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Exciting action/adventure music gets new deluxe presentation
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1994 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
The absurd Roland Emmerich sci-fi hit Stargate never seemed to be a likely candidate to launch a very popular and very successful franchise, but that's what it did with the tv shows it spawned. The film was a huge hit despite being very bad on nearly every level, but such is life; Emmerich's follow-up, Independence Day, wasn't nearly so cringeworthy, yet it attracted huge criticism whereas Stargate did not - the price of fame, perhaps. One thing that did work was the music - I'm not sure exactly what made the filmmakers turn to unknown British composer David Arnold, but they did, and he provided a treat of a score. (Well, somebody did, anyway - gossip persists over the extent of orchestrator Nicholas Dodd's involvement, particularly given how virtually identical scores he orchestrates for other people are to those he does for Arnold - regardless of how much truth there is there, the pairing of Arnold and Dodd was clearly a successful one from the start.)
Arnold taps into the grand spirit of scores gone by for his music, writing in an expansive style which recalls the golden age - purists may scoff, but there is more than a hint of Erich Korngold here. It's all anchored around the terrific main theme, and while the score isn't exactly monothematic, it isn't far from it - Arnold extracts an amazing amount of material from his theme, using it in a variety of very different contexts with great aplomb, indeed sometimes diguising it to the extent that it is virtually unrecognisable. Its vinest variation comes in the "Overture", when it has a kind of expansive, Lawrence of Arabia-esque sweep; but later on, whether in its martial, aggressive variant, its colourful action one or in the original sweeping one, it remains very effective.
Elsewhere, Arnold provides a secondary love theme, heard in "Daniel and Shauri" amongst others, which is surprisingly sincere and touching. The hard-edged action piece "Leaving Nagada" is another fine piece. Indeed, the whole score is highly-entertaining, just as the composer's other two scores for the director are. A lengthy soundtrack CD was released at the time of the film but has since become out of print, so Varese Sarabande took the opportunity of putting out an expanded reissue; the extra material adds little, but is nice to have, and this colourful action/adventure score comes highly recommended!