Back in the Golden Age of the Hollywood epic, composer Miklós Rózsa lavished much scholarly research on his scores for Quo Vadis
(1959), El Cid
(1961) and others, gracing those movies with music that had as its wellspring authentic (or at least authentic-sounding) melodies from the period. For Ridley Scott's revival of the Roman epic, Gladiator
, Hans Zimmer eschews such learned academia in favour of his own more contemporary, wall-of-sound approach (honed to perfection on movies like Tony Scott's Crimson Tide
). In truth, no one is quite sure what Roman music sounded like, and Zimmer's unscholarly rock music background is temperamentally better suited to Scott's all-action movie anyway.
Gladiator's score is a stylistic conflation of some audacity, incorporating lavish synthesised, percussive action sequences (a Zimmer trademark), "ethnic" instrumentation including Spanish guitar, Chinese dulcimer and Armenian duduk, and--most suprisingly of all for Zimmer--unabashed plagiarism of Wagner (his cue "The Might of Rome" is "Siegfried's Funeral March" in all but name) and Holst ("The Battle" and "The Barbarian Horde" lean heavily on "Mars"). Vocalist and co-composer Lisa Gerrard (fresh from working on The Insider, coincidentally also starring fellow-Australian Russell Crowe) adds her ethereal vocalisms to the music's more intimate scenes ("Sorrow" and "Elysium" for example). Her contribution brings an exotic, Oriental flavour to a score that in its broad musical canvas reflects the movie's depiction of the vast scope of the Roman Empire. If not the equal of Zimmer's career best work on The Thin Red Line (1998), this is still a hugely entertaining and diverse soundtrack. --Mark Walker