The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has definitely been well received by critics and fans alike. Even though the first installment, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, performed fairly well when it premiered, it lacked many of the directional elements that had made Andrew Adamson such a renowned animation director. Obviously, he had to adapt to a different cinematic milieu but, even so, some critics and fans were still disappointed. Harry Gregson-Williams composed a solid score for that movie, but, unfortunately, it lacked thematic presence and continuity. This time, his focus centered on clear and majestic themes and overall action-packed orchestrations, which proved to be the right move. Aside from the fact that this release does not include the complete score, the music we get to hear is very impressive. Sadly, Gregson-Williams is not expected to be the composer for the next installment of the Narnia series. Nonetheless, he leaves us with a great film score.
Although not the most outstanding introductory piece ever written by Gregson-Williams, “Prince Caspian Flees” is an entertaining piece filled with the usual string ostinatos one would expect from this composer. We do hear indications of an impressive overall theme — later becoming more dominant in the score — that at times reminds us of James Newton Howard’s score for Vertical Limit. Moreover, some of the harmonies and orchestrations used by Gregson-Williams are reminiscent of the ones he used for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.
The dominant presence of the woodwind section in “The Kings and Queens of Narnia” is evident, starting with the English horn and oboe lines, which give away to a beautiful theme played by the entire orchestra. Though, as we here this theme played by the strings, there is a constant run down pattern played by the piccolo, which, in turn, seems a little bit obtrusive.
“Journey to the How” begins as a more atmospheric piece relying heavily on harps and phrases played by woodwinds with accompanying string lines that lack orchestral development. In the second part of this piece, we hear some ostinato patterns very similar to the ones John Powell used in The Bourne Identity. More importantly, many of the muted trumpets and harmonies played by the brass are comparable to the ones Michael Giacchino used in the Medal of Honor series.
“Arrival at Aslan’s How” has the usual chord progressions associated with Gregson-Williams. These progressions — which rely heavily on suspended chords — were used extensively in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, so any listener will quickly discover the parallelisms. Overall, they work great both on screen and off screen, but there is very little original material within them.
“Raid on the Castle” could arguably be categorized as a ‘Powellesque’ piece. After all, it is impossible not to notice how similar the electronic rhythms and the staccato lines played by the strings are to Powell’s Bourne Identity score. Surprisingly, this piece evolves nicely and has enough energy to satisfy any listener during seven minutes; but, unfortunately, it just seems as a mixture of Media Ventures’ sounds and styles. Aside from Powell’s influence, we hear some sounds more characteristic of Hans Zimmer, Trevor Rabin, and even Mark Mancina. It is hard to pinpoint with accuracy every musical influence Gregson-Williams acquired while working under Zimmer’s supervision, but the similarities are there and people will quickly identify them.
“Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance” is made up of about 95% atmospheric material, mostly relying on dark overtones and harmonies. Luckily, towards the end, we do hear the usual musical phrases containing choirs and rhythms that are characteristic of modern movie trailers’ music. While, overall, this is a somewhat less energetic piece, the orchestrations are never weak or thin.
In “The Duel,” Gregson-Williams attempts to introduce an 8-note motif with the brass section; however, the motif is only used a couple of times and never expands significantly to be considered a major theme. Without a doubt, “The Duel” is one of the weakest pieces in the score. For the most part, the drums and a few instruments occupy most of the acoustic space; alas, only a few parts have interesting musical phrases. Nonetheless, none of these are important enough to alter the overall character of this track. “The Armies Ensemble”, on the other hand, maintains sufficient intensity throughout its short duration that most listeners will definitely enjoy. Unfortunately, there is no real originality in terms of the orchestrations or build-ups — the music is very predictable.
“Battle at Aslan’s How” again showcases some of the Media Ventures’ style parallelisms mentioned before. Still, this track is one of the best in this score. We get to hear most of the themes Harry Gregson-Williams composed for this movie, which are powerful and very exciting but not particularly memorable. More noticeably in this track, however, are the string lines which mimic some of the ones Stu Phillips composed for his TV scores. Although used sparingly by Gregson-Williams, they do remind you of the latter composer. Ultimately, “Return of the Lion” and “The Door in the Air” can be categorized as the most thematically driven tracks of this album. In these tracks, the themes become more apparent and recognizable. It goes without saying that these last tracks have the most emotion and sentimentality attached to them.
The last four tracks on this album are all songs by different artists. Not surprisingly, these songs are nothing more than money-making marketing gimmicks. Having said that, “The Call” is a nice song that has the beautiful and interesting voice of Regina Spektor. The music is very simple, but the song is equally pleasing. It is hard to see this song as appropriate for the film, but on this album the song is a nice addition. “A Dance ‘Round the Memory Tree”, however, is nowhere near as enjoyable as “The Call,” nor is it a good song for the album. Of course, “This is Home,” by Switchfoot, is a well-constructed song; but again, its place on the album is purely commercially motivated. Finally, “Lucy” is the last song and last track of the soundtrack. This song is extremely boring, dry, and monotonous. It is a shame that this CD had to end with this track.
On the whole, the score by Gregson-Williams is a solid musical effort. Neither the overall score nor the themes within it are exceptional or brilliant, but the consistency throughout the CD is excellent — making it a very enjoyable listening experience. Even though at times we identify Zimmer’s and Powell’s influence on this score, the overall tones, harmonies, and orchestrations are all very particular of Gregson-Williams. The songs at the end of the CD do harm the general listening experience but, fortunately, one can listen to tracks 1 through 12 with no disruptions by any type of song. Harry Gregson-Williams is sure to please those fans that were disappointed with the score for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Expect a handful of interesting motifs and themes, action-packed orchestrations, and overall solid musical compositions.
Read other recent reviews by Oscar Flores: These Amazing Shadows
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