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Exodus: Gods And Kings by Alberto Iglesias (Review)

posted Dec 1, 2014, 8:46 PM by Kaya Savas

Ridley Scott has always been a director who knows how to incorporate score in his pictures, his track record with composers has been excellent. He’s created films with classic scores from composers like Vangelis, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, Marc Streitenfeld and more. But even Ridley is not immune to that infamous Spanish tax credit that studios are flocking to. There’s a reason why Roque Baños is scoring Ron Howard’s In The Heart Of The Sea and not Hans Zimmer, there’s a reason why Fernando Velázquez scored Brett Ratner’s Hercules, there’s a reason why Lucas Vidal's name is on Fast & Furious 6 and there’s a reason why Alberto Iglesias is scoring Exodus: Gods And Kings. These (very talented) composers aren’t getting these big breaks because of their creative abilities and match to the film’s material, no they are getting hired because their country of birth is paying Hollywood some nice incentives to do so. While I love Alberto Iglesias and his work, he ended up on this film because of his nationality and that forces Ridley to work with a composer he’s never worked with before. So when you see that two other composers including Harry Gregson-Williams had to chip into this score, maybe studios will realize that creative corner-cutting isn’t the best way to pocket some tax breaks.

Now, Exodus is in no way a bad score. This is a fantastically robust and lush score that relishes in its biblical epic genre of music. However, after powering through the mammoth amount of music, one can’t help feel a bit of emotional disconnect. The music is beautiful to listen to and at times is gorgeous, but I found a hard time latching onto any emotional arcs. Everything here seems built to embellish and match the bombastic visuals. In that sense you could say the music is theatrical, but given that the film takes itself very seriously one could feel the music is doing too much at times. It took me a while to find the motifs in the score, and I still can’t be sure if I’m hearing a central theme. When you have that much music, and no clear thematic material then you feel lost and aimless. It has all of the expected structures and elements. You got the big lush orchestrations for weight, you have the Middle Eastern elements to establish your Egyptian setting, big chorus to add gravitas, and percussive action for the battles (thanks to Harry Gregson-Williams). While all the ingredients are there, the score never really establishes its own identity. I never felt emotionally moved or engrossed by the music despite how beautiful its approach was. It almost seemed like a stage performance I was watching, but admiring from afar and never getting pulled into the narrative. The fact that Harry Gregson-Williams was called in for action support and Federico Jusid was called in for support in the spiritual and emotional department, shows that there were lots of leaky holes that needed plugging up. Harry did the same thing for Ridley on Prometheus. However, here Harry would have been probably the most ideal choice here given his masterpiece of a score to Scott’s Kingdom Of Heaven. In the end the score is completely adequate, it fulfills its duties completely. However, when you go into a Ridley Scott film, you’re expecting a musical accompaniment that is just as special as the story its accompanying. With Exodus: Gods And Kings you will find a large-scale orchestral score with all the expected elements to it, and not much else.

Alberto Iglesias is a brilliant composer, but his talents are better suited for certain films and a Ridley Scott epic is not one of those films. Everything does work, nothing about the score is terrible but nothing is great either. What we have here is a serviceable score that brings the expected ingredients to the table and serves us a dish we’ve all tasted before. Sure we love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but it would have been nice to try something fresh and new with a little more personality to it. The additional music from Harry Gregson-Williams and Federico Jusid do stand out as stylistically different, but are much needed for support. Exodus: Gods And Kings embraces the biblical epic genre, but in the end the score won't stick with you for long. As a person who believes in continued creative collaboration, I think it's very counter productive for studios to force directors to work with composers just for a tax break. Alberto Iglesias is an amazing composer, but if the main reason you're working on a film is because the studio gets some cash back in their pockets then it completely defeats the purpose of a natural creative collaboration. The final product speaks for itself, adequacy without memorability.