The last Sherlock Holmes adventure that I went to see at the cinema was the fairly lack lustre and whimsical YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, which contained a large expansive and luxuriously vibrant and dramatic score by then relative new comer Bruce Broughton. The score in my opinion being far superior to the actual film that is was intended to enhance. Broughton pulled out all of the stops and created a powerhouse of a soundtrack that has delighted collectors of film music for many a year.
The latest Sherlock Holmes outing is directed by Guy Ritchie and stars Robert Downey and Jude Law in the roles of Holmes and Watson respectively. The score is by Hollywood’s busiest composer Hans Zimmer, and has been a hotly anticipated work in the soundtrack collecting fraternity. Zimmer in the past has been heavily criticised for the way in which he approaches the scoring of movies, and also for his practise of supervising rather than actually composing music for a film and setting up of Zimmer clones in the form of Mancina, Powell, Baldet and the like but after this being said the composer has been involved with numerous blockbusters over the past ten years or so, and has also put his musical stamp upon a number of less high profile projects in that time such as THE HOLIDAY,GREEN CARD and RADIO FLYER. With the likes of GLADIATOR, THE PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN TRILOGY, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2, BACKDRAFT, BATMAN BEGINS etc etc all benefiting from Zimmer’s at times Wagner-esque musical support and embellishment. SHERLOCK HOLMES too has a strong and effervescent musical accompaniment. The composer making excellent use of cimbalom and combining this with melodic underlying layered and also frenzied strings, Gypsy or Yiddish type violin which is played or plucked frantically, a bar or saloon piano and the odd excursion on accordion in certain cues to create a jaunty almost oddball sounding central theme. This at times is elevated into a highly dramatic and grandiose one, best demonstrated in the opening track and also tracks number 6 and 7.
The score is certainly energetic and full of pulsating and powerful motifs and musical passages, but original, well I have to reserve opinion on that. Is it me or do I detect here within the score more than a gentle nod in the direction of Maestro Ennio Morricone? Now be careful Hans we all know what happened on Gladiator, Mr Holst’s relatives were not that pleased were they! OK, the composer has supplied the work with a core theme that is original enough but it is some of the other cues that I seem to be familiar with, when I say familiar, I don’t mean that they are exact replicas of what are heard within in other scores, but the idea is there and Zimmer to me has blatantly used the framework of Morricone’s ideas and decreased the tempo at points or added a note here and there and obviously has orchestrated them differently but the themes or fragments of them are still present. Track 4 for example could easily be CHEYENNE from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, its just minus the whistling by Alessandroni. Zimmer even introducing a banjo which is played in unison with the cimbalom. Also there are certain noticeable similarities between the now iconic chimes from FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the opening on track number 10 chimes being replaced by sliding strings. Then mid way through track 12 there is a definite albeit brief reference to THE HARMONICA MAN opening strains. It is a good thing that composers are influenced by masters such as Morricone, but this is I think taking things a bit too far, Zimmer does attempt to disguise the familiar notation, but any worthy Morricone fan will spot it a mile off. Maybe it is intentional. But somehow I don’t think so. I found myself listening for similarities to Morricone throughout, which I must admit kind of blurred my listening experience.