May 17, 2009
ANGELS & DEMONS music composed by Hans Zimmer
The Catholic Church should really learn to keep their mouths shut when it comes to something they disapprove of. By protesting a work of art or whatever you might call Dan Brown's Robert Langdon novels, they only made the general public more curious about the novels and it's in inevitable blockbuster film adaptations. The Catholic Church helped turn The Da Vinci Code, what should have only been a grocery store novel, into a worldwide best seller, with Harry Potter being the only book to outsell it in 2004. As of 2006, 60.5 million books were in print at a time and was rated 4 on the 101 Best Books Ever Written list...how? Blame the Catholics and the people who were curious what all the fuss was about. If that weren't enough, Ron Howard took it upon himself to direct Tom Hanks in a huge movie adaptation which only added fuel to fire for the Roman Catholic Church. By then you would have thought the Catholics would learn to shy away from any sort of protest of the film. They didn't and in doing so Howard's The Da Vinci Code film's opening weekend earned $77 Million worldwide, making it the seventh biggest movie opening in history to that date. By the end of year, after opening in May, The Da Vinci Code earned itself a staggering $758,239,851 worldwide. Inevitably, being Ron Howard's and Tom Hanks' most successful film at that time, a sequel was in the works. With no sequel actually written by Dan Brown, Columbia Pictures decided to work with Brown's previous novel, Angels & Demons which it's events occured before The Da Vinci Code, but they scratched that idea and in the film adaptation this story would come after.
Very much like the first film, Angels & Demons was attacked by the Catholic Church once again. This time around, I don't even think they reviewed the subject matter of the story, as Hanks' Langdon character aids the Catholic Church from attacks. I'm sure, Columbia pictures really didn't mind the controversy at all this time, as Angels & Demons has earned $152 million worldwide on it's opening weekend.
With Ron Howard and Tom Hanks having both returned for the film's sequel, it would only seem suiting to bring in The Da Vinci Code composer, Hans Zimmer, who received a Golden Globe nomination in 2007 for his original score. Zimmer is no stranger to the summer blockbuster score, with The Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy, The Rock, Gladiator and Batman Begins & The Dark Knight (with James Newton Howard) under his belt.
The Da Vinci Code was a powerful and extremely effective score that is probably one of Zimmer's better works from the past ten years. The original score's shining star was "Chevaliers de Sangreal", a beautifully textured string composition that told a story of wonder and discovery through the music only. With this being the most popular cue on the album, Zimmer decided to continue with that theme when it came time to score Angels & Demons. He decided to try things a little different this time around and enlisted the help of violinist Joshua Bell, who had just played for Zimmer's pal James Newton Howard on Defiance in 2008. Things were looking good for Zimmer's new project.
"160 BPM" opens the album with a bang. A synthetic rhythm quietly builds up, like something from Zimmer's own Batman scores, then things get intense in a apocolyptic way, with an interesting layering of intimidating choirs chanting back and forth against eachother like they're channeling Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. With the electric bass, the drum pad rushing past you and a frantic string section frantically trying to keep up, "160 BPM" is brand new to the Robert Langdon world, just not ours. As interesting as the choral work is, the cue offers nothing new to the score world and kind of wanders around aimlessly after the three minute mark. The dedicated score collector will recognize "160 BPM" as nothing more than an updated reworking of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (which was used as the theme for The Exorcist) or Goblin's theme for the 1977 horror cult-classic Suspiria.
The existing Robert Langdon theme is reintroduced briefly at the beginning of "God Particle" with Joshua Bell's hynotizing violin playing. This theme is all to brief, as Zimmer predictably dives into electronic ambience that can heard in almost all his scores from the past 10 years. Thankfully we are treated to a haunting solo piano at the tail of the five minute cue, which sounds almost as if it could have crawled right out of Zimmer's The Ring scores.
"Air" quickly establishes itself as one of the album highlights. Bell's violin plays in the cue, with a rich sound of loneliness and despair. A chilling chant slowly reverberates itself into the mix for a few moments and is suddenly cut-off by some of Zimmer's finest work to date for it's subtlety. It doesn't last for too long, as the choir and pounding percussion come in like they're ready to take on the gods...or God. The string work here is top-notch, displaying both sadness and intensity to perfection. Once again Zimmer finishes the cue off with a beautiful piano rendition of the main theme, played over some soft strings.
Nothing new is really introduced in "Fire". Infact it's a cue that shouldn't be a problem skipping. It's a simple, messy reworking of "160 BPM" only this time it's riddled with galloping drum pads, ridiculous electronics and church bells ringing to produce a more bombastic sound, which I guess will please any Zimmer fanboy prancing around in his mother's basement.
"Black Smoke" sneaks in almost unnoticed and I could only wish it had stayed that way, with it's electronic natterings that wouldn't be out of place in a Wesley Snipes film. Although there is some interesting drum and percussion work it's all too brief to really enjoy, especially over all the electric fluttering sounds.
After two incredibly lacking tracks, clocking in at about thirteen minutes combined, the album's biggest highlight is more than welcome, "Science & Religion". Zimmer once again playing it subtle, suceeds with a wonderul introduction from Bell's violin played over a sorrowful droning of synthetic woodwinds. The cue begins to build upon itself with a glimmer of hope and wonder, with Bell's playing still in the spotlight and a string section and synthetic angelic choir used to perfection. Around the eight and a half minute mark, Zimmer decides to revisit and rework the peaceful subtheme he uses at the ending of The Thin Red Line's Journey To The Line cue. As it introduced the cue, Bell's violins plays it out as well with a tenderness that begs the listener to actually think and not just listen.
"Immolation" is the biggest insult to the listener, especially coming after "Science & Religion". It's nothing but 3 and a half minutes of low bass drones rocking back and forth, which ultimately builds up to an angelic choir at the end, but still has nothing to really give the listener to think or care about.
"Election By Adoration" takes us back to a slower rendition of the "Chevaliers de Sangreal" theme, played like a violinist's requiem. Zimmer could have easily bowed out gracefully with this track....but, unfortunally he doesn't.
Along comes "503", which I suspect should have been the highlight of the score, but if comes off as forced and awkward. It's basically the original "Chevaliers de Sangreal" theme played weakly and watered down, with Joshua Bell's violin playing over top of it and I mean that when I say that. On paper it must have sounded like a great idea...the end product is not.
For the die-hard Zimmer/Angels & Demons fan, a bonus cue titled "H20" is available free of cost for downloading on the official Angels & Demons soundtrack website. For the casual fan, it's not worth the simple trouble and offers nothing new to the album.
In the end, Zimmer has written some wonderful cues for Angels & Demons and he has written some stark, electronic excuses for score music as well. For the more classical score collector, Angels & Demons will be a so-so album, with maybe 2 or 3 cues worth multiple listens. To the Zimmer fanboy or girl, I'm sure this album will be the talk of town for it's bombastic movie trailer like music and simply just the name Hans Zimmer (who's fans seem to pratically worship as a god). Although Angels & Demons is a continuation of The Da Vinci Code, Zimmer doesn't quite live up to the original's beauty and richness (with the exception of "Air" and Science & Religion"). Instead he goes for the safer, easier route of composing for the same people that believe The Dark Knight score is the new bible.
Up next for Zimmer, is Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, hopefully it will be more like the almost perfect Frost/Nixon (which his fans never seem to mention) and less like his countless list of bombastic action scores. With Frost/Nixon and a few moments on Angels & Demons, Mister Zimmer has proven that he can write quietly with grace...he just doesn't seem to want to do it.
* * * out of 5