Soundtrack Review: The Three Musketeers (Paul Haslinger)

The Three Musketeers

Paul Hasinger

Rating: ** out of *****

The 2011 reboot/re-envisioning of The Three Musketeers was always destined to be an oddity, venturing as it does into the realm of steampunk and alternate realities – and idea that is admittedly entertaining, though poorly suited for an adaptation of Dumas’ classic novel. Particularly when The Three Musketeers hasn’t yet seen a decent adaptation. The early 90s adaptation by Disney was more comical than interesting, before the 1998 Man in the Iron Mask with DeCaprio and Jeremy Irons turned the material into a laughing stock. More recently, in 2001, Dumas got another poor reboot in the form of The Musketeer.

The music of these previous offerings were also mixed bags. The late Michael Kamen’s score to the early 90s offering was lackluster at best. Nick Glennie-Smith’s music for The Man in the Iron Mask was something of an improvement, but was mostly just the adventurous Media Ventures/Hans Zimmer sound. The Musketeer‘s score was written by the classically trained and versetile David Arnold; unfortunately the music suffered from a very strange main theme that is actually John Williams’ Superman theme performed backwards.

Alas, Paul Haslinger’s contribution to the string of Musketeer attempts won’t set any records in improvement, and may be an example of regressing. The score is split into two categories: there is generic Zimmer-esque action and filler cues, and then there are the cues which are clearly derivative of the temp tracks the director put over the film – so derivative in fact that you can still identify the temp cue put into the film – all performed by a languid and rather lifeless studio orchestra, and then modified with electronic and synthesized orchestration. The result is the transformation of the real orchestra into sounding as though it were entirely synthesized.

The score is, then, hardly original and could easily be mistook for the original pieces it shamelessly mimics. For instance, there is a clear adaptation of Jack Sparrow’s theme from Pirates of the Caribbean in “Special Delivery for the King” and “Do You Know Who I Am?”, as well as “Boys Will Be Boys.” The eccentric, comedy motif, often performed on accordion, is a direct derivation from the zany “I’ve Never Woken Up in Handcuffs Before” cue on the  Sherlock Holmes score. In fact, the Sherlock Holmes main theme appears without much alteration in several cues, including a major performance in “A Chance of Escape.” Much of the action music seems to have been written to match Trevor Rabin’s Armageddon score, including a highly Rabin-esque main theme for the film showcased in obvious form in “Only Four Men” (where it appears coupled with the huge, pulsating bass notes of Inception) and appears throughout the album. The cue “If You Insist” is heavily dependent upon Rabin’s Deep Blue Sea score for its inspiration. “Concealed Weapons Tango” is an electronic derivative of the Spanish guitar cues from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, while “You Should Have Apologized To My Horse!” borrows the rumbling bass notes from Inception yet again. “Rochefort Ante Portas” combines the rapid string motif from Batman Begins and the thundering choir and percussion arrangements from Crimson Tide.

The rest of the score is a scattered collection of generic cues that utilizes several simple and unsatisfying themes Haslinger developed for the film. None of the music is particularly disappointing in the sense of being bad, but it is all simplistic chord progressions and derivatives of other scores that work much better. This may be the score’s biggest flaw; it showcases vastly superior scores with blatant and brash bravado and in the face of such memorable music Haslinger’s modifications come across as greatness’s second cousin, three times removed from the family. If the score had simply tried to be generic it may have been a more enjoyable listening experience, as the listener would not be constantly reminded of better scores in every other cue, a comparison with which Haslinger’s offerings come across as nothing but cotton candy and fluff. As it is, clinging so desperately to other structures and cues, there is no room provided for Haslinger’s own music to breathe.

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