Film scores

Soundtrack review: Warcraft (Ramin Djawadi – 2016)

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“Warcraft” (alternatively known as Warcraft: The Beginning) is a 2016 American epic fantasy film directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones, Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen. It is based on the Warcraft video game series and novels set in the world of Azeroth. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton and Ben Foster. Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization, led by the humans, faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying world of Draenor to find their place in another. As a gateway known as the Dark Portal opens to connect the two worlds, the humans face destruction while the orcs face extinction. Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), leader of the humans, and Durotan (Toby Kebbell), leader of the orcs, are then sent on a collision course that will decide the fate of their families, their people and their home. Ramid Djawadi wrote the score and when I first heard of the movie, he was one of my top two possible choices. His fantasy work for “Game of thrones” and his epic score for “Pacific Rim” made him a great fit for this.

My expectations for this score are simple: I want epic action music that will make my headphones fall off. I know the music of most Warcraft games and that’s what I’m looking for. Those scores are so thunderously loud and spectacular that they leave a mark. Last year’s “World of Warcraft” score is a prime example of what I’m used to from this universe. The main theme from Ramin Djawadi works as a warm up. I can hear it coming and it’s something he can build on. Right from the start the composer finds the right balance between game music and film music as “The horde” growls and marches toward us. This is the kind of cue that could work very well in a game score.

I am pleasantly surprised to find this score to be more complex than I was expecting. Cues like the melodic “Medivh” and the quiet and beautiful “Honor” expand the emotional reach of the score and show me that there is much more than violence in the story. Ramin Djawadi’s score is a story in itself and I enjoy listening to it. The action parts are slim instead of heavy and yet they work very well. I don’t hear that sense of magnitude and total destruction as I did in the game scores but maybe since this is a movie, the action needs to be diluted with the emotional content.

The human leader Lothar gets a beautiful and heartfelt theme. It really makes me care about the character without having seen a second of the film. The quieter parts of the score have that oriental vibe we know from Ramin’s “Game of thrones” scores. Some of the action parts are a bit generic but once again they are Ramin Djawadi generic and I’m fine with that. This composer has created a special sound for himself and I am fond of it.

“Warcraft” is an enjoyable score by a very gifted composer. While not as epic as I would have expected I liked the way it focused more on the human and emotional parts; it gave the music more depth and made the score a meaningful story.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 24 / 61

Album excellence: 40%

Highlights:

Warcraft

Medivh

Honor

Forrest Ambush

Two Worlds Colliding

Half Orc, Half Human

My gift to you

 

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

4 Comments

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  • I was quite impressed by this score. I liked Game of Thrones and other Djawadi’s soundtracks, but I still used to think that they lacked a bit of complexity and diversity. In Warcraft case though, he surprisingly managed to both do a very pleasant-to-listen score and give it a complexity and a big soul that I didn’t expect.
    The themes he created are all very good. I’m also surprised at how few actual action cues there are, which is not necessarily a bad thing, since it gives more room to emotional cues.

    The highlights for me:

    “Warcraft”, “The Horde”, “Medivh”, “Honor”, “Two Worlds Colliding”, “Llane’s Solution”, “Mak’gora”

  • While I did like the overall score as a work just on it’s own, I was a little disappointed and found little to none of it truly matched the splendor and beauty of some of the game’s soundtracks and failed to evoke the same sensations as some of the game’s major themes. All in all I would say it’s a decent fantasy score, but personally I think I would have preferred if the Blizzard/Warcraft composers, would have scored this movie to carry over themes and cues from the games. Just listen to such wonderful pieces such as the Cinematic Suite from Warcraft III Reign of Chaos, or the grandeur of Legends of Azeroth. Legacy, A Call to Arms and Shaping of the World are such great pieces that simply are not matched anywhere in this score and to me that is just a disservice to the franchise.

    In comparison, I do like Djawadi’s GoT soundtracks much more and there they fit, while here I feel we already had such a rich and awesome repository of soundtracks that we didn’t need another “interpretation,” and instead of making me feel excited, it somewhat alienates me from the Warcraft franchise. Perhaps this would not be so much of an issue for those unfamiliar with the franchise and it’s soundtracks, but for someone who has been a long time fan ever since Warcraft I it evokes no familiarity and simply does not carry the same magnitude. If by any chance this franchise continues to produce movies, I can only hope that the game’s music composers such as Jason Hayes, Glenn Stafford, Tracy Bush, Derek Duke and Russel Brower and others, collaborate on those soundtracks.

    • Great analysis, thank you. And I agree. The grandeur of the game scores was lacking here. You know, reading your words makes me want to start reviewing all the Warcraft game scores. I think I’ll do that!