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HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
Hugely enjoyable sequel score throws ideas round like nobody's business, but keeps them contained in a coherent whole
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Universal Studios; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
It's no surprise that a sequel has been made to Hellboy, one of the most well-received comic book films of recent times; the surprise for us film music fans is that director Guillermo del Toro didn't bring back composer Marco Beltrami, whose score for the first film was one of his most popular. Apparently del Toro simply really wanted to get the chance to work with Danny Elfman - and, I guess if you want to work with Elfman, doing it on a comic-book film is as good a place as any, given the composer's impeccable track record in the genre.
Elfman's 2008 has been excellent so far, with Standard Operating Procedure and Wanted both being very fine scores; and I'm delighted to say that Hellboy II continues the trend. Its weakest point for some will be its strongest point for others - this is pretty much the prototypical post-1996 Danny Elfman score, containing so many elements familiar from his action scores over this time (Mission: Impossible, Planet of the Apes, Hulk, the Spiderman scores) that it ought to be a dream for those who love that side of his music. I guess some people might find it to be a bit of a mish-mash, but for me it's just a really good, fun reminder of how good Elfman can be.
Most of the main themes are introduced in the first couple of tracks, with "Titles" presenting the slightly witty, but genuinely exciting main theme. "Training" is one of those percussion-dominated pieces which Elfman does so well (it's highly-reminiscent of Planet of the Apes), and also sees the main melodic idea get a decent workout, initially for solo violin before being taken up by the violas. It's a fine theme, with just a hint of the epic about it. "Hallway Cruise" is a funky little piece which introduces the score's most surprising feature - the theremin - backed by Hammond organ, drums and bass - it's a real departure from the orchestral music which has preceded it, yet somehow fits in very well.
This cycling through different styles continues in "Where Fairies Dwell", which briefly features the kind of lullaby chorus Elfman used to use so often, before exploding into orchestral anarchy. The score continues in this way - throwing in everything but the kitchen sink - but the great thing is that it never feels particularly fragmented, as things like this sometimes can. There is a focus to it, all of the little ideas are actually properly-developed, even if only for a track or two, and this is an extremely easy album to enjoy. It seems a bit of a shame that Beltrami wasn't invited back to the party, but Elfman's delivered a fine score here and it comes recommended by me.