Home > Reviews > LARA CROFT – TOMB RAIDER – Graeme Revell


laracrofttombraiderOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Few films have had as troubled a post-production than Tomb Raider, the first big-screen outing for the pneumatically-breasted super heroine from the world of computer games, Lara Croft. Musically, the entire set-up was a shambles, eclipsing even such scoring debacles as The Avengers and What Dreams May Come. The first name attached to the project was John Powell; then, game composer Nathan McCree was announced as being the film’s composer. To the utter dismay of score fans, it was then announced that dance DJ Norman Cook (aka Fat Boy Slim) would co-ordinate the soundtrack. Then, in an amazing about-face, Cook was bumped off and Michael Kamen came in. Sigh of relief. But then, with just weeks to go before the film’s high profile premiere, Kamen downed tools and bolted the project, leaving poor old Graeme Revell with less than 10 days to write and record a 50-minute score for a full orchestra augmented by electronics. The Hollywood composing merry-go-round seemingly knows no depths of stupidity.

The film, of course, stars Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, a young British archaeologist – sort of a female Indiana Jones – who must dart across the globe from Cambodia to the Arctic and beyond in an attempt to stop her nemesis Manfred Powell (Iain Glen) and a strange cult known as the Illuminati from taking over the world. It seems that Powell has gained access to an ancient key which, if activated during a total planetary alignment, allows the user to gain control of time itself – and, wouldn’t you know it, an alignment is about to take place… Of course, plot and exposition are secondary to explosions, action, and Jolie herself in Simon West’s film, but the early signs seem to indicate that Tomb Raider could be one of those films that never lives up to its pre-release hype and ultimately is seen as a massive disappointment

The same can be said of Revell’s score, which is a lacklustre and underdeveloped affair which fails to generate any kind of action or tension as the score progresses. This, of course, is not Revell’s fault. Having ten days to write and record an entire score is certainly conducive to unearthing great musical talent. Combined with nightmarish Transatlantic logistics with Revell in LA and Rick Wentworth and the gang working from faxes and e-mails in London, it is quite possible that Tomb Raider proved more of a challenge than any other score the New Zealander has written. Just getting the thing finished was an achievement in itself; having the music attain any kind of high quality level was always going to be stretching things.

On CD, Revell’s music exists in a kind of limbo, bouncing from electronic pulses one minute to orchestral and choral effects the next. The ‘Main Title’ is one of the better cues, featuring a fully orchestral string theme and the Metro Voices intoning portentous chants over the melody. Sadly, after just two minutes, the music degenerates away into the first of a seemingly endless series of “atmospheric” tracks, in which an electronic pedal is overlaid with a piano chord, or a bit of an Indian flute, or a metallic effect, or a voice, or some percussion. This kind of scoring, although appropriate in the context of the film, is totally redundant on CD; tracks such as ‘Lara Croft at Home’, ‘Powell and the Illuminati’ merely groan along for a couple of minutes, and then simply finish without going anywhere. They add atmosphere, for sure, and considering the time constraints are more than adequate, but make no musical statements away from the picture.

Where Revell does come into his own are during the action sequences, into which he injects a great deal of energy and pace with loud, brash of electronics bolstering the orchestra. Cues such as ‘Home Invasion’, ‘Lara Battles the Stone Monkeys’, the relentless and rather impressive ‘Angkor Wat’, and the quite funky ‘The Letter’ rock to massive, Prodigy-style techno beats, and if you like that kind of thing are sure to be highlights. At the other end of the scale, one quietly lyrical cue – ‘The Clock’ – features a nice piano solo, and the London Oratory School Schola boy’s choir add a great deal of majesty to ‘The Planetary Alignment’, but they are rare moments of tonality in an otherwise thematic void.

Stylistically, Tomb Raider is apart from almost any other score I have heard recently – occasionally it reminds me of the more dissonant parts of Maurice Jarre’s Dead Poets’ Society, and there are some blatant Terminator quotations in ‘Lara Battles the Stone Monkeys’ and ‘The Brahman’, but that’s about as far as it goes. Revell is nothing if not a chameleon, able to switch styles and techniques with ease. It’s just a shame he doesn’t really excel at any of them – ultimately, his scores are lacking in character and individuality, falling into the trap of being totally nondescript away from its intended piece of celluloid. For all Revell’s heroic efforts, Tomb Raider is exactly that, and is destined to be remembered as one of 2001’s biggest disappointments.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • Tomb Raider Main Titles (3:14)
  • Lara Croft at Home (2:13)
  • Powell and the Illuminati (2:58)
  • Lara Dreams of her Father (1:46)
  • The Clock (3:01)
  • Home Invasion (3:59)
  • Alex West and Mr. Wilson (4:05)
  • The Letter (1:25)
  • Journey to Cambodia (1:59)
  • Angkor Wat (7:36)
  • Lara Battles the Stone Monkeys (3:32)
  • The Brahman (1:31)
  • Siberia (2:52)
  • The Planetary Alignment (5:08)
  • Lara Defeats Powell (3:38)

Running Time: 48 minutes 57 seconds

Elektra 62682-1 (2001)

Music composed by Graeme Revell. Conducted by Rick Wentworth. Orchestrations by Nick Ingman, John Bell, Rick Wentworth, James Shearman, David Arch and Kevin Townend. Recorded and mixed by John Kurlander. Edited by Dan Di Prima and Ashley Revell. Mastered by Patricia Sullivan. Album produced by Graeme Revell.

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