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THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
Reasonably entertaining action/adventure score from Edelman
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Universal Studios; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
After a seven-year gap, the mummy returns once again in Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Director Steven Sommers has left, as has star Rachel Weisz (whose role is played by Maria Bello, who looks nothing like her!), though Brendan Fraser is back as Rick O'Connell. Rob Cohen makes his first film since the awful Stealth, and reunites with his favourite composer Randy Edelman, who continues in the series which began so strong musically with Jerry Goldsmith's rollicking adventure score, before the considerably-inferior sequel which had its overbearing (but unbelievably popular) Alan Silvestri one. The spin-off The Scorpion King was scored by John Debney, who ironically came on board this film at the last minute to write some replacement music, though none of his material is on this album.
Edelman's music isn't particularly similar to any of the previous scores, though they're all rather different from one another so one could hardly accuse him of breaking any kind of musical continuity. This time out the film is set in China, so the Middle Eastern inflections of the first score are gone, to be replaced by stuff about as Chinese as Klaus Badelt's The Promise, but like that score it's not hard to enjoy this sort of material as a kind of guilty pleasure. The main theme, opening the album, is not its finest feature, sounding somewhat limp in comparison with Goldsmith's fun little march and even Silvestri's theatricals, but if you can leave aside the slightly peurile orchestration then it's decent-enough fun.
Unfortunately those orchestrations are not always easy to leave aside - with the forces of the London Symphony Orchestra at his disposal, Edelman has inexplicably decided to double-up many of the orchestral parts with samples - so for instance, at the same time as a big brass section, you get sampled brass playing the same thing. The effect is that the orchestra just sounds smaller - this Zimmer-style technique is not new for Edelman, but I'm still mystified why anyone would do it. Some of the music here is big - orchestrated well, and without the synths hiding all the subtleties the players would otherwise be able to bring forth, it would sound so much better.
The first action comes in "The Reign of Terror", and it's exciting enough - fairly typical generic modern action music, but it's not bad by any means. The sweeping electric cello theme introduced in "A Family Presses Close" is really quite attractive; and the action music that follows in "Formation of the Terra Cotta Army" isn't really that far from Silvestri's style in the previous score - until the startling Bernard Herrmann quotation at the end, which for some reason takes me by surprise every time I listen to the track! The flip side of the coin comes immediately in "Reading of the Scrolls", where all of a sudden the action material sounds so thin and limp, it's completely impotent.
Overall though, this is pretty enjoyable - it's at the Silvestri end of the scale and not the Goldsmith, rather inevitably, and while it doesn't reach the technical heights of Silvestri's music, nor is it so likely to cause a headache, and so the album - while far too long - is probably slightly more entertaining. It sounds a bit like a Media Ventures score at times - not just in the banal orchestration, but some of the tunes too - but also has the same sense of fun that Hans Zimmer's better action/adventure scores do. If you like that kind of undemanding action music, you should certainly like this.