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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Composed by David Arnold
  • Sony Classical 88697811422 / 2010 / 71:52

I’m sure that Disney’s hopes were high that they might be able to have a Lord of the Rings-style success from the Narnia franchise.  The first film gave a healthy box office return but the second made “only” $140m in the US, barely half of its production budget.  After Disney decided not to continue with the franchise, it appeared that it may have reached a premature end; but then, distribution rights were picked up by Fox, a new director (Michael Apted) came on board and the third film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has now opened, to generally similar reviews as its predecessors (it’s OK, but nothing spectacular).  

For a number of people reading this website, the news that Michael Apted was to direct the film would have been greeted by joy – nothing to do with Apted, but with the composer he would bring with him, David Arnold.  Of course, today Arnold is best-known for his work on James Bond, but he made his name writing those larger-than-life scores for Roland Emmerich (a man whose films today receive the blandest, most anonymous scores conceivable); this film would surely present Arnold with his first opportunity in a very long time to write music along the lines of those wonderful scores from the start of his career.

David Arnold

The good news is that, to an extent, he has indeed written music in that sort of vein.  Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as good.  This album presents some spectacular highlights – in particular one fantastic, eleven-minute action track, “Into Battle”.  If only that were representative of the score as a whole, plenty of film score enthusiasts would be dancing on the rooftops.  But, it’s not.  The other action music is enjoyable enough – it’s somewhat generic (and, surprisingly, more James Bond than Roland Emmerich) but that doesn’t stop it being enjoyable, a particular highlight being “Dragon Attack”.  There are a couple of nice sweeping sections, too, occasionally involving choir – it is not particularly memorable (apart from the curious insertion of the love theme from Arnold’s Godzilla into “Reepicheep”), but film music like this isn’t really written very often any more, so frankly I’ll grab whatever chances I can.

The problem here is that an awful lot of the album’s middle section is really rather dull.  There are pretty long sections in which barely anything happens – the orchestra noodles along, not really going anywhere or doing anything.  It leads to a very uneven album.  Some of it is a bit generic but enjoyable; some, completely wonderful; but probably not far from half is just boring.  I’m sure a talented album producer could have made a very impressive album from it and, who knows, perhaps one day someone will release the “Deluxe Edition” (which would be half as long).  But I can only review the album which was actually released, and that one passes the time but (and I’m very surprised that this is the case) is no more impressive than Harry Gregson-Williams’s similarly uneven scores for the previous two films (and probably a shade behind Prince Caspian).  ***

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  1. AntonioE1778 (Reply) on Tuesday 7 December, 2010 at 20:46

    I, too, at first thought the middle section to be generally dull and uninspired. While it is true that the score is very quiet at times, I have come to enjoy the quieter moments. I have come to find 4 or 5 themes or motifs hidden away in these tracks. It’s interesting to listen multiple times and pick things up that I previously missed. There is much of that in this score.

    In other words, in order to truly appreciate the score I think it requires multiple listens. It is an intelligent score. I also liked the fact that from the get go it felt like a fantasy score. It isn’t some music that could be put in to just any film. It is unique in that regard. The main theme is a real winner as well, and several of the secondary themes are pretty good and enjoyable as well.

    I, personally, would give the score 4 stars. Sadly, it is not the masterpiece that it could have been and like you said, there are moments that of awesomeness. To me, they show what this score could have and should have been.

  2. john mansell (Reply) on Saturday 1 January, 2011 at 17:21

    when i first heard that David Arnold was working on this I thought fantastic, on listening to it my initial feelings were reinforced, this is a sterling effort a magnificent work that is pure unadulterated magic.