Sunday 22 July 2012

Soundtrack review: Conan the Barbarian 3D

Cross-posted at Movie Soundtrack Reviews

This one was always going to be controversial. The original Conan the Barbarian score by Basil Poledouris is considered by collectors to be one of the greatest cinema soundtracks ever, so composer Tyler Bates has some big shoes to fill. That is, if Bates had tried at all.

Ok, that may not be fair, because there are a few good moments in this 70 minute bloatfest, but as it stands, this is not a particularly good score. It seems bizarre that Bates would be a name tied to this movie at all, when there are composers out there with much more experience in the fantasy genre, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

The main theme, and a rather dull one at that, pipes up in 'His Name is Conan' which meanders nonchalantly with its strings and choral parts, but never feels solid enough to warrant the larger than life character of Conan. The third cue, 'Egg Race', shows us everything that's wrong with this score, including screeching electronics, a cacophony of disparate sounds and the lack of any real structure. Conversely, 'Fire and Ice' shows us a beautiful piece full of feathery strings and delicate harp notes that eventually make way for a choir and a more sinister theme. 'Cimmerian Battle' brings us into the realm of choppy strings and obnoxious horns, forming a dull-as-dishwater cue. The album continues with a loose quality, as if it's not able to find its feet. The occasional Snyder-esque electric guitar lends a hand in cues like 'Freeing Slaves' in order to project some meat onto these bones, but it doesn't quite cut the mustard and end up feeling wasted.

For one, this is too long and so feels bloated. The themes feel lazy and the layered tones aren't used to good effect. While there are some pretty good tracks on here, the album lacks a cohesive narrative and relies too heavily of tired blockbuster conventions rather than injecting any intelligence into the music. Even a few nods to the Poledouris score wouldn't have gone amiss, but to outright ignore its existence seems to have done more harm than good. Bates is a capable composer, but this time he has let himself down.

1 star


  1. The film looked, spoke, and sounded like an extended episode of Zena. Disappointing is not a strong enough word, but then the previews even warned that this was going to be a slock-fest. That said, I hope somebody keeps trying to make films like this. Eventually we'll see a great one.

    1. I think the original is absolutely fantastic. Saying that, I do hope they try again, because I love the character.

  2. You mean there's music in this movie?