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A Masterful Entry In The Western Genre
on October 18, 2013
When it comes to western scores try to imagine a tree. The trunk of this tree is Ennio Morricone, it is the thick backbone that supports everything. All the branches extending from the trunk and center are unique individuals grown from an established foundation. There's no point in trying to reinvent the western score. For the rest of humanity everyone will homage the works of Ennio Morricone. His scores were so defining that it has become impossible to redefine. Hans Zimmer is a huge adorer of Ennio Morricone so you can understand why this score would be built from Ennio's genre foundations. This is a very different score than what Zimmer did in Rango but at times somewhat similiar. The score is rooted in its characters, has a unique identity but also plays to the archetypes of the western score. The music paints the setting of grand vistas, scorched faces, dusty firefights and grand heroism that emerges from tragedy. The score is big but not loud with plenty of nuances and quirks. It is a perfect western score as far as I'm concerned.
The film is an expansive one that covers many character arcs and action set pieces. The score matches the tone of everything in Gore Verbinski's film perfectly. A lot of complaints were had about the tone shifting, but I found none of it. I think everything was balanced extremely well. The story is told through Tonto's point of view as he tells the story to a little boy at a carnival. Already there is a bit of mythology behind everything. We see the story unfold as Tonto crosses paths with John Reid. The two form a partnership to hunt and take down Butch Cavendish who is responsible for killing John's brother. So the story is very character based. That's why the score stands out so much to me, that all its themes and motifs are character based. Whether its the flutter of a quirky flute for Tonto, a softer warm sound for Rebecca Reid or the grandeur of the central theme for Reid it all meshes together to tell a story. The idea of the "journey" is ever present in this score and you definitely complete it by the time you reach the end. These aren't Zimmer's strongest or boldest themes, but there's something about them that makes them memorable and feel so perfectly right.
The score is subdued even for Hans' standards. Pirates, Dark Knight or Man Of Steel this is not. There are pockets of no score at times where the characters are left to breath. Then when it comes to the action scenes the score fills the spaces just right. The mix is perfect. The music never takes over and flows with the characters as they are choreographed through the action. Everything builds towards the grand finale, which is an impressive train sequence scored with Rossini's William Tell Overture. At first I found the tone of the overture to be a jarring shift from what we heard before it. It didn't fit in as smoothly as when Verbinksi decided to use "The Ride Of The Valkyries" for Rango's big action sequence. However once it starts rolling and incorporating all of Hans' themes it becomes a wonderful end to a fantastic ride. I literally got goosebumps when all of a sudden the main theme rose from deep down in the overture. Geoff Zanelli handled the arrangement here and did a fantastic job.
The Lone Ranger is a magnificent western score that pays homage to mainly Morricone's Once Upon A Time In The West. The film pays homage to Leone's masterpiece as well. Such as the ambush at the well where you know trouble is coming because all of the insects quiet down. Or the men in dusters waiting at the train station with an elderly telegraph operator. While the music homages the past it still establishes itself as a magnificent branch from the western tree. Hans Zimmer's score seems to grow stronger when thrown up with the picture. It has action but the tragedy of the characters' pasts is prominent in the tone. Looking at western scores I feel this is a perfect modern take on the genre. Hans Zimmer was originally going to do the film, then Jack White took over but soon left the project leaving the opening for Hans to fill again. One could argue that the score doesn't feel like a complete thought when listening to it on its own, but trust me. When it's with the picture a whole new dimension is opened and it delivers chills and tears of joy at times. At least to this overly satisfied listener.