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Christophe Beck Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Review

Soundtrack. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

It won’t disappoint, but it doesn’t thrill or excite either.

Michael Quinn 2010

The search for a successor to the lucrative Harry Potter franchise begins in earnest with the first big-screen outing for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. And along with it comes the now de rigueur symphony-sized soundtrack, courtesy here of Christophe Beck, best known for his Emmy Award-winning score for the cult television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Based on a novel by Rick Riordan, the film transports the 12 deities of ancient Greece to modern-day New York where they take up residence in the Empire State Building and set about creating a new race of young demi-gods, one of whom, the eponymous Percy Jackson, discovers he is the son of Poseidon and must defend himself against a vengeful Zeus, who mistakenly believes he has stolen his thunderbolt. (So much for divine infallibility!) Cue bearded gods, mythical monsters and a rollercoaster ride of special effects-laden adventure. 

Beck’s previous film scores have been attached to pretty thin gruel – Steve Martin’s Pink Panther remake, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Fred Claus and regrettably too many others. So Percy Jackson is his bid for the big time, and he seizes it with both hands, his trigger finger pumping feverishly away throughout on epic fantasy mode at full throttle to squeeze every last ounce of drama, emotion, tension and triumph out of his uncredited but expressive orchestra.

Available only as a digital download, it’s a score that is packed with incident and colour even if it occasionally smacks of writing-by-numbers. With more than a nod and a wink to his onetime teacher, the late Jerry Goldsmith – no bad thing, in this book – and with distinct echoes of Laurence Rosenthal’s score for 1981’s Clash of the Titans, Beck makes rather thin use of recognisable themes but he has a strong feel for atmosphere and offers a muscular commentary shot through with a sufficiently wide range of tonal colours to maintain interest. To the fore are heroic brass fanfares, lilting woodwinds, dramatically martial percussion, strings that soar and swoop, and clashing metallic effects augmented by electronic accents. It won’t disappoint, but it doesn’t thrill or excite either.

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