Rating: *** out of *****
I have been a fan of Trevor Morris ever since his excellent scores for The Tudors television show began to air, so I was naturally a bit surprised and pleased that he had been signed to score The Immortals, a 300-esque knockoff exploiting various elements of Greek mythology for slow-motion battle scenes. Though a graduate of the Remote Control/Media Ventures/Hans Zimmer sound, Morris made a name for himself by composing complex and artistically nuanced work that did not sound like a direct cue-for-cue Hans Zimmer clone mindlessly churning out bombast.
Naturally the score to The Immortals would lean more in the direction Tyler Bates took its precursor, 300 – that is to say, nowhere in particular. That score was as empty as a tin can along a Kansas highway, failing to have even much style or memorability for all its thumping. This same trajectory is to be detected in Morris’ score, though he deserves credit for resisting as much as he can, given the limitations given to him. While the score is not complex, it does have a certain depth and occasionally recaptures some of the ethereal majesty of The Tudors. It is hampered, unfortunately, by its own material. An incoherent script does not lend itself to cohesive scoring; as a result, the score lacks any real unifying principle or main anthem – or even recurring motif. There is one generic three-note motif for Poseidon that is completely unmemorable and frequently missed as part of the rest of the underscore’s progression. This makes the score a fragmented succession of cues that are mostly unrelated to one another, brought together and played in a row almost by historical accident than by intentional organization. Some of the cues are even quite lovely, reaching to heights of ethnic instrumentation and the tingling magic of many cues in The Tudors, though it is mostly unable to get over that line from stylish cacophony to cohesive thematic material.
There is absolutely nothing here that we have not heard before, Morris using familiar Zimmer-esque ostinato strings for various intense moments, the villainous motif undercut by a series of same-note thundering blasts from deep in the brass section, often combined with the classic Zimmer bass choir. The softer and romantic sections are simplistic string progressions which serve their scenes well and satisfy, but only slightly. The action cues are full of ruckus and thundering crashes, and tense, driving ostinato string chopping, fare that you would expect to find in most any blockbuster film these days. There are blatant imitations of Zimmer’s Angels and Demons in “Immortal Combat,” and “Sky Fight.”
To his credit, Morris is able to transcend the stereotypical progression in a number of the cues that seem to breathe new life into a rapidly stagnating sound. The intelligent and layered use of choir and electric cello were nice touches to the score, and he allowed his infectious energy to shine in the penultimate, “Do Not Forsake Mankind,” which so totally broke the mode of scoring to that point you almost wish the director had made him take the ideas there and turn them into the emotional and thematic core of the music. Alas, it is too little, too late to prove a full redemption of the score (though it hardly hurts it).
All in all, the music is enjoyable and proves a better-than-average romp which is frequently fun and noisy, likely to please the new score collector. Yet for those of us veteran listeners a truly great score must have more than style and pomp; it must have cohesion and a satisfying array of themes and leitmotifs that bind the music into a unit, gradually building and coming to a climax in the conclusion of the score. On this side of things, The Immortals is all too lacking.