Joseph Trapanese’s score to Robin Hood is a bit of an oddball, being part generic superhero and part 2013’s Oblivion (yes, seriously). That doesn’t stop it however from being an upbeat, epic and pretty enjoyable soundtrack overall.
Ah yes, another Robin Hood movie. While I do have a bit of a soft spot for the character (mainly due to growing up with the 2006 BBC series starring Jonas Armstrong) this new film didn’t excite me at all. Even from the trailer you could see how it was going to be – the costumes, characters, story – all of it looks so decidedly average. Not the worst or indeed best movie ever, just meh. Unnecessary. The story of this legendary outlaw has been told a thousand times, and it doesn’t look like this one is going to bring anything new to the table.
My interest was piqued however when Joseph Trapanese was announced as composer for the film. The man behind the fantastic scores to Oblivion, Only The Brave and to a lesser extent TRON: Legacy (a collaboration with Daft Punk) could surely do something pretty great with a hero such as Robin Hood. And he did. Kind of.
The album opens with Loxley Manor, and right off the bat we hear Oblivion, or at least that emotional-but-not-thematic signature Trapanese style that he used considerably in the 2013 movie’s score. Slow, solemn strings take up most of the first two minutes, taking their time to build up in volume and orchestral density. Once this is done, the music switches up into a more upbeat setting, with rapid strings and slow yet epic brass beginning to build in the background. The music gets louder and the brass more prominent as it plays those standard build-up notes that normally come right before a heroic rendition of the main theme. This unfortunately doesn’t happen here however, as the track simply ends right before it ought to explode into amazing orchestra. God, I can’t tell you how much I hate it when composers do this. It really annoys me. Points knocked off simply for that, Trapanese.
Return To England does largely the same thing, starting slowly with only strings and then gradually building up with additional percussion and prominent brass. The score is very Oblivion so far, the unfortunate exception being that film had a nice main theme to go with it, and so far Robin Hood has yet to display any themes of any kind. It’s actually not until the sixth track entitled Rob Inspired (you have got to be kidding – Rob?! Please don’t tell me they call him that in the film) that we finally hear the main theme for the film. It’s upbeat, heroic and honestly I’m struggling not to say generic. I really hate using that word to describe music, but this theme is unfortunately that. It’s good, just not unique or interesting enough to be recognisable outside of this album. Certainly it doesn’t hold a candle to Marc Streitenfeld’s theme for the character in the 2010 Robin Hood movie.
It’s at this point in the score where the music dramatically shifts in tone. Gone now is Trapanese’s Oblivion-esque dramatic flair, and in it’s place is a pretty standard (trying to find other words than generic) orchestral superhero score. The shift is actually pretty jarring as it basically comes out of nowhere in Becoming A Thief, as the track literally right before it (Follow The Money) uses the Trapanese style. Suddenly the score switches up into an entirely different percussive tone, and with it comes some electronics and a shift in focus towards action rather than drama. The new style still makes for some pretty good listening, but it is a bizarre change considering we’re halfway through an album.
Money To The People is where things get the most interesting. The music starts out slowly with a rather melancholic piano melody, and then brass and percussion suddenly hits you like a car going a hundred miles an hour. The main theme is then played out in pure loud, heroic fashion and it’s amazing. Forget generic for a moment, this is some very enjoyable score, being intense and inspirational just like good heroic music should be. This then leads into the standout cue of the album entitled Becoming The Hood, which is basically just a good two minutes of the epic main theme being played out with rapid brass and dramatic percussion. It’s pretty great.
The first major action cue sans main theme comes with Horse Chase, a tense and percussion-based piece that sounds a hell of a lot like Man Of Steel at times. This then kicks off the main finale sequence that runs pretty much all the way through to the end of the album, continuing with the rather sad strings-based Sacrifice and then into the expectedly inspirational Rob Inspires The People (really, Rob?). The main theme plays out a few times in a slow and “Rise Up” fashion but otherwise it’s a pretty forgettable track. The score then closes out with Escape To Sherwood, which doesn’t really defy expectations either with a predictably dramatic and heroic main theme rendition as presumably Robin Hood runs off into the woods for the “adventures to come”. It’s not bad music per se, it’s just not different.
That describes the entire album pretty accurately, to be honest. Trapanese’s Robin Hood isn’t bad, actually it’s pretty enjoyable (especially the epic main theme renditions in Money To The People and Becoming The Hood) but it’s also predictable as hell. It’s a really standard/generic score for a hero, and literally every trope you would expect from one is in here somewhere (with the exception of a decent villain theme). It’s all been done before. You could literally slap this album on Spider-Man and it would work, because while the music here is enjoyable it’s not recognisable as it’s own entity. I don’t hear Robin Hood here, I hear superhero. Like the movie itself will likely be, this score unfortunately brings absolutely nothing new to the table, and that’s a massive shame.
Robin Hood makes for a fun listen, but I was hoping for something a bit more outside the box, especially from Joseph Trapanese.
Standout Cue: 16. Becoming The Hood