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X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
Disappointingly bland score continues the recent trend in comic book films
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
The fourth film of the X-Men franchise arrived in controversial fashion at the start of the 2009 blockbuster season, with Richard Donner reportedly reshooting large portions of it and then somebody being fired after leaking it on the internet before it had even been released in cinemas. Anyway, the clunkily-titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine does what its title implies, with Hugh Jackman reprising his role as the dullest of the main characters in the previous films. It received better reviews than X-Men 3 (as did the film I made of myself clipping my toe-nails while singing "Jerusalem", in fairness) and made a load of money, so I guess X-Men Origins: <insert name here> will be next.
Musically, this series has not been especially distinguished. Michael Kamen toiled in difficult circumstances on the first film and provided a brooding score which wasn't bad, but suffered after its director asked him to take all the themes out; and then John Ottman scored the second entry, which is all I need to say. Things did perk up a bit when John Powell provided a curiously un-Powell-like (but great fun) score for the otherwise-dreadful third part and now Powell's old mate Harry Gregson-Williams gets his chance on the franchise.
Unfortunately, his score meanders along lifelessly and is a big disappointment. While he wouldn't be my first choice for a film like this, Gregson-Williams has displayed some flair for writing decent action/adventure music in the past (most recently with the seriously underrated Prince Caspian), but this score seems to share more in common with his exceptionally dull music for Tony Scott thrillers than with the more expressive side of his musical personality.
Drum loops abound - is there anything which so deadens the pulse of a film music fan than hearing an off-the-shelf drum loop going on for bar after bar? And in between that is an awful lot of completely uninteresting filler, the orchestra noodling along not doing anything. Of course, comic-book films don't have themes any more - who needs a theme? Well, if anything needs a theme, it's a comic-book film; that the only piece of music in (now) four scores in this series that you might stand a chance of humming when walking away from the cinema is Henry Mancini's Lifeforce as appropriated by Ottman for the second film is a pretty damning indictment on modern trends in film scoring (for all the qualities of Powell's entry, memorable themes were not amongst them). There is a theme which recurs here, but it's never properly developed, which is a great pity because it could certainly have been turned into something more enjoyable if the composer (or, perhaps more likely, the filmmakers) had had the inclination.
If you don't pay much attention to the music and just let it drift into your consciousness when it becomes a bit more interesting, then there are some moments on the album which are worthy of consideration - unfortunately it tends to be a few moments here and there rather than any complete pieces. Why couldn't Gregson-Williams have developed a bit more music along the lines of the punchy, aggressive passage in the middle of "Victor Visits"? Or done a bit more with the piano theme he introduces in "Kayla"? The action music, when it finally arrives, injects some much-needed energy, but even this seems to be a case of just going through the motions - there's nothing even vaguely unique about it. Against a backdrop of depressing pieces of drivel like Iron Man being the way filmmakers want to go with music, it's easy to listen to something like this and think it's better than it really is; but go back a few years to when films like this actually received proper scores and it's hard to really know what the point of it is.