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Soundtrack review: The mummy (Brian Tyler – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The mummy (Brian Tyler – 2017)

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“The Mummy” is a 2017 American 3D action-adventure horror film directed by Alex Kurtzman and written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, with a story by Kurtzman, Jon Spaihts and Jenny Lumet. It is a reboot of The Mummy franchise and the first installment in the Dark Universe film series, though Kurtzman said that the film was set in the same continuity as Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy trilogy and its spin-offs. The film stars Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Javier Botet and Russell Crowe. An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

The movie signifies for me a departure from the lighter and more adventurous tone of the previous trilogy and also a very exciting introduction to a new saga, the Dark Universe franchise which I can’t wait to see compete with the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. I enjoyed the film tremendously and I want to see more. The score was written by Brian Tyler and I accepted this with my eyes closed because when I think of the spectacle of “The mummy” only the best action film music composer will do and I couldn’t wait to hear what thunderous main theme he would come up with this time. Historically this franchise has benefited from some extraordinary scores and for me the Jerry Goldsmith one for the 1999 movie and, especially, Alan Sivestri’s score for the sequel stand very high in my personal rankings. And since he is Brian Tyler, this time he didn’t just write his usual 75 minutes long score, he boldly went for two hours and I sometimes worry when I see such a running time because it’s hard to keep the flow and excitement going for so long.

The main theme is a quite clever composition as it starts quietly before the Brian Tyler life force infuses it with orchestral might. The melody builds up into a grandiose motif that does the story justice. For me it has everything that makes a Brian Tyler theme great: power, a storm of instruments and a story in itself. The subtle oriental elements towards the end locate this theme inside the franchise. This is the kind of theme that grows in me with each new listen. It recurs throughout the score to the point where it becomes memorable.

The second main theme of the score is for Tom Cruise’s character Nick and it’s a very nice melody with a bit of a heroic twist brought on my horns. Having seen the movie this theme is kind of spoilerish because the character is introduced as nothing more than a smuggler and it takes a while for us to discover his true qualities that make him worthy of a beautiful theme like this.

I love how the orchestra sounds in “Prodigium”. As time goes by I think Brian Tyler is enjoying more and more conducting and composing for orchestra and I can hear it in cues like this one. The horn section, the strings and the way this cue is constructed make me think a bit of the magical elements in John William’s “Harry Potter” scores.

The key word to describe this score for me is “story”; it helps that I’ve seen the movie but the more I listen to it with its changes of pace, from action to fear to romantic / melodic the more it reminds me of the way the movie flows and every cue makes sense in that context; this is not just a collection of cues but a musical expression of the story in “The mummy”, take for take. Listening to this score gives me a mix of enjoyment and excitement as I am curious about the next cue and then the next one almost anticipating the scenes from the movie in my mind. There’s a sense of adventure throughout the entire album and I’m ready to take it.

A piece like “The call of the ancients” is representative for the duality of the score as it showcases the quiet parts of “The mummy” and the explosion at the end; there’s a constant feeling of unease as the strings are touched constantly at a steady pace in the background as if to bridge past and present. “A warning of monsters” is the first long piece of the score and it’s a bit underwhelming as it fails to take off but then again, dating back to “John Rambo” Brian Tyler has always had a bit of trouble with the long cues as his strength lies in powerful and shorter pieces. “Providence” is surprisingly warm and melodic, almost melancholic.

One of my favourite scenes of the movie was the infamous sand storm scene that every “Mummy” film has; only this time the mummy summoned the sand in the middle of London, far away from the desert; the scene was very cleverly made as she conjured the sand from broken glass and concrete and I can almost see all that as the choral and string parts from “The sands of wrath” hit my ears. From that cue on comes the middle section of the score which is a bit underwhelming considering the action and horror of the movie. I think this section of cues, from “Enchantments” to “Inquest” might turn off a few people from the deluxe edition of the score but trust me the rest of it is well worth it.

“Forward momentum” is where everything picks up back again and I feel the thrills of an exciting and grandiose orchestral cue again. The climax of the movie is as spectacular musically as it is visually. The end credits suite particularly is as fun and enjoyable as I was expecting and I bet it’s a cracker to listen to live in concert. I always love a triumphant end credits suite that invites new stories to follow it.

Brian Tyler manages to pull off a two hour long standalone listening experience for “The mummy”. I’m sure he had fun writing it and exploring musically all the nuances the story gave him. He didn’t go for the full action but instead restrained his music when he needed to. I had no difficulties sitting through all of it and taking my time with it. It’s true, when I will return to this score I will do it with a bit of a shorter selection and the middle section of the album is a bit less exciting that the rest of it but even generic Brian Tyler is more satisfying than most and all in all film music fans will not be disappointed with this one.

Cue rating: 81 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 32 / 124

Album excellence: 26%

Highlights:
The Mummy
Nick’s Theme
Sandstorm
The Call of the Ancients
The Sand of Wrath
Forward Momentum
Liberators of Precious Antiquities
Between Life and Death
The Mummy End Title Suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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