes to the music in his films; he made an enemy of Jerry Goldsmith over Alien but the patchwork score worked remarkably well, but since then the hits are considerably outweighed by the misses. While the joke score for 1492 might be a low point, at least it produced a highly entertaining album; the director’s recent collaborations with Marc Streitenfeld, a composer who has never written a score for anyone else, are rather puzzling to say the least. While past music in Ridley Scott films has regularly left a lot to be desired in the dramatic scoring department, it has at least generally been flashy and stylish, in keeping with the director’s visual style; Streitenfeld’s music on the other hand has simply been dull, offering no dramatic support to the film and making for remarkably boring albums at the same time. Given the musical pedigree of Robin Hood (from Korngold to Kamen, there are numerous beloved film scores inspired by this story) it was with some trepidation that many film music fans will have approached this latest score. As it turns out, the trepidation was justified.
In fairness, there is far more going on here than in the composer’s previous scores. There’s even what is presumably meant to be a theme – while in truth it’s no more than a third-rate Hans Zimmer power anthem, at least there’s that small concession to tradition. Otherwise, there is little going on here – of course, there’s middle eastern music (every film scored by a Zimmer relation which is set before 1900 features middle eastern music) and some of the sparse orchestration even seems appropriate for the time and setting of the film; a cynic might suspect coincidence, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt. The problem is, it’s so dull. While it may be the case that one of the previous 4,552,981 Robin Hood movies featured a worse score, I very much doubt that any has featured a more boring one. Of course the film’s a lot darker and less fun than most of those which have gone before, but the continual gloom is desperately hard to enjoy. If I ever find myself riding through the glen, then I’d only take music like this along if my men weren’t so much merry, but suicidal. I’m sure I will hear plenty of less impressive scores this year, but few (if any) will be for films which can so obviously inspire great film music as this one. With the greatest respect to Streitenfeld, his continued employment on mega-budget Ridley Scott blockbusters must rank as one of the greatest puzzlements in the history of film music. **