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THE 4 MUSKETEERS
Enjoyable swashbuckling adventure score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2005 ASV Publishing LLC; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
A French film based on Alexandre Dumas's often-filmed tale, D'Artagnan et les Trois Mousquetaires (to give it its native-language title) was released to little acclaim in 2005 but is the latest obscure film whose score has been produced out of nowhere by MovieScore Media. It's composed by Matt Dunkley, a British composer whose name is perhaps most recognisable as an orchestrator of dozens of film scores over the last decade or so, including most of Craig Armstrong's and, more recently, several from Hans Zimmer's stable, though we shouldn't hold that against him. He has few credits as a composer in his own right - which would appear to be a great pity, if The 4 Musketeers is anything to go by.
It opens with its best feature, a swashbuckling main theme in "Father and Son". I guess it does have a whiff of Media Ventures about it, but only a whiff, and the important thing is the melody, which is simply grand. "The Queen Sends Constance Away" introduces a more tragic strings theme which is also impressive; and then the action music first appears in the rollicking "D'Artagnan and Milady Fight" (though I'm not completely convinced by the electronics). The final idea is then presented in "Firelight", a tender, touching little love theme. I guess one might say that there is nothing especially original in any of these pieces, but sometimes that doesn't particularly matter, and the opening four tracks present an extremely impressive opening ten minutes or so.
The score doesn't entirely maintain these standards (it would be a pretty amazing release if it did, to tell the truth) - some of the music is disappointingly generic, and not in a good way ("The Hanging" could come from Transformers or Iron Man, I'm afraid) but much of it is not, with the bulk of the score reprising and expanding upon the material of those opening tracks. Generally speaking it's the more swashbuckling pieces (usually those which involve the main theme or action music) which are the most entertaining - it's not exactly Cutthroat Island, but I guess it's composed in that kind of spirit and should appeal to a similar sort of crowd (as long as they prepare for the drum kits, which lend it a kind of Pirates of the Caribbean-type atmosphere in a way, though it's never quite so facile).
I love the occasional more old-fashioned pieces, such as the great "D'Artagnan the Swordsman" where you can momentarily forget you're listening to a 2005 film score and be transported back to a different age. It's a very pleasant score, easy to listen to and easy to enjoy. The biggest and best surprise is saved until the end, with the requiem-like choral piece "The Execution" making a fine way of ending the album. Dunkley is clearly a talented composer and let's hope he gets further opportunities to demonstrate it.