Sony Classical’s CD release of the soundtrack is the last new score we’ll ever get from Horner, so buy it, enjoy it, and think what might have been.
Review: The sudden and devastating loss of film composer James Horner took the whole world by surprise in 2015, but he left behind a long and lasting legacy of compositions that will be enjoyed for all time, for many generations to come. Just before he died in a plane crash, he’d secretly written music to paper for the remake of The Magnificent Seven to be directed by Antoine Fuqua whom he’d just worked with on the boxing drama Southpaw. When Horner was killed, his family found his work for The Magnificent Seven and gifted it to Fuqua, who had no idea that Horner had taken the initiative, and so when he’d finished the film he returned the favor by making sure Horner’s work made it into the film. The finished score, as a result, reflects Horner’s intentions, but the results sound a little undeveloped, which is a shame, but certainly not Horner’s fault as his life was taken too soon.
Fuqua’s film is a heck of a lot of fun and should be measured on its own terms, and frankly so should Horner’s score. Horner never tried to emulate Elmer Bernstein’s original score for the 1960 film, but it does its own thing, creating a sense of mood, tension, and dramatic buildup with a Western seasoning. Bernstein’s big, soaring theme is used once in the end credits of the film, but the Sony Classical CD doesn’t include that rendition (probably a good decision, as the theme really didn’t belong in the film the way Horner seemed to avoid using it). Horner’s unfinished or undeveloped compositions were pieced together and expounded upon by Horner’s associate Simon Franglen, who’d worked with Horner on a number of projects, including Titanic, Avatar, and Southpaw. Franglen did what he could with the work, and the results are adequately representative of Horner’s intent, but truly one of the weakest elements of the film is the score itself, so it’s a tough call. The only other western Horner ever scored was The Missing from 2003, so perhaps that genre wasn’t his specialty. What The Magnificent Seven remake really needed was a score by Bruce Broughton (who did Silverado and Tombstone), but with all respect to Horner, his family, and his fans, he died before he could finish his work for this film, so we’ll never know what it should have sounded like. Sony Classical’s CD release of the soundtrack is the last new score we’ll ever get from Horner, so buy it, enjoy it, and think what might have been.