- Composed by Marco Beltrami
- Varèse Sarabande / 2016 / 74m
Directed by Alex Proyas, Gods of Egypt is a modern swords-and-sandals action-adventure starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones as one of various deities who do battle with each other. It’s only just out but already declared a box office bomb, attracting much ridicule in general as a kind of ill-advised big-budget Roger Corman movie, but with general praise for Proyas’s visual flair. The director was actually born in Egypt so presumably he drew from his own experiences for the movie.
Regardless of the pros and cons of the film, it is certainly a good canvas for a talented film composer and Marco Beltrami is certainly one of those. It’s his third film for the director after I, Robot and Knowing, which are both fine scores – this is better still. The composer has said he drew his inspiration from classic scores like Lawrence of Arabia and Raiders of the Lost Ark but I can’t say I hear much of them – this is more like Beltrami doing The Mummy and there are superficial echoes both of Jerry Goldsmith’s score and indeed Alan Silvestri’s from the sequel, applied within a long score very much written in this composer’s distinctive voice but in a considerably broader orchestral vein than usual for him in recent years, with the solitary exception of Seventh Son – he’s done plenty of big blockbusters alongside the more personal stuff but even for them has tended to favour darker, grittier textures.
There’s none of that here – there’s plenty of darker material, but Beltrami handles it in a more cartoony manner which makes for eminently enjoyable listening. And there’s a really strong thematic base – the score’s main theme has that Hollywood Arabian flavour heard so often in these things, and that’s where the score is closest to The Mummy. It’s heard early on in “Gods of Egypt Prologue” and various times through the score, reaching its zenith in the ridiculously rousing finale “God of the Impossible”. I love the triumphant ceremonial arrangement in “Coronation”, choir and brass and percussion coming together brilliantly. There’s a love theme too, introduced in the brief “Bek and Zaya” – and explored fully later in “Bek and Zaya’s Theme”, presumably recorded just for the album. Then there’s “Hathor’s Theme”, which is more mystical and exotic (duduk!) and also beautiful.
For all this strong melodic content, the score does really shine in its action music too. There are relatively simple themes for both hero and villain (and some ominous-sounding choral music for the latter) which often form the core of the action, which begins in “Set vs Horus” with some thrilling brass trills (remember when Elliot Goldenthal was in his prime doing that sort of thing – how his voice is missed). “Shot Through the Heart” has a more martial feel, Goldsmithian really particularly in its thematic construct. That hero theme gets a good workout in “Wings and a Prayer”, with some heavenly brass writing and choir, though it’s sullied a bit by the electronics.
“Snakes on a Plain” (take that, Michael Giacchino!) is a simply wonderful action cue – this time the subtle electronics add a little something, the winds seem somewhat playful but the brass muscular and the percussion gathers persuasive momentum. Beltrami ratchets up the thrill levels in “Elevator Music” before unleashing all his forces in the two-part “Obelisk Fight”, the first half of which in particular is spectacular (when the big theme cuts in towards the end, it’s film music heaven). The performance of the complex, fast-paced music by the Sydney musicians is worthy of real praise.
Yes, the long album does contain a handful of cues (mostly of the suspenseful variety) that don’t really offer much of interest, but that’s the only mark against this very fine music. Seventh Son was a popular score but this is a more well-rounded and consistent listen. I love a lot of Beltrami’s quirkier or more intimate scores but he’s so good too at this kind of thing and for me Gods of Egypt is his finest score in a number of years. It’s not got as many facets and nor is it as good as Goldsmith’s wonderful The Mummy (which sounds even better today than it did in the context of its time, when film music like this came out nearly every week rather than once in a blue moon) but it does have its no-nonsense action/adventure spirit and so much to admire and enjoy. There is plentiful action music of very high quality and the melodic material is memorable and magical. Great stuff!
Rating: **** 1/2