When Disney Russia’s epic fantasy film The Last Warrior: Root of Evil was released earlier this month, it became an instant classic, earning rave reviews and setting new box office records, even with COVID-19 restrictions. The second in a planned trilogy, the film is the fastest ever to hit $20 million in ticket sales in Russia.
The tale follows Ivan, a young man living in the present day who travels through a magical portal to the ancient world of Belogorie, where dragons, magic, and fairytale creatures abound. The first film, The Last Warrior, shattered Russian box office records in 2017 and earned a devout following among children and adults alike. The sequel is on track to surpass those records. In just two weeks, Root of Evil earned almost as much as the 2017 film did over its entire theatrical run.
The film’s director, Dmitriy Dyachenko, attributes a substantial part of its success to the score by LA composer George Kallis, praising the soundtrack for creating the definitive sound of the Russian folktale-inspired franchise: “We needed a composer who has a great understanding of complex storylines and character development, and who could bring an epic Russian fantasy world to reality. George’s music lifts our energetic action scenes, bright comedic moments, and tender lyrical scenes, greatly enhancing the dramatic arcs of our film.”
Kallis received the Jerry Goldsmith Award for Best Score for The Last Warrior in 2017. He began working on the score for Root of Evil just as the pandemic was forcing the world to shut down. Because of the new restrictions, Kallis had to plan everything from his home in Los Angeles, using musicians scattered around the globe.
Working remotely thousands of miles away, Kallis drew inspiration from the commonalities between his Greek background and Russian folk instruments, as well as liturgical music. The soundtrack was recorded with a 70-piece orchestra and 44-person choir, layered with local ethnic instruments, such as the gudok and balalaika, to create the film’s distinct sound. He adds: “In Root of Evil, the long road trip our protagonists take through plains, snowy mountains, the skies, and the underworld was the perfect visual template for a highly energetic fantasy score. We revisit established musical motifs from the first film while also introducing new thematic material, particularly for the malicious forces that haunt our protagonists.”
Walt Disney Company CIS Vice President Vladimir Vereshchagin explains: “The importance of George’s score cannot be overstated. Not only does it musically paint the scenes perfectly, but it comes with melodies to which you can’t help but hum along after you leave the theater.”
Walt Disney Records will release the soundtrack worldwide on January 29 on all major digital music platforms.