300 is easily one of the most controversial and most hated scores of our generation. An uninitiated film score listener might be baffled by this - he (or she) may listen to the score and find it a not always pleasant, but certainly serviceable accompaniment to its film. And he or she would be right - could one ignore the existence of a certain avant-garde composer and his score to a certain Shakespearian film, 300 could be considered a serviceable, five-to-six-star score.
But Elliot Goldenthal
does exist, as does his genre-bending score for Titus and the track 'Victorious Titus', which is shamefully copied note for note and word for word into 300's 'Returns a King' cue, down to the slapping metallic percussive march that emerges from the massive choral chanting. This is not a gentle homage or a tip of the hat to the temp track - this IS the temp track. Only it's labeled as 'Music by Tyler Bates
' on the album cover. The word for this - no other words for it - heinous crime, is plagiarism. Add the fact that 'Remember Us', 300's last track, also references Titus heavily, and one can understand the disdain piled upon Bates by the film score community.
That said, even without the fact that this score breaks the law, it certainly isn't a fine musical work. When it isn't stealing from Elliot Goldenthal
, it's ripping off a variety of historical-epic score clichιs, most notably the 'wailing woman' idea pioneered by Hans Zimmer
in Gladiator, and utilized in both James Horner
and Gabriel Yared
's versions of Troy. This has never been a particularly pleasant device, and its laughably overused status doesn't make a track like 'Goodbye My Love' any easier to stomach.
But the wailing woman is among the classier instrumental touches used by Bates. Worse by far is the putrid heavy-metal and rock influence. It's relatively harmless in the better action cues, merely adding another layer of volume to tracks like 'To Victory', but when the electronic sound design, samples and drum loops take over in cues like 'The Wolf', 'The Agoge' or the absolutely intolerable 'Fever Dream', you'll be reaching for the off button with your right hand while you grope for a barf bag with your left. At best, it's like an entirely classless version of Hans Zimmer
's Black Hawk Down
, and even that was fairly unlistenable. And, of course, Black Hawk Down
is a modern war film, while 300 is a historical epic. It makes the action scenes look like rubbishy music videos (then again, the action scenes are directed like rubbishy music videos, so perhaps the fault is with the director rather than Bates).
At best, some of the tracks contain harmlessly pleasant, new-agey chord progressions ('Message for the Queen' is probably the best non-plagiarized track). But the fact that the two Goldenthal-based tracks far, far outstrip anything else the album has to offer says something about Tyler Bates
' skill as a composer. It's ironic, but the Titus plagiarism actually makes this album better. One can't ignore the fact, though, that somebody - whether Bates or the director - should have been prosecuted for this, and reading amazon.com reviews comparing this garbage to Howard Shore
's Lord of the Rings scores is a depressing reflection of mainstream demand in film scores. A blemish.
Read other recent reviews by Edmund Meinerts: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
, Johnny English Reborn