Neil Gaiman's feisty fantasy gets a suitably saucy soundtrack...
Michael Quinn 2007
The on-off-on again big-screen adaptation of Nail Gaiman’s fantasy novel about a young boy, a fallen star and a make-believe kingdom populated by witches and ghosts has finally reached cinemas a decade after it was first mooted.
It arrives gift-wrapped in a somewhat sanitised $65 million production budget complete with ‘Who’d have thunk it?’ headlining names, not least Hollywood royalty Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeifer, and a thumping symphony-sized score courtesy of Ilan Eshkeri.
As calling cards go, Eshkeri’s nimbly realised score sounds sufficiently like every other fantasy blockbuster soundtrack to lend it, curiously enough, immediate impact. But it also boasts enough originality and self-evident craftsmanship to assure him of offers of new work aplenty with the potential of turning him into a name composer among cinephiles.
Very much in the John Williams Harry Potter mould, Eshkeri’s music for Stardust also variously calls to mind a host of other fantasy classics, not least Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Howard Shore’s The Lord of The Rings, Wojciech Kilar’s unsettling Dracula and even ex-Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler’s soundtrack for the tongue-firmly-in-cheek Princess Bride.
Eshkeri also directly quotes Bach, Dvorak and Offenbach before stepping momentarily aside for a specially written song by comeback kings Take That (although only a brief instrumental version is offered here as an epilogue to Eshkeri’s contribution).
If there is nothing that particularly leaps out of the speakers to burn itself into the imagination, Eshkeri’s score, solidly constructed around a number of otherwise attractive and easily recognisable motifs and making sure-footed use of the orchestral forces available to it, remains a more than competent creation. Attractive and accessible, it seems wholly and eloquently attuned to the glossy, knowing, tongue-in-cheek surface of the film it accompanies, succeeds as a standalone recording, and is realised with an obvious and easy-going élan that makes it likable and even, in its own composing-by-numbers way, admirable.