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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Soundtrack (Hans Zimmer) - CD cover
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Release date: 12/13/2011 (Film release: 2011)
Label: WaterTower Music (0794043156199)
Sony Music Japan International (4547366064032)
Sony Classical EU (0886979789029)
Type: Movie
Listen: iTunes Amazon.com MP3 Amazon.fr MP3 Amazon.co.uk MP3 Amazon.de MP3
Format: CD, Download
Reviewers (5.50/10)
Members (6.46/10) (24 votes)
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1. I See Everything (0:39)
2. That Is My Curse Shadows – Part 1) (1:51)
3. Tick Tock Shadows – Part 2) (8:13)
4. Chess Shadows – Part 3) (7:34)
5. It’s So Overt It’s Covert (3:19)
6. Romanian Wind (1:56)
7. Did You Kill My Wife? (2:42)
8. He’s All Me Me Me (1:58)
9. The Mycroft Suite (1:41)
10. To the Opera!(incl. “Don Giovanni: A Cenar Teco” von Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) (4:03)
11. Two Mules For Sister Sara (Ennio Morricone) – Movie Screen Orchestra (2:34)
12. Die Forelle (Franz Schubert) – Ian Bostridge & Julius Drake (3:23)
13. Zu Viele Füchse Für Euch Hänsel (1:47)
14. The Red Book (4:00)
15. Moral Insanity (1:31)
16. Memories Of Sherlock (2:11)
17. The End? (2:26)
18. Romani Holiday (Antonius Remix) (5:40)
19. Shush Club#3 (Digital Bonus Track) (4:32)
20. Beautiful Eyes (Digital Bonus Track) (2:13)
21. Just Follow My Lead (The Waltz) (Digital Bonus Track) (4:45)

Total duration: 68 minutes
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Review of Edmund Meinerts, submitted at , score: 5/10
The new millenium has seen some decidedly mixed fortunes for the ever-controversial Hans Zimmer, producing a handful of scores that have even his most die-hard fans - and fans of Hans Zimmer really do die hard - questioning his moves. Inception was loved by many, but found incredibly dull by just as many. Kung Fu Panda 2, though excellent, was absolutely saturated with John Powell's musical voice - I'd be surprised if there was more than five minutes of original Zimmer material on that album. And Rango did manage to offer a few minutes of fun, quirky spaghetti Western homage, but was largely marred by a terribly produced album that was brief, featured many fragmented cues and was riddled by source dialogue and songs. The real stinker of the bunch, though, was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, a score that left me baffled, dissatisfied and bitterly, bitterly disappointed.

I've always been a fan of Hans Zimmer's, and he was my favorite composer for a long time. It's he who first got me hooked on film music, and he has created some undoubtedly brilliant music in the past. His run of poor form over the last few years, however, culminating in the lazy, rehashed, phoned-in On Stranger Tides, has led to a serious disillusionment. This brings us to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, a score that I tentatively approached with a make-it-or-break-it attitude: Would Zimmer finally deliver an enjoyable score? Or would I be treated to another frustrating album full of unnecessary source music, remixes and lazy rehashes from the previous Sherlock Holmes ?

Well, a word about the album first: it's rather a bizarre one in that it's highly compartmentalized. It opens with the bulk of the score's straight action material in four cues collectively termed 'Shadows', before shifting to five quirkier, ethnically saturated cues that recall the similar Gypsy-flavored material from the first score. Three source-like inclusions follow (two of which 'Zimmerified' adaptations of previous music), then another five regular score cues, and topped off by a remix at the end. To add even more confusion, three bonus cues are available for download via the CD's enhanced content. Zimmer's recent affinity for eclectic albums certainly shows no sign of abating.

The best thing to do is to discuss these sections' merits and weaknesses in turn, so nothing for it but to start at the beginning: the 'Shadows' cues. The first thing I noticed about this score is the brass contributions; they sound absolutely ATROCIOUS. Zimmer has always had a tendency to mix his brass with a thin-sounding synthetic edge, but never has it sounded so horrible and out-of-place as here. At least in Inception it was a stylistic choice; here, it's absolutely cringe-worthy. Fortunately, much of the action music is string- and percussion-driven (not to mention some bass woodwind writing, surprisingly dynamic for Zimmer), so that awful, cheap-sounding brass isn't a constant irritant, but in cues like 'That is My Curse (Shadows Part 1)', it's really bad. With that out of the way, the bulk of these two cues does actually feature some decent action writing, with 'Tick Tock (Shadows Part 2)' in particular conveying a sense of propulsive urgency. The ticking clock sound running through the second and third parts is a little gimmicky, but isn't too intrusive. Overall the action music is rather darker than in the first score and doesn't feature many references to the series' title theme; it's not as engaging as the lengthy 'Psychological Recovery: 6 Months' cue from Sherlock Holmes, but it's decently enjoyable - as long as that godawful brass stays out of the way!

Where this score does manage to excel beyond its predecessor is in the quirky, ethnic material, for which Zimmer flew out to Slovakia to meet and record with local performers. The pairing of 'It's So Overt, It's Covert' and 'Romanian Wind' will likely be the highlights for listeners less interested in Zimmer's bass-heavy, synthetically-'aided' action style. The former contains one of the sequel score's three full performances of the title theme with the first score's familiar accordeon, fiddle and banjo accents gracing a gradually accelerating oompah rhythm. The latter continues to accelerate, reaching an absolutely breakneck pace by the end. The absolute highlight of both these cues are the spirited clarinet and fiddle performances that dance up and down dizzying scales with nearly as much spirit as John Williams' The Terminal. 'Did You Kill My Wife' is an amusingly dour performance of the title theme's B phrase (best summarized in the final two minutes of the first score's 'Catatonic') by a brass quartet - you know, the sort you usually hear playing Christmas carols and raising money for the Salvation Army out in the street around this time of year. 'He's All Me Me Me' is the second full performance of the main theme, with eccentric fiddle improvisation over the top and, curiously, a snippet of studio dialogue between Zimmer and the Slovakian performer at the end. 'The Mycroft Suite' closes this portion of the album with a daintily mysterious (but ultimately silly) little woodwind march.

The next three cues represent the adaptation of previous material into this score, and range from redundant to outright painful. 'To the Opera' adapts the aria Don Giovanni a cenar teco m'invitasti' from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera Don Giovanni into an action cue, and to hear this gorgeous, delicately classical piece of music underpinned by the brute foghorn blasts of Zimmer's Inception-style brass is really quite hideous. Even worse is the addition of droning synthetic overlays to Franz Schubert's 'Die Forelle', which even distorts the singer's voice. Sandwiched in between these most unfortunate cues is a piece from Ennio Morricone's 1970 score Two Mules for Sister Sara, and while its quirky tone isn't too out of place within these scores (and Zimmer hasn't mutilated it), it's a somewhat pointless inclusion.

Thankfully, the real score starts up again afterwards, but there's nothing really remarkable left to tell. A few uneventful action cues are followed by an extremely sparse rendering of the theme's B phrase on honky-tonk piano and zither in 'Memories of Sherlock', before 'The End?' offers the score's final main theme statement in a full, slightly-altered reprise of the first score's 'Discombobulate' cue. The 'Antonius Remix' that follows, 'Romani Holiday', is nowhere near as insufferable as any of the seven included on the score album for On Stranger Tides, and retains cohesion with the rest of the score thanks to the carrying over of the gypsy elements, but it's too long for its own good and likely to be skipped by most score fans. Apparently, Zimmer failed to realize after On Stranger Tides that the vast majority of his fanbase simply isn't interested in these remixes.

The three bonus cues that follow are not really worth much fuss. 'Shush Club #3' and 'Beautiful Eyes' are further evidence that Zimmer had a lot more fun flying to Slovakia to have jam sessions with local musicians than he did composing new material for the score proper, and will both remind of the somewhat obnoxious 'I Never Woke Up in Handcuffs Before' cue from the original Sherlock Holmes. Somewhat more interesting is the waltz in 'Just Follow My Lead', which begins as a fairly standard affair but spins off into ominous waters halfway through, even ending on a few chords reminiscent of Gladiator. This would be rather impressive if it wasn't for the fact that Zimmer (aided by Klaus Badelt) pulled a similar trick in the cue 'Gourmet Valse Tartare' from Hannibal.

So, in the end, where does all this leave us? Unfortunately, somewhat disappointed. Zimmer has managed to avoid repeating the disaster of the most recent score in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but it's a tentative step forward only, not a giant leap. This new score doesn't even feature any proper new theme for Holmes' archnemesis Moriarty (or, indeed, at all). There's a vague low-register figure heard at the outset of 'Tick Tock (Shadows Part 2)' and again in 'The Red Book', but that's just an inversion of the Cutler Beckett ostinato from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - not exactly a satisfying new identity, not even as interesting as the Westminster Chimes motif used in the first score.

What Zimmer desperately needs to do is realize that he is a film composer first, and a fosterer of talent second. These recent score albums all feature a mind-boggling array of different artists (and that's not even getting into the whole ghostwriter issue), whether in performance, composition or (sigh) remixing duties. What Zimmer is trying to do is certainly admirable in spirit, but if the scores that result from these mega-collaborations continue to be as disjointed and unsatisfying as they have been of late, I can see even his unusually large and unusually devoted fanbase start to drift away.

Still, it's far from being a complete loss. Some of the action music, particularly 'Tick Tock (Shadows Part 2),' is enjoyable enough, and it's hard not to appreciate the spirit of a few of the ethnic pieces. Overall, if you enjoyed the first score, here's a lot less of the same.

Read other recent reviews by Edmund Meinerts: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Johnny English Reborn, Illusions

Review of Jason FLZ, submitted at , score: 6/10
After the successful venture into the world of Holmes (in 2009)it was obvious that audiences and studios were hungry for more adventures. This could be attributed to the masterful script, excellent direction by Guy Ritchie, a wonderful cast, and an impressive score to boot. Hans Zimmer's work for Sherlock Holmes was definitely a step outside the composers' usual comfort zone. It contained an eclectic mix of jaunty Irish pub music, gypsy instruments, and a clever action environment. To sum it up, Zimmer nailed Holmes.

On Game of Shadows, Zimmer returned to the scene with not only the same elements as last time, but an additional recording group of Slovakian musicians and an even better knowledge of the time period represented. Still, there was some hesitation among fans regarding the score. After Zimmer failed miserably with not only Rango but the fourth Pirates installment, there was concern over whether he could bring back the creative force which propelled the first Holmes film.

There are 2 primary new ideas introduced for this installment, both opening the album in the lengthy (and connecting) 'Shadow Suites'. First is Moriarty's theme, a subdued idea usually played out on woodwinds. While subtle, the theme lacks the strength of Blackwood's idea from the first film. Secondly introduced is the main 'action' idea for the score. While not as prevalent as Moriarty's theme it does manage to sustain itself for most of 'Tick-Tock' and is far more memorable. Sadly though, neither idea nor any of the action tracks really do hold a candle to the previous score. It all just sounds tired and generic, a trait that has plagued Zimmer since Inception. Aside from the Shadow cues, there are also some additional tracks that further expand the ideas introduced but, outside of 'Moral Insanity', it's nothing worth writing about.

While the action tracks make up a lengthy part of the album, the main display here is the Gypsy music. Much like 'On Stranger Tides', most of the music presented on the album regarding the Slovakian source cues doesn't actually end up in the film. While it's a nice touch to add some culture to the score, Zimmer's well intentioned efforts come across as more of a marketing ploy and an excuse not to include music actually HEARD in the film on album. Still, to be fair, the source cues are nice. 'Romanian Wind' is a fast paced dance piece, 'It's So Overt It's Covert' is a fun take on the Holmes theme, and so on. While unnecessary, one of the cues even contains some studio noise of (Zimmer?) talking to one of the musicians. You can either take it as sloppy or clever.

The third element to the score extends to the straight up source pieces heard in the film. 'To The Opera' takes a rendition of Don Giovanni and adds score elements like a powerful intro fanfare and the secondary action motif to close it out. Purists will hate it but, in my personal opinion, it is one of the better things actually on album. Likewise is the 'Die Forelle' cue, with layers dissonant horror, suspense, and loud stingers over a nice recording of the song. The Vienna Blood Waltz even receives it's own makeover. 'Two Mules For Sister Sara' is the only one left untouched, thank god. It's a decent recording as is.

Last but not least comes the returning music from the previous entry. A number of themes do make their way into Game of Shadows, although Zimmer never does go overboard with reusing previous ideas ala 'On Stranger Tides'. Of Course, first up are both phrases of the Sherlock theme which do receive minor treatment throughout the score and Gypsy pieces before closing off with familiar renditions in 'Memories of Sherlock' and 'The End?'. Also, curiously enough, Blackwood's idea is also brought back in 'Chess' and 'The Red Book'. It may be to represent Moriarty as well, but still might cause head scratching for those who notice it. Another idea heard in the first score (heard throughout 'Is It Poison, Nanny') makes a return, seemingly also representing Moriarty. Regardless, the return of the Holmes themes is nice even though they never do receive the attention they deserve or even receive a makeover.

Overall, A Game of Shadows is certainly not the mess it could have been. The biggest faults lie with the fact that music is just unmemorable this time around. There are no strong themes worth humming or thinking about. The album presentation doesn't help either. Once again Zimmer sacrifices a majority of the film's true score in favor of suites and source tracks that actually have nothing to do with the film. About a quarter of the music heard in the movie is actually featured here, and at times they aren't even the same. Worth mentioning are three bonus tracks added on which extend the Slovakian feel but do little to actually improve the album. A Game of Shadows is a major let-down, not because the score is bad (although it is forgettable), but because of the standards it had to live up to and the presentation of the music overall. Zimmer fans may enjoy it at face value but, for everyone else, it's a pass.


Read other recent reviews by Jason FLZ: Man of Steel, The Thing, The Hunger Games

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