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Soundtrack review: King Arthur – Legend of the sword (Daniel Pemberton – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: King Arthur – Legend of the sword (Daniel Pemberton – 2017)

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a 2017 fantasy film directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Ritchie, Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram. Loosely based on Arthurian legends, the film stars Charlie Hunnam as the title character, with Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law and Eric Bana in supporting roles. The young Arthur runs the back streets of Londinium with his crew, unaware of his royal lineage until he draws the sword Excalibur from the stone. Instantly confronted by the sword’s influence, Arthur is forced to decide when to become involved with his power. Throwing in with the Resistance and an enigmatic young woman called The Mage[6], he must learn to master the sword, face down his demons, unite the people to defeat the tyrant Vortigern – who murdered his parents and stole his crown – and become king. The music was written by Daniel Pemberton.

There are a lot of Hans Zimmer connections here, from the director to the previous King Arthur movie, the 2004 incarnation which brought out what is for me one of the best scores of all times from Zimmer. I am not expecting something similar here as Ritchie is not one for broad and epic music but still anything that comes from Pemberton is exciting.

Guy Ritchie is a guy who built his own little unique universe where everything is twisted and quirky, including the music. Hans Zimmer understood this as he took on the two Sherlock Holmes scores and infused them with gypsy ethnic sounds and weird sharp motifs. Daniel Pemberton is not one to shy away from experimenting and taking his music into places a listener wouldn’t expect so he’s a perfect match for the Ritchie twisted house of fun. It’s clear to me from the main theme of the score “King Arthur: Legend of the sword” that this is a Guy Ritchie movie I’m listening to. I love the energy and the Viking sound of this cue with the out of sync base guitar, and the relentless strings and percussion. The initial sound of the score reminds me a lot of what Trevor Morris has created for the exceptional TV show “Vikings”. Something about the relentlessness of this type of music just gets to me and as I also remember the choking pace of Henry Jackman’s “Captain Phillips” I just feel like jumping out of my chair and running as  a cue like “Growing up Londinium” invites me to chase it with insane percussion and a stroke of genius from Pemberton who includes the human voice in his mix as it matches the other instruments breath for breath. Yes there is heavy breathing in this cue but so well woven in the fabric of the music that it sounds like the most natural thing in the world, especially if I am running. If you are inclined towards working out I think this cue can increase your efficiency. The heavy breathing, whistling and screaming throughout the score but for me they fit perfectly in the savagery and insanity of that period and act just like another instrument.

The weird percussion and wooden instrument sounds mold themselves into a pattern that borders with the jazzy sound that delighted me in the previous collaboration between Ritchie and Pemberton, “The man from U.N.C.L.E”. It’s a stripped down, less melodic sound but equally infectious to me.  When the tone quiets down and quirkiness remains. I still get the feeling of Viking times and I like how the dream and hallucination sequences are scored, eerie and misty.

And then there are the proper epic cues I didn’t expect to find. “The legend of Excalibur” is such a track that leaves the smiles aside and gets serious. Pemberton brings something from all corners of his vast compositional range for this one and there’s hardly a moment of “King Arthur: Legend of the sword” I didn’t enjoy which is remarkable considering that the album runs at almost 90 minute complete with the bonus tracks.

Fans of Guy Ritchie, Daniel Pemberton and quirky film music will adore this one . Me, I got exactly what I wanted from this score and I can’t wait to hear it context. I am a huge  fan of Viking strings and of the energy and pace that echo images of dozens of hands rowing in synch. Add to that the Celtic element that never fails to touch me and I’m sure I will return to this score quite often.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 51 / 91

Album excellence: 56%

Highlights:

From Nothing Comes a King

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Growing Up Londinium

Jackseye’s Tale

The Story of Mordred

The Legend of Excalibur

Seasoned Oak

The Politics & The Life

The Born King

Run Londinium

The Lady in the Lake

The Darklands

Revelation

Knights of the Round Table

The Devil & The Huntsman

Riot & Flames (bonus track)

The devil and the daughter (bonus track)

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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).

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6 Comments

  1. muneeb 13th July 2017

    We need to use King Arthur music in a home made trailer of a non profit social event. is It legal? if not how to legalize it?

    Reply
    1. Mihnea Manduteanu 13th July 2017

      I am not sure but I think you should contact the record label because they own the rights and they will surely give you more info.

  2. Robert 24th August 2017

    IS this a joke ? This is one of the worst soundtrack i heard ever….so cliché, so bad and always the same….this is ruining the movie which was not really good in the first place. But i can’t understand as someone like Guy Ritchie let such a bad soundtrack ruin his film.

    Reply
  3. FaresTdkr 27th November 2017

    For me this is one from top 10’s of 2017

    Reply
  4. Blaine 25th January 2018

    I listen to movie soundtracks all day every day at work. This one is a breath of fresh air.

    Reply
  5. Jennifer Simmons 8th April 2018

    I loved this soundtrack.

    Reply

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