Friday, February 17, 2012

There Be Dragons by Robert Folk (2012)

Review by: Travis Elder (

Between the recent release of Anrew Lockington's Journey 2 and now Robert Folk's There Be Dragons, 2012 is off to a fantastic start for high quality scores.  Despite its title, There Be Dragons is not a fantasy tale about a dragon filled land, but rather a historical epic from director Roland Joffé (The Mission and The Killing Fields) set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.  The dragon reference is symbolic of human frailties and dealing with and overcoming such "dragons" as fear, resentment, hatred, and betrayal with love and forgiveness.  Originally released last May, the film has been re-cut for release in the United States. In tandem with the U.S. revision, American composer Robert Folk was tasked with rescoring the film, originally scored by Stephen Warbeck.  Folk has a long history of film scoring under his belt including Beastmaster 2, Toy Soldiers, and Neverending Story 2, in addition to several classical works

Folk assembled all the right elements to give the score an epic, larger than life feel including an 86-piece orchestra utilized for the entire recording, a 28-member choir, Spanish acoustic guitar, militaristic marching percussion, and occasional brass fanfares.  With a short time frame to compose and record the score the producers and Folk settled on a thematic approach.  Folk composed five memorable themes to highlight prominent elements in the film including a Heroic Theme, Epic Theme, Love Theme, Mystery Theme, and Religious Theme.

The Spanish ambiance of the score is immediately present with a Spanish-themed acoustic guitar tune opening "Main Titles."  The acoustic guitar makes an appearance in just about every single cue, most often adding Spanish accents and coloring.  However, the guitar does occasionally take center stage such as in the noble "Priest's Calling."  The guitar really adds a nice flavor to the score.

The guitar prelude in the "Main Titles" gives way to a short string performance of the Epic Theme, which is used often to support dramatic sequences ("More Dad," "Pray for Him," "Oriol is Dead," "An Epic Story"). Immediately following is the percussion backed Heroic Theme, which is used throughout the score for action sequences ("Battle Begins," "Hanging Bridge Battle," "Battle for Madrid," "Train Station Patriots").   A bold, trumpet fanfare with choir rounds out the majesty of the first track on the album.  The "Battle Begins" continues the intensity with an exciting restatement of the Heroic Theme paired again with propulsive, marching percussion.  The combination of triumphant brass, chorus, and driving percussion make the first two cues highlights of 2012.  Equally pleasing, but for different reasons is the third cue "Romance."  This cue introduces a sweet, Barry-esque, romantic melody filled with acoustic guitar accents and a beautiful wordless choir.  The other romantic highlight of the album comes later in the cue "Idilko By The Lake."  The first three tracks definitely get the festivities started off with a bang!

The choir plays an important role throughout the score elevating each of the themes.  Much of the choir is wordless, but in the excellent "Love and War Finale" the choir comes to the forefront and sings powerfully to the Epic Theme in grand fashion.  

Folk employs a gracefulful flowing, melodious string rhythm backed by beautiful choir for his Religious Theme as heard in "More Dad" and "Lord Open My Eyes."  For the Mystery Theme he uses a sonorous repeating, seesaw string rhythm, which effectively conveys intrigue and mystery during several cues.  "Monolo Starts His Story," "Franco's Government Files," "The Priest, I Knew Him," and the best of the bunch, "Robert's Investigation" with its choral accompaniment, feature this well constructed theme.  I have often found enjoyment in musical portrayals of mystery such as James Horner's excellent "Too Many Secrets" from Sneakers and Folk's theme is an enjoyable edition to that genre.

The flow of the album presentation suffers somewhat from the shorter length of several cues.  Especially jarring is the edit between the first and second tracks.  Obviously Folk recorded the two cues as one piece and their separation on the album is unfortunate. 

The score offers a good mix of drama, action, and choral beauty and the number of themes add sufficient variety and depth.  The Epic Theme tends to get a little more airtime then the other themes, but this is a minor detraction to the overriding artistry and quality of the music.  Overall, Folk's score to There Be Dragons is a great accomplishment, an enjoyable thematic listen, and a score I highly recommend adding to your collection.

Purchase: Amazon

Overall rating: **** out of *****

Cue by Cue Rating:
Main Title *****
Battle Begins *****
Romance *****
More Dad ***1/2
Killing Priests ****
Love and War Finale *****
Robert's Investigation ****1/2
Change Plans ***
Hanging Bridge Battle ****
Manolo Starts His Story ***1/2
Pray For Him ***
Kidnap & Kill ***
Priest's Calling ****
Battle for Madrid ***1/2
Franco's Government Files ***1/2
Oriol Is Dead ***
Manolo Meets Generals ***1/2
Lord Open My Eyes ****
Idilko By The Lake ****1/2
Train Station Patriots ***
The Priest, I Knew Him ***
Who to Kill ***1/2
Factory Strike **1/2
At First Sight ***
Sitting Ducks **
A Baby if Born **
Then God is Just **1/2
An Epic Story ****

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