Latest reviews of new albums:
  • Composed by Ramin Djawadi
  • Back Lot Music / 2016 / 61m

The hugely-popular Warcraft series of video games (and later, more) began back in 1994 when the first game was released, since when it has spawned a devoted army of followers, spawned books, physical games – and now a film.  Films based on video games are not traditionally the most accomplished things, so it was rather a surprise when Duncan Jones – of Moon fame – joined up as director.  Despite his presence, the film has been greeted with a critical lambasting and isn’t generating nearly the kind of audience interest which might have been expected.

Presumably because he is the Game of Thrones composer, Ramin Djawadi was hired as the film’s composer over two years before the film ended up getting a release.  He doesn’t seem a particularly natural fit for the director, but then nothing about the project does so perhaps it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  Djawadi is – putting it mildly – not one of my favourite composers, but he did surprise me with his genuinely entertaining music for Pacific Rim a while back and so I was hoping very much for something more like that than the thin, simplistic, inexplicably popular Thrones music.

Ramin Djawadi

Ramin Djawadi

I guess the result is somewhere in between the two, but slightly more towards the tv show’s musical end of the scale.  The album begins with its action-packed main theme, what Lord of the Rings would have sounded like with a Remote Control score.  It’s a bit flimsy because of the thin orchestration (it would sound so much better if Djawadi had really gone for it) but it does the job.  The sound of the second cue, “The Horde”, is more of a surprise: not the expected percussion but the exotic reeds which flutter somewhat aggressively over it, which lend the cue (and many parts of the score) a distinctive sound you wouldn’t expect it to have.  The deep male vocals are done subtly (well, at least at first) and also lend a good sense of character.  By the time it turns into full-on action, there’s a much fuller sound and it’s a lot more satisfying because of it.

In “Medivh” there’s a nice dramatic sweep – nothing we haven’t heard before, for sure, but it does the job with a long-lined theme – a pity it’s an instantly-forgettable one.  The winds (I don’t know what they are – some sort of pan pipe variant, but played a lot more smoothly) are back in “Honour” and I like the ethereal sound Djawadi gets from them.  The whistling synth which appears only subtly in the background is a bit curious, the noble strings which rise above it more suggestive of classical dignity.

The bulk of the score is constructed from the building blocks established in those opening four cues.  My least favourite aspect is the darker action music, which isn’t as dominant as you might expect – the musical influence of the Dark Knight trilogy is evidently still going strong, and I just don’t like it (surely everyone’s bored of it by now) – fortunately there is a decent chunk of much less gloomy, fresher-sounding action as well.  The more tender moments don’t last as long, but they’re done well.  Admittedly a lot of the album does go in one ear and out the other and I can’t see myself returning to it much in future, but at the same time it’s frequently entertaining enough to keep you going and there are certainly worse ways of spending an hour of your time than listening to this.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Ryan (Reply) on Friday 17 June, 2016 at 20:44

    This review is longer than anticipated.

  2. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Tuesday 28 June, 2016 at 21:53

    Have just seen this movie, preceded by ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’. Both movies had such terrible reviews, that I’d programmed my mind not to be analytical, and to rather focus on the two scores. Independence Day’s music, surprisingly, made no impact — I’d recently listened to WANDER and KLOSER’S ‘10,000 B.C.’ and ‘Anonymous’ which featured a few great tracks, so I was expecting a Sci Fi score which suggested hostile aliens, with exciting & innovative orchestration. The 3rd installment in this franchise will hopefully have a more adventurous composer at hand > a benign extraterrestial makes an appearance, and is prepared to give our species the technology for Interstellar travel, wormholes and other miraculous devices – imagine a warlike xenophobic species, such as ours connecting with Aliens! ‘Warcraft’ with its combination of lethal sorcery…Middle World characters utilising mediaeval weaponry… and wormholes that flare open, allowing hordes of tusked, ugly and brutal humanoid aliens to enter an Earth-congruent planet, was a more interesting visual treat. And DJAWADI’S score was vibrant, and far more innovative than the mediocrity a lot of his fellow composers are churning out. It’s a pity that he was unable to provide a heroic theme with a memorable melody line, or quirkier music to underscore two unlikely lovers — a tusked, wild-looking alien female and a human warrior out of the Middle Ages. The ending [straight out of the Bible’s infant Moses being cradled and left to float down a river] suggests a sequel. I’m hoping RAMIN DJAWADI will be available for scoring sessions.