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The Wolverine
  • Composed by Marco Beltrami
  • Sony Classical / 2013 / 59m

The X-Men series of films reached its sixth instalment in 2013 with the second Wolverine-centric instalment, Hugh Jackman continuing in his most famous role.  Incredibly, each of the six films has had a different composer.  The best score by far of the previous five was John Powell’s for X-Men: The Last Stand, and the only other one that wasn’t awful was Michael Kamen’s score for the very first film.  Marco Beltrami seemed a safe enough pair of hands to take over.  Inevitably, he steers clear of reprising any music from the earlier films (Harry Gregson-Williams’s entirely forgettable score for the immediate precursor to this one, the cumbersomely-entitled X-Men Origins: Wolverine, would have been the obvious candidate, but I’d defy anyone to find anything in there worth reprising).  Sadly he doesn’t really take the opportunity to finally establish a compelling musical tone for the character (let alone the series), with a score that could politely be described as “functional” but which is unlikely to generate much excitement away from the film.

Beltrami establishes an incredibly dark tone – huge parts of the score consist of oppressive percussion (including mighty Japanese drums, reflective of the film’s setting) with brass stings and murky string runs around them.  Some of it’s actually quite sophisticated, particularly the more elaborate percussion; it’s just not the sort of thing I would ever actually want to listen to.  There are some quieter moments – there’s a dignified heroism running through the low-key “Hold My Sword” which is very impressive – but actually this is one of the more abrasive scores of Beltrami’s career, even more so than World War Z which he wrote shortly beforehand.  A couple of the action cues are more vintage Beltrami and these are fantastic but far too much of the album consists of monotone brooding drone for it to work for me as a piece of entertainment.  Kudos to the composer for writing something this challenging; but it’s better kept in the film.

Rating: ** | |

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  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Wednesday 15 January, 2014 at 18:33

    What do you think of John Ottman’s return to the franchise for the upcoming film? I know you weren’t thrilled with his initial score in the series.

  2. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Wednesday 15 January, 2014 at 18:52

    To be fair, Harry Gregson-Williams’ main theme from the previous film was pretty good and memorable (and the love theme was pretty sweet), even if all the rest was numbingly mundane.

  3. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 15 January, 2014 at 18:58

    I haven’t listened to Ottman’s score in years and years. I do wonder whether my opinion may have changed with the passage of time and the changing context of the sound of comic book films, which at that time was still considered to be the Elfman/Batman sound. Now it’s Batman Begins and Man of Steel, it might just sound a bit better.

  4. mastadge (Reply) on Wednesday 15 January, 2014 at 22:00

    This score actually has grown on me a lot. The first few times it put me right to sleep, but now each time I listen to it I find it more rewarding and enjoyable.

    Ottman’s X2 score still puts me right to sleep. I’ve held onto the X2 suite only and even that doesn’t get played all that often. But Ottman does seems to have grown as a composer since then so fingers crossed the score — and the movie! — will be a knockout.

  5. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Wednesday 15 January, 2014 at 22:17

    I agree that this score is hardly an easy listen, but I do commend Beltrami for taking such a bold direction with this score. World War Z felt like it had a few more concessions to current scoring trends in comparison, but this left a more memorable impression. It’s particularly effective in the film, I might add.

  6. Joshua Hoppman (Reply) on Wednesday 15 January, 2014 at 22:49

    I really wish John Powell would return to score another!

  7. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Sunday 18 May, 2014 at 02:06

    This is going to sound a little odd, but this score comes the closest to the style Michael Kamen had for X-Men. The biggest difference is Beltrami uses a lot more percussion as opposed to electronics. The album is a little long, but the highlights are really highlights on here.