Home > Reviews > CONSTANTINE – Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt

CONSTANTINE – Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt

February 18, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

constantineOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The latest in a long line of comic book adaptations to hit the silver screen, director Francis Lawrence’s film Constantine is based on the classic Hellblazer story by Jamie Delano and Garth Ellis, transposed from Liverpool to contemporary Los Angeles. Keanu Reeves stars as John Constantine, a man cursed with the awareness that a war between angels and demons is taking place on Earth. Having been driven insane by his visions, he committed suicide as a youth, but was sent back by the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton) and charged with destroying as many demons as possible, in order to atone for his sins and be able to enter Heaven again when he finally dies for the second time. However, as the story begins, Constantine finds himself facing his biggest challenge yet:  with the help of a similarly gifted Los Angeles cop (Rachel Weisz), Constantine must thwart the plans of Satan’s son, who is planning to be re-born on Earth himself.

Originally a solo project for popular young composer Brian Tyler, the score for Constantine was memorably described in publicity material as “literally throwing open the gates of hell”. Unfortunately for Tyler, what emerged from the depths of the abyss was German composer Klaus Badelt, who was drafted in at the last minute by Warner Brothers to temper the original orchestral score with large doses of contemporary electronic scoring – undoubtedly to make the film more appealing to the teenage male demographic. Without wanting to sound unkind to Badelt, it’s a great shame that Tyler’s score was not left intact: with its impressive orchestral and choral forces, it could have been a respectable entry into a long and distinguished musical genre. As it stands, it sounds exactly like what it is: a pale reflection of itself.

Brian Tyler, a child of the film music generation, wisely doesn’t seek to re-invent the wheel, and scores the collision of heaven and hell in exactly the way you would expect him to: with a massive orchestra, a high-volume choir singing in Latin, a multitude of ethnic and percussive soloists, and plenty of dissonance. There are occasional hints of other scores and composers, notably Don Davis, Elliot Goldenthal, and even James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith, all of whom have contributed to the development of the “music standard” for this type of film, but to Tyler’s credit he continually manages to put his own spin on things, and to give it an identity unique to him.

Cues such as “The Cross Over” and “Flight to Ravenscar” are brash and exciting, with strident string figures and distinctly menacing brass performances low down in the register, while “Resurrection” and “Circle of Hell” definitely has a sense of approaching menace, with their circular string figures and steady ascents. “Lucifer” provides a mind-blowing glimpse of the kind of score Tyler originally wrote: a balls-out, rampant, powerful and grandiose celebration of religious horror at its best.

The choir takes centre stage in the excellent “Deo et Patri”, and the amazing “Into the Light”, which begins steadily but develops into a ravenous cue of combined orchestral and vocal carnage. Moments of calm are realised through a subtle, almost Thomas Newman-esque piano theme in “Confession”, “I Left Her Alone” and “John”, while “Humanity” is a twisted waltz that Christopher Young would be proud to call his own. “Absentee Landlords” is a nice nod of the head to James Newton Howard’s score for The Devil’s Advocate, another film which featured Keanu Reeves facing down Lucifer himself.

Badelt’s work, which consists mainly of synthesised rhythms with electric cello solos and vaguely world music inflections, can be heard most prominently in cues such as “Meet John Constantine”, “Last Rites”, “Ether Surfing” the violent “Hell Freeway” (which is actually reminiscent of Howard Shore’s score for The Cell), and the “End Titles” – quite the worst denouement a score like this could have. As music in its own right, it’s not bad, but when experienced alongside Tyler’s angrier and more complex orchestral ideas, it diminishes the effectiveness of the album overall. I would have been content with a shorter, Tyler-only album, which would undoubtedly have been a more coherent and consistent listening experience than the one we have here.

Ultimately, the soundtrack album of Constantine is a bit of a mess, and it’s a great shame that Tyler’s score as originally envisioned will never legally see the light of day. There are still a number of excellent moments fighting to emerge from the watered-down, Badeltised miasma, and admirers of scores such as Darkness Falls or Terror Tract will certainly find things to enjoy. It’s just that, as you listen, you can’t help wondering how much better it would have been had Warner Brothers not stuck their grubby little fingers into the pot. Again.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Destiny (2:03)
  • The Cross Over (2:42)
  • Meet John Constantine (2:39)
  • Confession (2:31)
  • Deo et Patri (1:17)
  • Counterweight (2:48)
  • Into the Light (2:53)
  • I Left Her Alone (1:41)
  • Resurrection (2:05)
  • Circle of Hell (5:36)
  • Last Rites (1:56)
  • Encountering a Twin (1:05)
  • Flight to Ravenscar (0:53)
  • Humanity (2:58)
  • John (1:31)
  • Someone Was Here (1:46)
  • Hell Freeway (2:43)
  • Ether Surfing (1:14)
  • The Balance (2:27)
  • Absentee Landlords (1:35)
  • John’s Solitude (1:26)
  • Lucifer (1:56)
  • Rooftop (1:20)
  • Constantine End Titles (2:39)

Running Time: 51 minutes 42 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6636 (2005)

Music composed by Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt. Conducted by Brian Tyler. Orchestrations by Robert Elhai, Dana Niu, Brad Warnaar, Wolfram De Marco, Ian Honeyman and Andrew Raiher. Featured musical soloists Martin Tillman and Christopher Bleth. Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki and Alan Meyerson. Edited by Joe Lisanti, Gary L. Krause and Daryl Kell. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by Brian Tyler, Klaus Badelt and Christopher Brooks.

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