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Soundtrack review: Great human odyssey (Darren Fung – 2015)

Documentary Film scores

Soundtrack review: Great human odyssey (Darren Fung – 2015)


Three-part documentary series and interactive web documentary “The great human odyssey” explores the unlikely survival and the miraculous emergence of Homo sapiens as the world’s only global species. Ancient climate research has revealed that we evolved during the most volatile era since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Sounds like an interesting documentary. The director filmed for 18 months and traced the footsteps of our ancestors on five continents. The score was written by Canadian composer Darren Fung.

The discovery of our species… our evolution… yep, this is the tone on which it should start. “Something remarkable” is just that. It’s an alert and exciting beginning and has some moments with shades of epic that really make me imagine the birth of our species and the first heroes of humanity. I think the director was very pleased with this opening because it must have fit his vision. “Into Europe” must be playing over an evolution montage, that’s how I perceive it. It suggests time passing very fast and things getting shape.

“Hunters and gatherers” is the first cue that stays brilliant from start to finish. The score seems to be picking up momentum. The piano keeps it going in more cues and those are becoming my favorite moments from “The great human odyssey”. I am having a strange reaction at this score. The music is beautiful and meaningful and yet I can’t always connect with it, I feel as if I’m watching it from a distance. I am not part of this story. But that rolling piano… or the sweeping choirs of “The Kelp forest” make me forget these thoughts for a while.

“On the move” makes me rise and cheer for those early humans. A cue with such a buildup deserves a mention, as does the woodwind instrument which opens “The wise, the evolved”. Slowly this score has picked up the pace and is going through its own evolution. In a very smart move Darren Fung uses the buildup in a lot of cues to give that exact impression, while the powerful choirs help suggest the external conditions back then.

The more I listen to it the more I realize that the score for “The great human odyssey” mirrors the enthusiasm and thirst for scientific discovery the director has. There’s a stride and a powerful belief in cues like “Remarkable adaptations” and “Dawn of the symbolic thought” that get to me. Are these the cues that mark different leaps in human evolution? Are these the moments where I would marvel if I was watching the documentary? Again I like the piano work very much. The score is warm and melodic and I have moments when I expect the lights to go out and an exploration movie to start.

The score doesn’t relent from that moment on. It keeps its momentum and makes me forget the shaky beginning. The music shows innocence, vigor and faith. The composer must have established a connection with the documentary because I can feel from the music that he was really invested in the story. I can tell whether a composer wrote on autopilot or got involved and this is a clear case of the latter. Darren Fung gave the director just what he needed to complete his vision and I am sure the composer himself had a lot to take out from this experience. It’s all in the music… It could work on any heroic movie. But what greater hero is there than man himself?

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 19 / 64

Album excellence: 30%


Hunters And Gatherers

The Kelp Forest

On The Move

Remarkable Adaptations

Dawn Of Symbolic Thought

Jebel Faya

The Art Of Sailing

Last Days Of June

Homo sapiens


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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