September 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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I, Robot  
Music composed by Marco Beltrami
  Available on Varese Sarabande VSD-6591

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I Robot

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Immediately in the Main Titles music and 'Gangs of Chicago', with a clever enough mix of synths and conventional instrumentation (using a large orchestra) Beltrami creates a sense of creeping, inexorable menace; cruel, inhuman, and insensitively metallic. More interestingly the 'I, Robot' theme has some sort of robotic plaintive, plangent protest against the crushing weight of massed robots.

Beltrami's influences are wide, Holst's 'Mars' is obvious, Waxman's Bride of Frankenstein too, plus a dash of Bernard Herrmann. The music in the main is as unrelentingly crushing as you might expect of such a screenplay and it clearly fits the bill admirably, adding a palpable sense of unease and perturbation. Synth clichés are there as might be expected but controlled and spun with some imagination. 'Spooner Spills' is a quiet oasis of more humane reflection although sometimes with a glacial robotic veneer over its warm strings; again, in the centre pages, one is reminded of Hitchcock in quiet ruminative mood. The Hitchcock mood 'à la Vertigo also pervades 'Purse Snatcher'. Elsewhere 'Dead Robot Walking' is chillingly evocative and a choir in high hysterical register screws up the mounting tension several notches in 'Spiderbots' before the voices relax to bestow calm and serenity to the concluding 'Round Up'.

Beltrami's pounding score is not for repeated listening. It is not sufficiently novel or arresting for that. He has delivered a more than serviceable score for a genre film, a score that was probably constrained not only by the screenplay but by the producers not wanting to stray too far beyond the sci-fi norm.

Ian Lace

***(*) 31/2

Gary Dalkin adds:-
While not without considerable appeal, Ian is right to note that this score is essentially unremarkable. It is especially a disappointment given Beltrami's fine work recently on Hellboy and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Presumably the relative lack of quality here can be accounted for in that this is a replacement score, reportedly written at very short notice when Trevor Jones' original score was rejected. One can only assume that coming from such a fine composer Jones' score was better, and perhaps too different from the norm to please the producers of the film. It is easy to imagine Beltrami being selected as a rapid replacement based on the principle that he had recently scored a successful summer blockbuster concerting robots! Musically I, Robot is no T3 or Hellboy, and one can only hope the composer's return to working with Wes Craven (they made the Scream films together) on the recently completed Cursed will result in something more memorable.

Gary Dalkin

**(*) 21/2

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