- Composed by Hans Zimmer
- Walt Disney Records / 2013 / 50m
It couldn’t go wrong – it just couldn’t go wrong. Disney entered into guaranteed box office gold territory with The Lone Ranger, from the creative team behind Pirates of the Caribbean – director Gore Verbinski, 80s pop star MC Hammer – you can’t touch this! – and the most famous of Native American actors, Johnny Depp, taking a break from sitting in his teepee and being at one with the bald eagle. Not only was the 1950s tv series still fresh in the minds of the film’s target audience of young teenage males – accountants are still struggling to count the vast box office receipts of the 1981 big-screen adventure The Legend of the Lone Ranger. With the screenwriters’ ingenious idea of combining screwball comedy with vivid images of genocide, all the ingredients are there for this film to be a massive, unprecedented success. I predict a hit of extraordinary proportions.
There was an unsettling period of one week in which no new movies appeared with music by Hans Zimmer, so it was reassuring indeed when his score appeared. Originally the filmmakers had engaged the services of snooker player Jimmy White to write the score, but perhaps unsurprisingly that fell through, and Zimmer – who provided hugely popular accompaniment to the Pirates movies – was engaged. It’s fair to say (perhaps regular readers may have picked up on this – as subtle as I have been in making the point) that Zimmer has been in something of a rut since the glorious Inception, but my hopes were high for this score – surely this time round he could write something playing to his strengths and provide something lighthearted – something fun – maybe, just maybe, something as good as his wonderful score to the otherwise-execrable Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (I will pretend the fourth Pirates score didn’t happen for the purposes of this narrative).
The album opens with “Never Take Off the Mask”, and it’s immediately clear that the composer is picking up the same style he employed on Pirates. He has claimed in various interviews that The Lone Ranger gave him an opportunity to write a “classic western score” but obviously he chose not to take that opportunity, because apart from the predictable Morricone homages (of which there are many – but no more than were in Pirates or Sherlock Holmes) this is very much the standard lighthearted Zimmer sound we’ve come to expect on Verbinski’s movies – which is no bad thing at all.
“Absurdity” introduces the theme for Tonto, and it’s a wonderful combination of Morricone/Leone-style fluttering winds with an off-kilter jig. It’s full of electronics and old-school Media Ventures basslines, and is hugely entertaining. Hardly “classic western”, but it’s Zimmer doing what he does so well in these comic-minded films – taking inspiration from a character and launching into a deliciously unsubtle portrait. It often sounds silly when he does it in serious films, but he’s on safe ground here. ”Silver” presents the score’s central theme, a really lovely melody heard in this arrangement with a solo violin (and again with Morriconean flourishes running around it, particularly in the earlier sections) – the most memorable thing Zimmer’s written in a while, I think.
The expansive “Ride” is the only time the score really sounds like what most people would think of as “classic western”, and then only in its opening passages, which are like Morricone’s Once Upon a Time in the West crossed with Beltrami’s 3:10 to Yuma; then, a minute or so into the piece, a wonderful new melody soars forth like the sun rising over the distant horizon. ”You’ve Looked Better” is a much darker piece, fairly stark atmospherics painting a surprisingly vivid picture of suffering. By contrast, “Red’s Theatre of the Absurd” is a lovely little diversion – it’s actually not far removed from the style of Zimmer’s score, but is the only surviving holdout from White’s original. (Now I must confess that the original composer hired to score the film was actually Jack White, the popular tunesmith, and not Jimmy “The Whirlwind” White, housewives’ favourite.)
“The Railroad Waits for No One” is a nice piece of action music – big, brassy,always melodic, progressing at a breakneck speed, it’s vintage Zimmer in many ways and is great fun to hear. There is an immediate contrast in “You’re Just a Man in a Mask”, a piece with far more serious intentions, one which proves to really be rather moving. The action returns immediately in “For God and for Country”, a rollicking piece (that again turns fairly serious before it ends).
“Finale” is a bit of a surprise – well, a surprise if you haven’t read all the pre-release hype – it’s an amusing ten-minute mashup of the William Tell Overture with the familiar Zimmer power anthem style (apparently done by Geoff Zanelli rather than Zimmer himself – I guess that makes Zanelli the Lone Arranger). I’m sure that if he were alive today, Rossini would be turning in his grave, but I think it’s very entertaining. (And you can’t do The Lone Ranger without William Tell – how else would you explain to your children why ten to ten is “cowboy time”?)
There’s still another track to go (after all, it would hardly be natural for “Finale” to be at the end) – another corker, “Home”, which develops the lovely theme heard earlier in the second half of “Ride”. The Lone Ranger is a very timely reminder that Hans Zimmer does remember how to have fun, and that on the right film he can still deliver. It’s not as flat-out entertaining as At World’s End – few things are – but it’s a very pleasurable way of spending 50 minutes and has grown and grown on me as time has gone by. Memorable tunes, a high sense of adventure, great fun, even parts that are pretty moving. Hi ho Silver!