Friday, December 07, 2007

The Golden Compass by Alexandre Desplat - First Impressions

The Golden Compass by Alexandre Desplat: First Impressions
THE GOLDEN COMPASS has been one of the most anticipated films of the year. For New Line, it has been heavily invested in and so has huge expectations attached to it. Same goes for fans of the books.

For that band of film music folk, there has been a little trepidation in awaiting ALEXANDER DESPLAT's score. He has excelled with his minimalist style for films like THE PAINTED VEIL or THE GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING, and, along with AARON ZIGMAN delivered an exemplorary effort for MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM, but just how would he do for a big, fantasy flick?

Yes...I heard a spattering of the score here and there prior to seeing the film, but now that I have experienced Desplat's music in context...I'll just come out and say it. I'm disappointed...and in a major way. It certainly doesn't help that the movie was only "ok" at best. Don't get me wrong. The first half of the film is a visual feast, but once we hit the "north," things really take a turn for the worst. It's at times like these that a score can come to the rescue of a mediocre film...but it just doesn't happen in THE GOLDEN COMPASS.

Truthfully, what I have heard of JAMIE CHRISTOPHERSON's score for THE GOLDEN COMPASS game engages me much more. Christopherson may have utilized themes from Desplat's music (I didn't immediately recognize any though), but if so, somehow, they are more interesting via his arrangements.

The big moments of the film (the ice bear fight, the end battle) all have big music...but I was left wanting much, much more than I received. In fact, even as I write this, not one single theme, not one sequence, remains in my mind. Check that. There is one thing that does remain: Kate Bush's end credit song "Lyra." A saving grace? Sorry. It's even worse than Idina Menzel's "A Hero Comes Home" from the BEOWULF soundtrack. Still with those names attached to those disappointing diddies, I'm betting they will both find there way to the land of Oscar Nom.

I almost feel sorry for fantasy-franchises these days. The genre has almost been ruined by Howard Shores seminal work for the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Since 2003, no other franchise has come anywhere close in terms of the film or its score. Not HARRY POTTER. Not THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. Not THE GOLDEN COMPASS.

In the short term, I think New Line will be alright with the box office returns, but I'm not so sure about the success of sequels. Fans of the books have already made their outcry against the changes made and I'm uncertain just how many new fans the film will bring to the books. Perhaps the score will be more entertaining on its soundtrack release...I'm really hoping it will. Until then, my attention looks forward to I AM LEGEND and beyond...

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