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Action score may be predictable and entirely generic, but is still enjoyable

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Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Warner Bros.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall

Director Robert Zemeckis continues his absurd motion-capture phase started with The Polar Express in Beowulf.  Quite why anyone thinks it's a good idea to digitally capture the most minute movements of actors and then represent this in an animated way designed to look as real as possible is completely beyond me, but clearly someone thinks it's a great thing to do.  I can only hope it doesn't catch on.  The "cast" includes Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins - not bad! - but if I look at Angelina Jolie then I want to see Angelina Jolie and not some kid's fetishist digital impression of her, so much though I would like to see a decent film about Beowulf, I won't be seeing this one.

All of Zemeckis's films have been scored by Alan Silvestri, who seems to be concentrating almost exclusively on the action genre these days, even though he is far more adept at comedies and lighter dramas.  Unfortunately, his score here is completely standard Silvestri fare - he is never an innovative or bold film composer, but I thought even he might have been inspired beyond the norm by a tale as powerful as that of Beowulf.  

The album begins in the most banal fashion, with a piece which lasts less than a minute but is likely to make many people switch the CD off straight away, with horrendous electric guitar and synth overlays on top of the orchestra - a putrid and asinine way of opening.  Fortunately such depths aren't plunged again - the score is at its best with the guttural choral offerings in pieces like "What We Need is a Hero" and the adventure theme stated in "I'm Here to Kill Your Monster", a decent - if familiar-sounding - Silvestri trademark theme.

Generally the score could be considered as a mixture of Tomb Raider 2 and Van Helsing - it doesn't quite have the highlights of the former, but is never so migraine-inducing and tiresome as the latter.  You know precisely what to expect of a Silvestri score for an action/adventure, and this is generally exactly that - the propulsive, rhythmic action music with deep brass, the little heroic fanfares, and these days the synth percussion all over the place.  On that level, then, the score could hardly be considered a disappointment - if anyone was expecting anything else, then I don't know why.  It's only a disappointment when you think of what music inspired by Beowulf (the legend, not necessarily this film version of it) might be, and how much more impressive than this standard fare it could be.

Still, Silvestri does what he always does - this is a slick, professional score which I'm sure does nothing to hurt the film it accompanies - and I'd be surprised if many of his fans find much to complain about.  The generic nature of it is as much a side-effect of modern film music in general as it is of Silvestri in particular, so it's not fair to direct too much hostility in the composer's director because of it - as easy-going fun which doesn't require your brain to be switched on, it works just fine, and I'm sure a lot of folks who don't particularly care about whether particular film scores have distinct sounds of their own will love it, and even those others such as myself will be entertained enough.  So the ultimate question must be - if you've already got Tomb Raider, Van Helsing and other Silvestri action scores going back as far as Predator in your collection, do you really need it?  It's neither appreciably better nor worse than any of them, so that's a trickier one to answer.


  1. Main Title (:56)
  2. First Grendel Attack (1:53)
  3. Gently As She Goes Robin Wright-Penn (1:38)
  4. What We Need is a Hero (1:43)
  5. I'm Here to Kill Your Monster (1:49)
  6. I Did Not Win the Race (2:18)
  7. A Hero Comes Home Robin Wright-Penn (1:09)
  8. Second Grendel Attack (4:03)
  9. I Am Beowulf (4:34)
  10. The Seduction (4:04)
  11. King Beowulf (1:47)
  12. He Has a Story to Tell (2:43)
  13. Full of Fine Promises (1:14)
  14. Beowulf Slays the Beast (6:04)
  15. He Was the Best of Us (5:26)
  16. The Final Seduction (2:27)
  17. A Hero Comes Home Idina Menzel (3:13)