The 13th Warrior
Varese Sarabande Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/05/2000
(I also had that problem with his score for the movie, The 13th Warrior , where he tries to add Middle-Eastern touches, but fails because there isn't even a single unifying theme to the entire movie. Instead you are treated to various musical pieces that dissapear into the void).
That's me speaking about Jerry Goldsmith's score for The 13th Warrior and comparing it to his score for The Mummy . And, in fact, both of those scores have many qualities in common with one another. They were both adventure-type movies about ancient evils and heroes out of the ordinary. Both also featured scores by composer Jerry Goldsmith. And both of Goldsmith's scores are fun.
Now, why would I bother to bring up a quote from almost a year ago? Simple. I was somewhat incorrect when it comes to the score to the Antonio Banderas/John Mc Tiernan/Michael Crichton adventurer. There is a theme in the middle of all these musical pieces. In fact, you hear it in the very first track, "Old Bagdad." While simplistic and primeval, the theme to The 13th Warrior works well to fill the movie.
That said, this movie's score suffers from the same ails as The Mummy. While it has a good main theme, there's no growth beyond that point. It too is forced to serve multiple duties and keeps reappearing into the film in many ways. From "Exiled" to "The Sword Maker" to "Honey," the theme is worked and reworked into the music of the film. It makes its best appearance though in "Valhalla/Viking Victory," where the heroes recite an ancient prayer before the final battle.
Nevertheless, despite its overuse of its one thematic piece, this score is actually much more fun that The Mummy's. Goldsmith manages to wield more excitement into the music and, unlike the score to The Mummy, I could not prevent myself from skipping large segments of the soundtrack. From the horror of "Eaters Of The Dead" and "The Horns Of Hell" to the action of "Mother Wendol's Cave" and "Underwater Escape," Goldsmith manages to create a more exciting score here.
Perhaps its ultimate flaw - and you could say the same thing about the movie - is that it never leaves a mark on you. Yes, it is exciting. Yes, it is fun. However, it is very dismissible and forgettable. Unlike the score of, say, Gladiator, there is nothing original in this score. You can sense that this music - and this movie - were almost on the brink of coolness. For example, Goldsmith creates a small, wooden motif for the villains that sounds other-wordly. Yet he never takes it to its completion and never fleshes out a full theme for them.
In the end, though, the score to The 13th Warrior is very enjoyable. This is action music for the classically-minded. If you have a hankering for some good action music, go and pick this release up. Go ahead and enjoy it.