Trevor Jones...has turned out some original music which is utterly compelling.
Jack Smith 2003-09-26
There was nothing gentlemanly about the floods of abuse which US critics rained upon the screen portrayal of comic book heroes the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Pundits lost no time in savaging the weakness of the script, the poverty of the acting and shambolic directing.
Which makes the release of the soundtrack seem an ominous enterprise. But not so. Trevor Jones, whose credits include The Dark Crystal and The Last of the Mohicans, has turned out some original music which is utterly compelling.
The soundtrack opens full-throttle with "Dawn of a New Century", an orchestral piece with the visceral strings, harsh chords and blaring trumpets of epic Prokofiev. It is butch, contemporary and brilliantly bombastic.
There are other great action anthems. "Nautilus - Sword of the Ocean", a paean to the gang's roving underwater fortress, is thunderous, fast-paced and thrusting. "Capturing Mr. Hyde" is intensely dramatic, all scissored edges and thumping timpani. These and the other action sequences have an astringent edge which resists cliché and sentimentality.
But glorious adventure pieces are only part of the story. This soundtrack is full of surprises. "Kenya Wait For Me" and "Son of Africa", performed in Swahili by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, provide the character theme for Allan Quartermain (Sean Connery's colonial role) and offer warm, human relief from the score's grandiosity.
And there are slow numbers. "Mina Harker's Secret" is a romantic seranade for the gentlewoman heroine neglected in the films title. "Promenade by the Sea" is a pastiche of a Victorian music-hall duet trilled by two female voices, all twirling parasols and coy glances. Its girly, almost camp, presence effectively throws the testosterone of the action sequences into relief. It suggests that this score has a sense of humour.
All of which adds up to a rare thing a soundtrack that works much better without the film.