I'll be honest. I'm a sucker for big, epic-style movies. Stuff like Star Wars, Krull, Indiana Jones, Excalibur, Stargate --even Army Of Darkness. I love it. I enjoy that sweeping feel that they have and the bad dialogue that can permeate these movies. And I love the grand music that these films usually come with. There is nothing quite like it. Sometimes, the music can surpass the film and become even more memorable. (Easy example: The score to Dragonheart vs. the actual movie. Which one will you remember?)
In any case, to accompany this year's remake of the classic horror film, The Mummy, the people in charge turned to composer Jerry Goldsmith for the task. You may not remember his name, but his work is well known. He created the theme for Star Trek: The Movie -- which they later used for the TV series and other movies--and did scores for Air Force One and Star Trek: Insurrection. His work is well known. But I will be the first to say that this score is NOT the musically-complete nor the most challenging nor the most artistic. I will even admit that this score is not groundbreaking nor a great score. However, this score is one thing: FUN!
How would you create music for a movie that is set in Egypt? Simple. Add Egyptian touches to the music. The main theme for this movie is introduced within the first track, "Imhotep." In fact, this theme appears and reappears throughout the score at various different tempos to highlight the action that is going on. The main theme itself is nothing more than a few notes played slowly at first on a flute and a harp, before the violins take over it. It is simple, it works and it is great.
More of those Egyptian touches reappear throughout the score. On tracks like "Giza Port," "The Caravan" and "My Favorite Plague." While it is true that they are barely more than touches, they add to the flavor of the soundtrack. For example, in "The Caravan," you are treated to a sweeping piece of music--like wind across the Sahara. Then, midway through, it dies and gives you the main theme again.
The main theme is actually slowed down to a few notes to serve as the love theme. This appears on various tracks-- "Night Boarders," "The Caravan," and "The Sand Volcano." As a love theme, the music gains a new sense and serves to unite the quest the characters are going through with the personal attraction the two leads are having for one another. Sure, a more concrete love theme would have been better, but this one will suffice.
Of course, a movie remake of "The Mummy" has to have some horror scenes, right? In this one, the horror music appears early--in "The Sarcophagus." Here we get more Egyptian flavor along with some slow, creepy music that suddenly turns and starts building towards a climax. Some of the music here is repeated on "Rebirth" and parts of "The Crypt" which also has this sense of danger.
Then, there are some tracks that seem to be here just for the fun of it. They are attached to the more action-oriented parts of the movie and they give off that feeling of action. "Tauger Attack" starts out with a speeded-up version of the main theme, before descending into a more-ordinary action fanfare. "Camel Race" is the opposite. It starts out as action fanfare and midway through, it returns to the main theme and uses it as a climax. "Mummia Attack," and "The Mummy" feature some more of the action sequences, but here is where you encounter the big problem of this soundtrack.
I've already said that this soundtrack wasn't the most musically-complete score out there and I've backed it up by explaining how the main theme is used and reused in a number of different ways. Well, the problem is that there is no diversity. While the main theme is great and is used well, there is nothing else to compete with it. Think about it. In Star Wars, you had the main theme, the Cantina Band, the theme for Princess Leia and on and on. Here, the main theme is used to cover the hero, the heroine, the villain and the action. Some people might find that a bit boring or uninspired. It would have been one thing if Goldsmith had created one theme for the mummy, given the hero and heroine another theme and then used the main theme to tie the movie together. Instead, the main one is used as often as I've used the word "theme" in this review.
What makes it worse is that the action themes -- like "Mummia Attack," "Crowd Control" and "The Mummy" -- then fade into one another. You can't tell when in the movie this is taking place or separate into individual pieces. I realize that I can listen to the first seven tracks -- "Imhotep" to "Camel Race" -- and then skip to the last one ("The Sand Volcano") and it does not feel like I've missed anything. This is not good. After all, the climax of the movie, the danger, the sense of horror often hinges on the music's ability to stand out and play a part. Here the music just becomes one large, undistinguishable, piece. (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).
Like I said, I liked this movie and, overall, the soundtrack works. The album ends with "The Sand Volcano," where the main theme and its various uses are all repeated. However, I do feel like Goldsmith might have just churned this one out quickly to tend to the many other soundtracks he was working on. This is bad. The soundtrack is halfway to being good, so why not complete it and add music that will stick on your head? I don't know. As it stands, The Mummy is only half-good. Therefore, that's the grade it gets.