Sunday, April 26, 2015

Film Score of the Week: Robin Hood--Prince of Thieves, by Michael Kamen (1991)

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is one of my favorite movies from childhood. As an adult, I recognize that it's at least partially terrible. The script is questionable at best, and the acting--across the board--deserves its own wing in the Terrible Hall of Fame. The movie is also way too long, and pretty much fails at tone. 

But! Robin Hood has two major things going for it that effectively disguise it as almost a good movie: some really great production and costume design, that straddles at a perfect crossroads between myth and history, and a score that's so great that it creates emotional resonance where story and acting failed to do so. 

The opening credits fly through most of the score's major themes in just over two minutes. There's the great "Hey, this is important stuff!" crescendo from about 0:20-0:38, the sweet action trumpets riff that kicks in at 0:52, and the romantic theme that uncomfortably reminds me of Bryan Adams, which weasels its way in briefly at the 1:10 mark. All three parts work for what the movie is selling. The action theme is Indiana Jones-like, the dramatic crescendo feels mythic, and the Bryan Adams bit is like proto-Titanic in all of the worst/best ways. Taken together, it's a score that succeeds at an A+ level in everything it tries to do. 

Before this, Michael Kamen was mostly known for orchestrating rock music pieces like Pink Floyd's The Wall, and scoring both the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard franchises, which actually had very effective scores for what they were trying to do. Later, he became perhaps best known (at least to some demos) as the conductor on Metallica's S&M (Symphony & Metallica) album. Kamen received an Oscar nomination for this film, but not for the score; it was for co-writing the interminable Bryan Adams song "(Everything I Do) I Do it for You." Four years later, Kamen received another Oscar nomination for co-writing another Bryan Adams film theme, this time for Don Juan DeMarco. So for those keeping track at home, Kamen received 2 Oscar nominations for Bryan Adams songs, but zero for his film scores. That sentence pretty much captures everything wrong with the Academy's music branch. 

Sadly Kamen died in 2003 at just 55 years old, but his work lives on. 


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