on June 19, 2012
Why, oh why, is there always some controversy regarding the musical scores for films by the great Ridley Scott? This is of course an exaggerated question, but it is often the case and the music for Scott's notable production of "Prometheus" is no exception here. This is an outstanding film that works in every way on the screen (and it begs for a sequel...soon!). And indeed the music is fine...on the screen, but is cut a bit short on the album. The first problem emerges on the soundtrack recording which seems to be missing some of the most memorable music from the film; then slowly reality sets in. What is clearly the main theme in the score as seen on the screen appears only in one cut (with minor appearances elsewhere,"We Were Right," and "Earth"): "Life," because it was not written by the primary artist here, Marc Streitenfeld, but by Harry Gregson-Williams who is simply credited as having contributed "additional music". In the end it is certainly more than that. Now to complain loudly of missing music is only partially warranted because the theme is in fact on the soundtrack just not in the manner it appears in the film and certainly not in a form representative of how often it is heard in the film. On the screen this is a significant part of the music, perhaps even the "main theme" and it works very well throughout the film. This is not to diminish the contribution of Strietenfeld, and indeed most of the score (and some 85% of the soundtrack) is his and it is very effective in the final production. There is also one minor appearance of Jerry Goldsmith's original music for "Alien," which would have been just fine as an homage, but it appears with the introduction of the old industrialist ("Friend from the Past") that we are led to believe is dead and therefore is something of an odd touch. Why the soundtrack album has so little of Gregson-Williams' music is a puzzlement, especially given how important it is at the beginning, some key points, and the end of the film. But it is represented here and that is that, as they say. With the mystery of the "missing" music solved, one can then press on and focus on what is on the album and it too is good stuff, but it would have been nice to have most of the full score even if it would need to be credited to two composers. Nicely produced and packaged by Sony.
OK, it's not Alien or Aliens, but that aside I actually really like this soundtrack. One of the first things I listen for in evaluating a soundtrack is whether there's a memorable theme. I found the beginning theme in Prometheus quite memorable. I apologize as I'm not an expert in music so I can't describe the notes, but you'll recognize a distinctive theme pretty early on.
The theme used throughout the soundtrack and is rearranged slightly to convey different moods. Personally, having just seen the movie, I thought it adds a lot to the film. There aren't as many dark or scary themes, but then again Promtheus isn't really a horror movie like Alien. Rather, the music is haunting and conveys a sense of discovery gone wrong.
While Prometheus the movie IS kind of a prequel to Alien (despite what Ridley Scott says), the music IS NOT. The soundtrack doesn't even have the same DNA as the Alien or Aliens music. However, as I said, I love it and think in terms of quality it's one of the better new movie soundtracks I've heard in recent years. I'd recommend watching the movie first to see if you like the soundtrack.
I feel as if Marc Streitenfeld has been under the industry microscope ever since he became Ridley Scott's go-to composer. He has never done a score without Ridley being involved in some fashion. His only two non-Ridley directed films are Welcome To The Riley's and The Grey; both are produced by Ridley Scott. Never has the microscope been more focused than for Prometheus; undoubtedly the biggest score of his career so far. I never had any doubts, but some people did. Then word got out that Harry Gregson-Williams had to come in to help with additional music. Why is this a big deal for many? I have no idea. The result is an absolutely masterful effort on Streitenfeld's part only enhanced by the grandiose wonder Harry brought to the table.
Prometheus' score is such a complex soundscape of different layers, tones and melodies that all blend into this mysteriously wonderful terror. It's clear that Harry was brought in to give the film some big cosmic and existential theme, which is what he did. A theme that is referenced a few times throughout the film. It serves as an anchoring point but it blends so perfectly with what Streitenfeld did. Clearly Streitenfeld and Harry worked together on this one as you can hear this motif in the track "Earth", which is credited to Streitenfeld. So to say that Harry "rescued" the film is completely inaccurate. The other 99% of the score by Streitenfeld is dark, brooding and at times thrilling. The music builds on you and is never boring. The score is structured almost perfectly and in the film it plays such a major role as music always does in a Ridley Scott film. The subtle undertones work very well as do the big overt cues. The film is driven by the score and as a musically conscious viewer I felt this score working over me every step of the way. It builds such a solid universe and it feels brand new. Streitenfeld references Jerry Goldsmith's Alien theme ever so slightly in "Friend From The Past"; a perfect track title.
Prometheus is a splendid wonder of brilliant scoring. It hits all the right beats and shows how talented the young Marc Streitenfeld is when it comes to hitting the right emotions. Harry's wondrous theme doesn't steal the show as some people may lead you to believe. It serves as a perfect accent to the already masterful score. Prometheus is a richly composed score that holds this great beast of a film together.
on June 21, 2012
Prometheus sees the eagerly-awaited and highly anticipated return to the Alien franchise of director Ridley Scott, whose groundbreaking science fiction films in the late 1970s and early 80s help shaped the genre as we know it today. While not a direct prequel to his 1979 masterpiece, the film does take place before the events of that classic film, and within the same general universe. However, whereas the original Alien was essentially a haunted house movie in space, Prometheus asks bigger questions about the meaning - and origins - of life itself. Noomi Rapace and and Logan Marshall-Green star as a pair of scientists who, via some ancient cave paintings, discover a "star map" which they think will lead them across the universe to where life on Earth began. Years later, the pair arrive on a distant planet with a cadre of associates funded by the Weyland corporation: icy administrator Charlize Theron, ship's captain Idris Elba, geologist Rafe Spall, biologist Sean Harris, plus a sentient android named David, played with clinical conviction by Michael Fassbender. However, upon their arrival and initial forays onto the planet, the team find much more than they anticipated, and a great deal of danger.
The Alien franchise has a storied and impressive musical heritage, from Jerry Goldsmith on the original Alien, through James Horner on Aliens, Elliot Goldenthal on Alien 3, and John Frizzell on Alien Resurrection, as well as Brian Tyler and Harald Kloser on the Alien-Predator crossovers. It must have been a daunting task for German composer Marc Streitenfeld to step into this arena, not only with the weight of previous composers to consider, but with the added pressure of Prometheus being one of the most highly anticipated films in years. Having only scored seven films since making his debut in 2006, there was really nothing in his filmography to suggest that he had the composing chops necessary to step up to the task, and unfortunately this proves to be true. His score is a murky, surprisingly pedestrian orchestral/electronic hybrid which clearly tries to pick up the mantle of his predecessors, but has nowhere near the technical or compositional excellence that Goldsmith, Horner and Goldenthal brought to their orchestral/electronic hybrids.
In fact, it seems that Streitenfeld's music actually suffered a similar fate to that of his peers. It is well-known that at least three of the prior composers had terrible experiences writing their Alien scores: Ridley Scott replaced much of Jerry Goldsmith's score with classical pieces and re-arranged the rest out of sequence; James Horner and James Cameron almost came to blows on the scoring stage of Aliens, and Elliot Goldenthal suffered so much studio interference that his Alien 3 score was altered beyond recognition in the final cut. Streitenfeld's ignominy is in having the bulk of his thematic material replaced with music by Harry Gregson-Williams in the finished picture; Gregson-Williams' "Life" theme is by far the standout musical element in the film, and features at least half a dozen times during some of the movie's most pivotal moments. The theme - which features on the soundtrack album in "Life" and "We Were Right" - is a noble, optimistic melody for horns and strings augmented by a light choral element, and is quite beautiful, although its use in context seems rather muddled: it's almost as though Scott, realizing his movie didn't have a strong musical identity, simply stuck Gregson-Williams's theme in wherever he felt the need for a memorable musical moment, irrespective of what the scene was or whether the use of that theme at that moment actually made narrative sense. Nevertheless, the theme is lovely, and will undoubtedly go on to become the most remembered musical aspect of the film.
The rest of Streitenfeld's score is a surprisingly uninvolving affair, and despite the presence of three new themes and a couple of smaller motifs and recurring performance techniques, it never really lingers long in the memory or generates much of an individual identity. There's a suitably large orchestra, and a whole bank of synthesizers and electronic textures to add otherworldly ambiences, but on the whole it fails to truly establish itself beyond its own narrow scope, instead content to mirror the action with creepy vignettes of suspense and a couple of explosions of noise for the action sequences.
A main theme of sorts is heard in the opening "A Planet", and crops up again in later cues such as "Small Beginnings", "Dazed" and "Collision"; it shares some of the same harmonic language as Gregson-Williams's theme, with the two almost seeming to merge together in cues such as the rather impressive "Earth", but in context it fades into the background whenever the "Life" theme comes to the fore, making it seem curiously unresolved and understated. A see-sawing four-note danger motif (not like Horner's) appears in "Going In", "Not Human", "Too Close", "Hyper Sleep", and several other cues to represent the unknown but omnipresent threats facing the crew of the Prometheus, although the instrumentation and layers of sound accompanying the motif tend to make it difficult to identify. Often, Streitenfeld uses what sounds like a processed bass flute to bring this motif to life, which lends the score an unexpected 1970s flavor, before the grinding synthesizers and other industrial groans and moans quickly bring it back into the present.
In some cues, notably "David", Streitenfeld manipulates his music to give it an abstract, oddly detached feeling, which he achieved by having his orchestra play the music backwards and reversing the sound in post-production. Also in this cue, and in cues such as "Small Beginnings", there's a staccato pulse beating under the music, a little like a mechanical heartbeat, but which Streitenfeld describes as `the sound of blood rushing through your ears', which acts as something of a recurring tone to represent David's synthetic nature. Elsewhere, the music establishes a rhythmic undercurrent to give the score a sense of forward motion, whereupon Streitenfeld layers on various blocks of dissonant orchestral noise, adopting a "wall of sound" approach to overwhelm listeners during action scenes. Cues such as "Hammerpede", the opening parts of "Infected", "Hello Mommy", "Dazed" and "Planting the Seed" adopt this style, which is effective enough, but seems more than a little overly-familiar.
A large-scale final theme, which seems to musically represent the God-like power employed by the Engineers, is first performed on noble brasses in the opening cue "A Planet", and appears again as a leitmotif for the Final Engineer in the powerful "Space Jockey, the noble and resilient "Collision" and the conclusive "Birth". One final conceit is a processed restatement of Jerry Goldsmith's original theme for Alien in "Friend from the Past", which underscores a pivotal scene of exposition and is a nice nod and a wink to the old master. The majority of film-goers won't even notice it, but I liked the tribute.
As much as Prometheus works well enough in context, Streitenfeld's work on this score really doesn't live up to its pre-release hype, and will not be remembered as well as any of the others in the pantheon of Alien scores. As much as I don't like questioning a composer's credentials, I do have to wonder whether hiring a comparatively green composer like Streitenfeld was a wise idea for a film of this magnitude; it's likely that the assignment was simply too big for him, and having heard his small contribution, one can't help but wonder what Harry Gregson-Williams or someone like him would have done with a canvas like this. It's a shame; much like the film it accompanies, it promised much, but delivers less.
on January 26, 2015
Streitenfeld has created a masterpiece of mainly orchestral music with some "electronic" and choir sound elements in this movie soundtrack. This music reflects all the hope, wonder and suspense of the film "Prometheus," yet this music is so powerful it can stand on it's own.
There are also two pieces by Harry Gregson-Williams on this CD.
One track, #18, "Friend From The Past," "contains the 'Theme From Alien' composed by (the Master Himself) Jerry Goldsmith." (See Alien soundtrack review for Goldsmith's experience with Sir Ridley creating the "Alien" soundtrack in the late 1970's)
If you are into movie soundtracks, this CD is a must have.
on June 12, 2012
marc streitenfeld delivers in "prometheus" a reasonably good score straight out of the moody wing of the zimmer-gregson-williams school of film scoring embellished with some postmodern twists. in concept, the score is quite similar to something like HG-W's "smilla's sense of snow". this means -- a simple but okay theme, uncomplicated harmony, long, flowing and lean melodic lines whose spareness works well in evoking the vastness of space and barren landscapes on display. every now and then, the requisite chaotic passage erupts to support the monster action on-screen. electronics are very tastefully incorporated -- there are various rumbly noises and sound effects, but nothing sounds overtly synthesized or unnatural and the textures are interesting and unified. an unexpected bonus: quotes of goldsmith's marvelous original score, including the main theme and the conch effects. parts of the score, such as the track "hello mommy", also reflect the long shadow cast by elliot goldenthal's alien 3 score -- the distorted guitar, rattling percussion and brass fireworks are straight out of the goldenthal method. the score, overall, works extremely well for the film. as a piece of standalone music, it is less successful. when you strip away the effects and orchestration, the underpinnings of the score -- melody, harmony, and rhythm -- are just too simplistic to reward repeated listens. one can only imagine what an elliot goldenthal or howard shore might have done with such an opportunity. all that said -- far from a failure.
on November 22, 2012
Marc Streitenfeld's Prometheus soundtrack is as huge as this film's intergalactic concepts and equally as mysterious. It's beauitful with it's more mature sci-fi themes and intense moods that directly address its adult audience who've now grown up to be asking the bigger, serious questions that most others don't even think, dare, or bother to consider asking. It's darker than the previous Alien franchise without becoming lost in that deeper darkness. And it's scary too in a way that isn't cliched or predicatable, but way more in tune with what can be so scary about reality than any other sci-fi film ever created. The soundtrack conveys the immense scope of the film's conceptual vision and also the extraordinary achievement of how the entire Alien franchise's themes have been so brilliantly reconceived and portrayed by the film's director. The soundtrack's massive orchectral range and style are precisely balanced to evocatively express the film's abstract concepts and perplexing moral principals underlying this enigmatic story. I liked the film enough to also buy the soundtrack which I'm now enjoying on its own. I'm sure you will too if you liked the film like I did and still do.
on June 22, 2012
I went into the movie expecting to be pleased, but not to notice the music. I've noted that Marc Streitenfeld's music usually works better when side by side with the movie itself, which is all a soundtrack is, honestly, supposed to do. It's supposed to add weight to scenes and drive the movie forward. That being said, the music caught my attention, and not in a bad way.
When I bought the album, it was a bit disconcerting to find the track order was changed. I found that this was for the better, though. "A Planet", the first track, contains the most complete version of the film's main theme. It is beautiful, with a true sense of exploring the unknown, with all the wonder and fright that goes along with it.
The rest of the soundtrack builds on this theme, at times moving, other times aggressively creepy. Songs like "Going In" and "Infected" (the two that caught my attention in the film) are moody and ambient. Their subtlety gives them strength, using a repeated series of notes, low and dark, to push the songs through to completion.
Other tracks, like "Life" and "Space Jockey", are bigger and more epic experiences. They are simple, yet undeniably effective. Marc never goes too big. He keeps it close to home, letting emotion seep into these tracks, and they are nice changes from the usual bombastic music that seems to be crowding the films in theaters these days.
"Collision", which I feel to be the crowning piece on this score, takes the main theme and starts low, constantly building and "edging" its way to the climax, where it finally unleashes the most thrilling version of the theme yet. It conveys hope, inevitability, and heroism, all in this slow-burning piece, perfectly fitting the character's emotions onscreen.
If you've seen the film, I highly recommend getting this item. It's a nice change of pace from the blockbuster soundtracks I've heard recently (Transformers, Avengers), and it is darkly stirring and emotionally rousing. A great listen all around!
on August 18, 2012
So many good tracks in this. Not overbearing. They serve to enhance the picture.
Some favourites include A Planet, Going in, Life, Dazed, Space Jockey, Collision, and Debris.
You will have to see the film to truly appreciate the way these tracks are used, giving each of their settings a highly surreal and atmospheric feel. No surprise from the Master Ridley Scott.
on September 16, 2012
As someone who has worked with Vangelis and Hans Zimmer for much of his carreer Ridley Scott has found a recent collaborator in Marc Streitenfeld who scored his last five movies including Prometheus. I often wonder what he sees in him, to be honest. It is not that I despise his scores, but Streitenfeld's work is just so inferior to Vangelis and Zimmer that I can not understand why he is Ridley's go-to-guy nowadays. I can only speculate what another composer would have done with the material, but Prometheus, while being a fantastic movie, could have been much better given a proper score. I am afraid though this isn't it. Streitenfeld again delivers a largely forgettable soundtrack like with his previous ones. I don't mean to be personal, I just think with a film like "A goog Year" Streitenfeld might be able to pull of a nice little score, but with "Robin Hood" and "Prometheus" he is just out of his league. Considering that Ridley Scott is planning a sequel to Blade Runner I sincerely hope that he finds another composer for it. Matching the quality and status of Vangelis' score to the 1982 original will prove almost impossible to begin with and Streitenfeld will surely not be able to pull it off (again)...