There are so many mythical ancient epics coming out that Brett Ratner’s Hercules came and went without anyone ever really paying attention to it. In fact, the only reason why fans might be even familiar with the title is because comic book legend Alan Moore urged people not to see it, due to the apparent lack of respect for the late Steve Moore (who created the comic the film is based on) and how his name was posthumously used against his wishes to promote this production. The film is reportedly not as bad as expected and delivers in spades of what lowest common denominator levels dictate. Which, in all honesty, is all one should expect from it.
Composer Fernando Velázquez came to worldwide attention a couple of years ago, when his talents were employed to score the Spanish-produced Tsunami epic The Impossible. That music, while curiously close to some of Ennio Morricone’s works, was generally well received and the composer’s name suddenly became recognisable in Hollywood. Following his fellow Spanish colleague Javier Navarrete, Fernando got to tackle an ancient special effect heavy epic next, but would the studio let traditional musical talent soar and elevate the picture?
The very beginning is promising. ‘Son of Zeus’ opens with shimmering strings and low brass, almost offering a hint of Golden Age glory. Soon the full orchestra and choir take over and things look well, probably too good to be true. Soon, however, the style turns slightly more modern, with powerful percussion and trailer-like power ostinatos. And this cue, if anything, is a good indicator whether listeners will enjoy what follows. While the orchestral foundation is there and present, the unfortunate merging of styles dilutes it considerably. The already solid compositional backbone certainly doesn’t need the guitars of ‘Pirate’s Ship’ to make an impact.
‘Arrival At Lord Coty’s City' seems to have been temp-tracked with one of Brian Tyler’s masculine themes from Iron Man 3 or Thor: The Dark World. In fact, all of Fernando’s compositions’ seem to match that style - somewhat reminiscent of the 1990’s Media Ventures strain of action scoring. Albeit, with an increased presence of an orchestra, as opposed to heavy domination of synthesizers.
‘Bessi’s Valley’ consists mostly of droning low underscore of suspenseful nature that doesn’t spark much interest on album. In the following track, things pick up considerably, with lengthy action piece finally making better use of acoustic instruments. The tiring but exciting piece marks the point when the album becomes more interesting for a listener. There is a moment of quiet pause (‘The Campfire’), but for the most part the remainder of music consists of loud and obnoxious battle sequences that seem to blend one into another.
Finally, the climactic pair of cues (‘Comrades Stand Together’ and ‘Alternative Ending’) offer a heroic anthems for our hero. The ‘End Titles’ unleashes the theme for Hercules in its most traditional form yet, with the orchestra finally taking over the material. As such, it is by the best piece on the lengthy album. The acapella ‘Choir Theme’ follows and ends the presentation on a positive and enjoyable note.
Whatever your opinion of Brett Ratner might be, he usually makes good musical decisions for his films - from the genius of employing Lalo Schifrin for his Rush Hour trilogy, to unleashing Danny Elfman in Red Dragon. He’s clearly not afraid of solid music that actually helps to shape a story. Sadly, Hercules is not one of those projects. Competent, but generically workmanlike. If studios are to employ traditional European composers to work on their wide releases, they better utilise them to their fullest potential. Otherwise, I’m afraid there is no real point. I’d rather have a generic musician tackle these modern blockbusters and not be disappointed by a genuinely good one wasting his time and talent.
Hercules is out now from Sony Classical