CD: Film Music of Hans Zimmer – Vol. 2, The (2011)

August 30, 2011 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label:  Silva Screen Records / Released: July 25, 2011

Tracks & Album Length:  CD1: 11 tracks / (51:20) + CD2: 12 tracks / (51:01)


Special Notes:  8-page booklet with liner notes by Michael Beek.


Composer: Hans Zimmer




With more than 20 years of scores under his belt, it’s possible to divide Hans Zimmer’s work into several stages, and Silva Screen’s first volume addressed the hits from his formative years, scoring blockbusters, bonehead action vehicles for Michael Bay, small audience-pleasing pictures, and themes that generally addressed the lighter side of humanity.

Vol. 2 isn’t dark per se – the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is pure popcorn – but most of the represented films cover Zimmer’s more interesting shift in scoring style, where he sits on deeply saturated chords, plays with minimalist figures, and shows a musical voice less concerned with accessible melodies.

The bombast that makes him unique among orchestral & electronic composers is still there, but it’s used with more precision and variation. Inception [M] (2010) and its progenitor, The Dark Knight (co-composed with fellow boom-master James Newton Howard in 2008), are perhaps his darkest scores, and they’re steeped in deep chords and massively thick levels of bass, but the electronic tools have become more varied, and the reliance of big sonic booms has waned – except in the popcorn realm.

As popular as the Pirates franchise is, musically, it’s all tied to a handful of brilliantly addictive themes, and a handful of themes & motifs reworked from a particular trio of older films – The Rock (1996), The Peacemaker (1997), and Crimson Tide (1995).

Pirates illustrates the dilemma that’s affected Zimmer since his mastery of the blockbuster sound: producers want it, directors know it’s what’ll make their film more accessible, and it’s easy to produce because its elements pre-exist, which is why the prior Pirates scores are derivative of the aforementioned action trio, and themselves (Jack Sparrow’s fiddle jig excepted).

The “Mermaids” theme from the latest On Stranger Tides is more unique because it falls under Zimmer’s current post-Dark Knight stage: less busy writing, and hyper-focusing on a specifically haunting mood.

That fixation on tense moods was present as far back as Paperhouse (1988), but Zimmer didn’t get another rich chance to explore it again until The Ring (2002), although credit has to be extended to the myriad co-composers who refined the beautiful minimalism motifs into the score’s chilling design.

To balance out the gloom of The Ring, the two Batman films co-scored with Howard, Inception, Angels & Demons (2009), and (amusingly) The Peacemaker, Silva’s 2-disc set includes themes from the three Pirates sequels, which function as more vivacious bridges towards additional themes from Madagascar (2005), Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron (2002), The Prince of Egypt (1998), and The Lion King (1994) – his populist endeavors.

There’s also the “Honor” theme from the HBO series The Pacific (2010), and the main theme from Sherlock Holmes (2009)– a better use of a simple, catchy theme than the Pirates films because the time period and idiosyncrasies of director Guy Ritchie’s style inspired Zimmer & his co-composers to use rustic fiddles and a cimbalom to brilliant effect. (Sherlock Holmes does fall into populist material, but it’s far less reliant on repeated and elongated theme statements than Pirates.)

Silva’s collection gathers a select series of themes re-recorded & performed digitally by London Music Works, some of which were previously released as digital EPs. 2004’s King Arthur (with its shades of Steve Jablonsky’s The Island) fares better among the 15 orchestral emulated selections that make up this 23 track set, whereas the remaining 8 (performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra) offer up some interesting arrangement of scores, such as chamber-based The Ring.

Each theme is given its full statement, and the lengths are often quite generous – often owing to Zimmer’s preference in developing themes from simple hooks.

Michael Beek’s lengthy liner notes provide a compact overview of Zimmer’s stature, and he diplomatically acknowledges the issues critics have expressed with Zimmer’s music-by-committee design that began with the formation of Media Ventures, and its new incarnation, Remote Control Studios.

Zimmer is a dynamic combination of mentor, tutor, protector, employer, and artist, and he’s unique in carrying those responsibilities for such a substantive group of graduating composers (of which the best-known are John Powell, Mark Mancina, and Ramin Djawadi). Commercially, he may be the ‘unrivalled composer king of Hollywood,’ but he’s still a controversial figure. Fortunately, within his massive canon, fans and critics have much to pick and choose for their own enjoyment.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDB Soundtrack Album Composer Filmography


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