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HOLLOW MAN – Jerry Goldsmith

hollowmanOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Throughout cinema history, the story of the invisible man has been invented and re-invented by each subsequent generation. From James Whale’s 1933 classic with Claude Rains in the title role, to the popular 1970s TV series starring David McCallum, man’s fascination with making himself diaphanous has made for compelling viewing. In Hollow Man, director Paul Verhoeven has taken this principle one step further, by making his invisible man not just invisible, but also psychotic and murderous: driven insane by the scientific methods that gave him his power. Gory, and more than a little gratuitous (inspect the rear of the insert card for proof!), Hollow Man stars Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Caine, a brilliant but slightly deranged scientist who has perfected a serum that will render whoever uses it invisible. Despite the protestations of his loyal assistant Karen (Elisabeth Shue), and the remainder of his staff, Sebastian tests the drug on himself, with horrific results.

It almost pains me to say it, but more than any other Jerry Goldsmith score I have heard, Hollow Man comes across as being lazy and uninspired. An amalgam of a multitude of styles from several other scores over the last 15 years, Goldsmith has, in many ways, done a Horner. He’s crafted a workmanlike, appropriate, yet oddly familiar score by nicking bits and pieces from himself and re-applying them in a new setting. In a nutshell, it’s the strings from Basic Instinct and the action sequences from Star Trek Insurrection, with The Mummy’s brass motifs and the shifting electronic tones of Total Recall thrown in for good measure.

This is not to say the score is without merit; on the contrary, Goldsmith’s work is excellent at conveying the moods the film intends, and certainly allows viewers and listeners to experience feelings of terror and excitement. The melancholy first cue, ‘The Hollow Man’, begins with various ominous electronic chords before switching to an impessive orchestral performance of the icy, undulating central theme. Unfortunately, ‘What Went Wrong?” represents the only further large-scale performance of the theme, leaving the majority of the rest of the score to action music and chaotic dissonance, as the chase to stop the invisible man hots up.

Skittish strings, percussion stabs, and a constant pulsating electronic undercurrent typify many of the score’s frequent action cues, with tracks such as ‘Not Right’, ‘Broken Window’, ‘Hi Boss’ and the 9-minute ‘Bloody Floor’ lingering in the memory longest. As is often the case with Goldsmith these days, the villain of the piece is represented by a recurring descending brass motif – the same gimmick as was used in The Edge, Deep Rising, The Mummy and others, and which is now beginning to wear a little thin. In addition to this, Goldsmith regularly makes use of a rumbling low-end piano ostinato that is highly reminiscent of the one Danny Elfman used so brilliantly in Beetlejuice back in 1988. Only ‘Linda and Sebastian’ manages to be anything other than harsh, featuring as it does a gentle, almost indistinct piano theme, augmented by a fragile string wash.

Even the score’s ending is more than a little disappointing. The final cue on the album, ‘The Big Climb’ is merely another action cue, that weaves it’s merry way for three minutes, never once hinting that it is coming to any kind of all-encompassing conclusion, and simply stops. No majestic recapitulation of the main theme, no rousing finale, nothing. It’s a flat, totally ordinary way to bring one of this year’s most anticipated scores to an end.

Without wanting to take anything away from the score’s effectiveness, or the immensely talented man who created it, Hollow Man is nevertheless a terribly disappointing score. As action music, it never comes close to living up to the standards set out by Goldsmith himself, languishing behind other similar efforts such as The Thirteenth Warrior and Deep Rising – great scores written for bad movies. Could it be that, having hit 70 last year, Goldsmith is now coasting, or is it just that Verhoeven’s film simply failed to inspire him? Whatever the case may be, Hollow Man is exactly that: a superficial film score with very little at its core.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • The Hollow Man (3:02)
  • Isabelle Comes Back (6:04)
  • Linda & Sebastian (2:57)
  • This Is Science (6:17)
  • Not Right (2:42)
  • What Went Wrong? (1:44)
  • Broken Window (3:01)
  • False Image (1:58)
  • Hi Boss (2:49)
  • Find Him (4:38)
  • Bloody Floor (9:57)
  • The Elevator (3:01)
  • The Big Climb (3:06)

Running Time: 51 minutes 31 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6171 (2000)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Alexander Courage. Recorded and mixed by Bruce Botnick. Edited by Ken Hall. Album produced by Jerry Goldsmith.

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