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Sweeping fantasy score is great fun, in a monochromatic kind of way
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Presumably made to try to cash in on the lack of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Narnia film this year, Eragon is based on a novel by a five-year-old (or something like that) and is one of the most critically-lambasted movies in a long time. These fantasy movies only occasionally maintain my interest anyway, so one which seems to think that all you need for a fantasy movie are characters and places with absurd names, and hurl a load of money at some effects, doesn't even generate that. Still, it will no doubt make loads of money anyway, as these things tend to.
One thing it certainly has going for it is the music, by Patrick Doyle, who may not seem like the obvious choice, but did of course provide a good score for the most recent Harry Potter adventure. The first thing to note is one which is just about enough to make me hang out some bunting and kiss the nearest stranger (well, the nearest stranger who happens to have supermodel looks, anyway) - it's got an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned, instantly-memorable, soaring main theme, the kind which just isn't written for films any more. It's fantastic, a theme which will be whistled in the shower by many film music fans for a long while to come.
And that's a good job, because every track uses it to some degree or other, usually a pretty large degree. This is a theme-and-variations score, with Doyle throwing the piece through soaring heroic versions, soft emotional versions, pounding action versions. I rarely find such an approach to be compelling (monothematic scores are fine, but it's rare to find one which offers so little other material as Eragon) and indeed, the approach means that the album loses steam well before its conclusion.
Fortunately, there are some fantastic set-pieces along the way. As well as the opening piece, there's a real sense of magic about the sweeping "Saphira's First Flight"; the rousing "If You Were Flying" is again terrific, though it's extremely similar to the opening cue; "Fortune Teller" opens with a charming, low-key passage before exploding into some fine action scoring; and the extended action piece "Battle for Varden" is very well done, a ten-minute journey always anchored about the main theme, but with enough additional material weaving around it to make it a real standout.
This is very enjoyable, with the album hampered only by its lack of variation. After the score concludes come two songs, a generic feel-good track "Keep Holding On" from teenybopper Avril Lavigne, and what is somewhat disingenuously described as "the new song from acclaimed singer/songwriter Jem", "Once In Every Lifetime" - the statement may be true, but she didn't write this song, it's (surprise!) another version of Doyle's main theme, this time turned into a bland Enya wannabe. It's a strong album, not perhaps Doyle at his very best, but the theme alone makes it a most worthwile purchase and fans of the composer will be in raptures.