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THE LAST LEGION
Bold, exciting action score sees Doyle throw everything at the listener from the outset
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Last Legion Ltd; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Not long after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Eragon, Patrick Doyle scores his third children's fantasy film in quick succession with The Last Legion, intriguingly set in the dying days of the Roman empire. For whatever reason, I always associate Doyle most with his summery period drama scores (at which he so excels), but he has quite a history in this genre too, and there are so many fans of his expansive style.
"Subtle" is not a word which enters his vocabulary on this sort of film, and the opening cue "Sacred Pentangle" (cue titles on soundtracks for fantasy films are always amusing) is a case in point, with an enormous, sweeping, rousing theme played for all its worth by the mighty London Symphony Orchestra and a full choir too. Memorable and stirring, it's an outstanding theme from Doyle, probably up there with his recent one for Eragon. That score's problem was that it seemed to just repeat the theme ad nauseum, so after performing the feat of coming up with another theme of such a hard standard, my hope was that Doyle might do a bit more with it this time.
He did. True, this score does contain a fair amount of repetition, and is dominated to an extent by one piece, but Doyle seems to send his theme through a slightly greater set of variations this time. He manages to outdo the pomp and sweep of the first track in the second, "Coronation", which is even huger, before the second main theme is (mercifully) introduced in "Goths Seize Rome", this time a punchier, more aggressive piece with a real martial tilt. He goes on to combine the two themes for a simply gigantic action piece. I've only described three tracks so far, and already you may have noticed me use "stirring", "enormous", "sweeping", "rousing", "huge", "gigantic" - this is not a score which sits in the background. Indeed, virtually every track plays as if it is the climax of some huge musical work - and, much while I'm sure a great number of people will be very happy with that, it's not quite so satisfying when a 51-minute album contains so much music which seems to be the thrilling conclusion to something rather than the whole thing - there's no build up to it, no real musical journey, it's unadulterated, unsubtle stuff virtually throughout.
In fairness, there are some slightly gentler passages (though even these tend to explode into something bigger before they're through) - "Secret Sword" contains some lovely passages, including a gentle version of the main theme, and there's some rumbling suspense music which for some reason makes me think this is what a Doyle-scored Lord of the Rings would have sounded like. "Escape from Capri" begins with a brisk adventure theme which is (again) impressive, and there is a rare hint of romance towards the end of the piece which adds a welcome new flavour.
The score continues at a canter, with plenty of sweeping music (including the dark "The Battle of Hadrian's Wall", which briefly has a surprising but unmistakable similarity to James Horner's Aliens), culminating in the fantastic finale to the finales, "Death of Vortgyn" (I don't know whether Vortgyn is a good guy or a bad guy, but his death certainly seems to be a glorious one based on the music). Of course, there is another finale after this (the album does feature 15 of them in its 15 tracks, after all) in "No More War", which is another big statement of the theme.
Patrick Doyle can be as bold and unsubtle as anyone in this type of score - he has no problem in shaking off the shackles right from the start. I'm not sure that approach works best - surely it is more effective to just hold a little back instead of unleashing everything straight away, otherwise there's never a sense of building towards anything - but it has certainly produced an entertaining album so far, the year's loudest and most stirring action music score, and it's a step up from Eragon.