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The Mummy
  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • Back Lot Music / 2017 / 124m

The first film in Universal’s new (well, old, I guess) “Dark Universe” which will be resurrecting many of the famous monsters from their films of many decades past, The Mummy rather improbably stars Tom Cruise as the man who unwittingly discovers the tomb of the ancient Egyptian Princess Ahmanet and unleashes her wrath on him and, needless to say, the world.  Directed by Alex Kurtzman (only his second film, in fact – he’s better known as a writer and producer and seems to have the helm on this new series), the film looks set to do well for itself at the box office, even if it hasn’t exactly been met with a favourable response from the critics.

Kurtzman has an association with Brian Tyler which spans several films and tv shows and the composer must have relished working on this kind of canvas on a film directed by his friend: the score that really brought him to the public’s attention was a horror movie, Darkness Falls, and of course he’s really made his name on various action films, so The Mummy – which brings the two together – was always going to be fertile ground.  (I guess Bubba Ho-Tep is also worthy of a quick mention.)  And he doesn’t disappoint: his music is a thrilling, action-packed spectacle that barely draws breath and is up there with his best.

Brian Tyler

A CD release is coming, but at the time of writing the only purchase option is a (very reasonably priced) “deluxe edition” offered for download, running a whopping 124 minutes (17 minutes longer than the official running time of the film, which is somewhat confusing).  I usually bristle at albums of such length, but this one plays along very nicely throughout.  Many people will have a practical limitation on how much time they can dedicate to listening to music and for them – and me – that will necessitate pruning it down in the longer term, but I’m sure I will do it because it’s a score I will relish hearing for a long while to come.

It’s built around two very good primary themes, with various less significant ones cropping up in between.  The first of them – for the eponymous star of the show herself – is the basis of the opening track “The Mummy”.  Low strings and choir swirl the central melody along, before the orchestra begins to build up around them, that melodic figure swirling away, rising up, for all its worth, occasionally interrupted by the John Williams-style B-section.  It’s grand, dramatic, memorable – everything you would want the theme from The Mummy to be.  And Tyler’s no slouch at writing for large forces: as big as the piece is, you hear the little touches of orchestration all over it.  There is real flair at play.  In the second cue, “The Secret of the Mummy”, it’s used much more subtly at first before more grand gestures swell up and lead into the first of a great deal of action material, percussion pounding away, that theme occasionally swirling in and out, the ending truly cacophonous: it’s great.

The second theme is for Cruise’s character and “Nick’s Theme” is the next track.  It’s a bit of a classic adventure theme.  It very much reminds me of – of all things – a vintage spaghetti western “last man standing” type theme, albeit placed in a Hollywood orchestral setting – think of the melody (not the arrangement) of Morricone’s “The Arena” from Il Mercenario or something like that.  I realise we’re only three tracks in and I’ve already mentioned John Williams and Ennio Morricone and I don’t want to oversell it and risk causing disappointment; so give it a listen and make up your own mind.

An insistent action motif is introduced early in “Prodigium”, before spooky choral textures take over; then comes some classic Hollywood-style Egyptian flavour in “Egypt’s Next Great Queen” – it’s a well-worn sound but still a good one.   “Sandstorm” sees the main theme positioned firmly in action/horror territory and then the sense of an epic about to unleash itself is heard in “The Call of the Ancients” in (ironically) a very modern way, an anthemic call to arms with an explosive conclusion.  Even better is the spectacular “A Sense of Adventure”, Nick’s Theme opening the cue in fairly subdued fashion before everything soars away quite brilliantly, the theme bursting with energy and excitement.

Just when you think “Haram” might be presenting the score with its first dull moment, off it goes and bursts into life with yet more ballsy action music, this time with some gentle ethnic-tinged pauses for breath.  A lengthy passage of suspense follows this – there are flashes of colour, like the subtle religious tones that appear in “The Lost Tomb of Ahmanet” – but the next really striking moment comes in “Providence”, when a romantic variant on Nick’s Theme emerges and proves to be really lovely.  Big action comes back in the thunderous “The Sand of Wrath”, the choir adding an apocalyptic feeling.

“Enchantments” is brief but is warm and glowing with colour, a nice pause for breath before the balls-to-the-wall “Concourse of the Undead”, which uses an action motif that’s just gloriously, dementedly exciting.  The first real pure horror music comes in “She Is Risen”, with a number of familiar horror devices on display (including some used in the score for the 1999 version of this story) and then the action piece “Chaos, Mayhem, Destruction” lays on the thrills thick and fast, pausing for one particularly huge (but very brief) take on the main theme.  “Unstoppable” features some very modern material, with an abrasive sound at times but also some really impressive brass writing.

There are a few short cues in the second half of the album – one in particular I like is the suspenseful “Inquest”, which has these very interesting little string features.  “Forward Momentum” is another top-class action cue (maybe the score’s best), the strings moving along at one hell of a pace, the brass and percussion providing the rhythmic underbelly.  Nick’s Theme returns to take centre-stage in “Liberators of Precious Antiquities”, another thrill-ride of a cue.

“Possession of the Knight’s Tomb” offers a variety of darker colours punctuated with bursts of action before the album positively roars to its conclusion over the remaining four cues, which cover almost 25 minutes between them.  The lengthy “Destiny” starts in suspenseful mode but not surprisingly, given its title, it doesn’t take long for the suspense to be alternating with something of an epic sound with some particularly gigantic moments for the brass – the soaring version of the main theme, sounding completely different in this form, which closes the cue is especially impressive.  “Sentience” ends on a romantic note, which spills over to the start of “Between Life and Death” – and that goes on to soar away as you might expect.  Pleasingly, the album ends with a lengthy end title suite, which doesn’t offer any new material but I’m always pleased to see composers actually write them rather than the far more common modern practice of the music editor pasting tracks together.

It’s remarkable just how consistently enjoyable this music is over its full two-hour length.  Yes, I’ll chop it down a bit for future listening (and I have to say, not to the CD release’s tracklisting, which mystifyingly omits “Forward Momentum” and the end title suite) but that’s only to turn it into something which fits more neatly into the sort of album length that I’ll be able to listen to.  Tyler’s a master of modern action scoring and he’s at the height of his powers with this one: yes there’s a wall of sound, but there’s tremendously skilful orchestration there to produce it, and he gets a fabulous performance from the Philharmonia of London..

I said above that the score is up there with his best – Alex Kurtzman goes a step further in the album booklet and describes it as the best he’s ever written.  There is some competition for that title, but it’s certainly a contender: an action/adventure extravaganza with doses of horror liberally dolloped in along the way, The Mummy is a tremendous piece of entertainment.  The pair of main themes gives it a melodically memorable core, a quality which can’t be understated in 2017.  It’s great!

**** 1/2
Spectacular, stylish action/adventure score | |

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  1. Aidabaida (Reply) on Sunday 11 June, 2017 at 21:02

    Wow, high rating. You don’t usually like Tyler.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 11 June, 2017 at 21:01

      I do!

      • Aidabaida (Reply) on Sunday 11 June, 2017 at 21:07

        Huh. Maybe its someone else who doesn’t like him…

      • chan poling (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 01:49

        Let’s not forget to mention the orchestrations you so enjoyed were by the extremely talented (and my good friend) Robert Elhai!

  2. jjstarA113 (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 00:07

    “…Alex Kurtzman goes a step further in the album booklet and describes it as the best he’s ever written.”

    I don’t see any quotes from Alex Kurtzman in the digital iTunes booklet. Is it only in the CD booklet?

    • James Southall (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 20:29

      You’re right… I was sure I had read it in the booklet but actually there are no notes at all in the booklet. Turns out it’s in the press release from the album.

  3. A. Rubinstein (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 06:12

    Can’t believe you gave it the same rating as Goldsmith’s Mummy. That’s a wild exaggeration.

  4. Ben (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 08:43

    Hmm. 4 1/2 Stars? Is this music as good as Beltramis “Gods of Egypt” or Goldsmith’s “The Mummy”? I would like to doubt this clearly after several hearings. Unfortunately, Tyler never dares to get out of his comfort zone. A good score. It’s fun to listen. Still better than Hänschen and associates, unfortunately not outstanding compared to its predecessors. A bit Too generic, too much standard. It’s a pity. A maximum of four stars should be justified.

  5. Simon (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 15:58

    — “and I have to say, not to the CD release’s tracklisting, which mystifyingly omits “Forward Momentum”

    I can almost guarantee you that it is because an assistant or additional music writer wrote that piece. These composers tend to make cuts to the music they didn’t write themselves, regardless of how good it is.

    • Adam Krysinski (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 17:33

      Not even close, dude… “Forward Momentum” is unused, alternate version of “Concourse of the Undead”, so the track will not be available on CD.

  6. James Southall (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 20:37

    Lots of talk here and on some messageboards about the star rating. Honestly, there’s no great science behind how I award them (as I’m sure is obvious!) – just a gut feel based primarily on how likely I am to want to listen to it again, how it compares with other scores by the composer, and subconsciously I am sure I think about how it compares with expectations.

    So (while this isn’t intentional – which is why I said above it’s subconscious) a score by someone like Steve Jablonsky that I think is way better than his usual will probably get a higher star rating than a score by someone like John Williams that I think is way down on his usual, even though if you placed them side by side I’m sure the Williams would come out on top. Otherwise I’d just end up with most things by Williams, Goldsmith etc getting five stars and most things by Jablonsky etc getting one star, which is a probably a fair reflection of where they sit amongst the tens of thousands of film scores across the history of cinema, but not really very useful on a website like this.

    Anyway, it’s always great to hear other people’s takes. It seems most wouldn’t rate this as highly as me – but the more I listen, the more I think it’s probably the best thing Brian Tyler’s ever done. I just love it!

    • A. Rubinstein (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 20:55

      So basically you’re saying that each composer has a star scale of his own. That’s a bit problematic rating system, which requires a conversion table. How many Brian Tyler stars are equivalent to one Goldsmith star?

      • James Southall (Reply) on Monday 12 June, 2017 at 21:55

        Maybe instead of stars, different composers should have different measuring items. Brian Tyler can have sports cars. For Goldsmith, ponytails. One Goldsmith ponytail equals 25 Henry Jackman toilet rolls, that sort of thing.

      • mastadge (Reply) on Tuesday 13 June, 2017 at 13:49

        It’s not that problematic when you’ve got a dozen paragraphs of context for the star rating. Sheesh. No wonder Jon did away with star ratings in his reviews.

        • Jon Broxton on Saturday 17 June, 2017 at 23:37

          Precisely my point.

  7. Krishna Manohar (Reply) on Tuesday 13 June, 2017 at 04:16

    I agree with Southall as it is the best score Tyler has written in a while and similar to his unused Constantine score in terms of scale and length. It has been really hard being a Brian Tyler fan as of late as it seems the man no longer writes interesting music and has resigned to producing noise for lousy films. The Mummy score restores some faith at least.

    • Krishna Manohar (Reply) on Tuesday 13 June, 2017 at 04:33

      Correction: and similar to his unused Constantine score in terms of scale and length.

      This is my opinion and not one shared by James Southall in case anyone is confused.

  8. tiago (Reply) on Tuesday 13 June, 2017 at 05:11

    Brian conducted a live performance of his Mummy score on his concert, it’s on his YouTube channel if anyone wants to see:

  9. James Gordon (Reply) on Tuesday 13 June, 2017 at 12:06

    So beautiful to see this composers with a orchestra. So much emotion in one place.