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Robot Overlords
  • Composed by Christian Henson
  • MovieScore Media / 2015 / 63m

Some nasty robots from overseas come and enslave us all in Robot Overlords, with humanity confined to the indoors.  Needless to say, some resistance ensues.  The film stars Gillian Anderson and Ben Kingsley and reviews suggest it is as good as you might expect a film called Robot Overlords (seriously…) to be.  The score is by Christian Henson and is his third for director Jon Wright.  It’s an interesting work, treading a carefully-laid path through numerous ideas.  In the press release the composer talks about the score being deliberately pushed a long way out to the extremes, stating things as boldly as possible and it certainly doesn’t hold back.  In its earlier moments there are oppressive, very modern electronic sequences for the robots – loud and proud and certainly an acquired taste (which I have not acquired).  But amongst them are some more “human” segments, which really come to the fore in the consecutive tracks “Mother Earth” and “Escape!” – the last a surprisingly chilled-out track with new age elements which is very appealing.

Orchestra, choir, heavy electronics, acoustic and electronic solos are all used significantly as the music progresses.  There are striking moments throughout (including some wonderful Morricone-style strings and several notable piano solos) – and while the music reverses direction frequently, apart from occasional lighthearted interludes it holds together surprisingly well.  I have to say though that the more hardcore electronic components are just not a type of music I enjoy in any way and while that side is clearly important to the dramatic narrative Henson is painting and so I can hardly object to it being there, it dampens my enjoyment of the whole somewhat.  There is actually much to admire here, not least the writing for orchestra which is very impressive and at times quite deliciously dark, but most of all the creativity – it can’t be easy to come up with the architecture of music like this and then execute it so well.  I just wish I enjoyed it as much in practice as it sounds like I should do on paper.  Technically it’s beyond reproach but it seems to be missing an emotional core, something to really hold on to while the fireworks are going off.  (The last couple of minutes of “Sean Accesses the Mainframe” very close to the end of the score do it and are completely lovely.)  I generally love complex music like this but my admiration for Robot Overlords, for whatever reason, doesn’t stretch into me loving it.  I do like it, though, and look forward to hearing more from the talented Henson.

Rating: *** | |

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