Home > Reviews > NATIONAL TREASURE – Trevor Rabin


November 19, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

nationaltreasureOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of late-2004’s surprising smash hit movies, National Treasure is a ludicrous but enjoyable action-adventure romp starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Jon Turteltaub. Cage plays Ben Gates, a sort of combination archaeologist/historian/treasure hunter who is carrying on the family legacy by searching for the ‘national treasure’, a hoard of fabulous wealth passed on from generation to generation by Knights Templar and Freemasons, which he believes was hidden in a secret location by the United States’s founding fathers, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Having been double crossed by his former partner Ian Howe (Sean Bean) and left for dead in the Arctic Circle, Ben escapes and returns to home soil, where he teams up with technical whiz Riley (Justin Bartha) and beautiful museum curator Abigail (Diane Kruger). Together, the trio try to locate a map which Ben believes is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence, and find the treasure before Ian does…

Although the film is mindlessly enjoyable in its way, the screenplay (credited to Jim Kouf, Cormac Wibberley and Marianne Wibberley) was obviously inspired by the popular novels of Dan Brown, specifically The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, in which the lead character explores the museums and churches of Paris and London, following clues left behind on Da Vinci paintings and in old manuscripts in the Vatican vaults. Whether this has stolen some of Ron Howard’s thunder remains to be seen (he is planning to bring The Da Vinci Code to the screen in early 2006), but if the box-office grosses are to be believed – $161 million and counting – then this kind of escapist nonsense is exactly what audiences want in 2005.

As National Treasure is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, his fingerprints are all over various aspects of the film, from the slick production values to the frenetic pacing and stylized cinematography – and of course the music. Without wanting to sound disparaging, the vast majority of National Treasure sounds exactly the way you thought it would sound the moment you found out Trevor Rabin was scoring it. The drum beats thunder, the guitars wail, the processed male voice choir intones, the electric violins scrape away, the synthesizers blast out yet another power anthem, and over the top of it all is a layer of “modern” sound design full of loops, pops and echoes.

If you have heard Con Air, or The Rock, or Bad Boys, or Pirates of the Caribbean, or a dozen others, you will understand what I’m talking about, and will be able to predict how “Preparation Montage”, “Arrival at National Archives”, “The Chase”, “Foot Chase” and “Interrogation” sound. Regardless of how intricately the synthesizers are programmed, how much effort is put into the guitar performances, and how much speed and volume is generated, these cues are still ultimately little more than variations on the generic Media Ventures sound we have been hearing for over a decade.

Nicolas Cage’s character, “Ben”, has a faux-noble string elegy not too dissimilar from the one he wrote for Bruce Willis’s character in Armageddon. It appears several times during the album – underpinned by a patriotic snare in “Declaration of Independence”, and receives its fullest performance, featuring the full orchestra, in the conclusive “Treasure”, easily the score’s thematic highlight.

And then there are the moments where Rabin tries to be Thomas Newman: during the opening “National Treasure Suite” and subsequent cues such as “Library of Congress” the South African uses a tinkling piano, a muted saxophone, and all kinds of assorted marimbas and percussion items to create a sound which could best be described as American Beauty-lite. It’s interesting to hear Rabin attempting something new (for him) in a score in this way, but he’s missed the boat a little: American Beauty was written in 1999, remember!

There’s nothing greatly wrong with this kind of music. In its own way, it succeeds in driving the film forward and energizing some scenes which may otherwise have been rather pedestrian – and when it comes to the crunch, that is this music’s reason for existing. It’s just that, when listening to National Treasure, there is a definite sense of ‘been there, heard that’ to the whole affair, which ultimately makes the listening experience one of over-familiarity bordering on boredom. Ultimately, your appreciation for this score will depend totally on your tolerance for electric guitars, modern rock beats, and the combined Rabin/Bruckheimer style.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • National Treasure Suite (3:17)
  • Ben (4:03)
  • Finding Charlotte (1:05)
  • Library of Congress (2:27)
  • Preparation Montage (4:53)
  • Arrival at National Archives (1:55)
  • The Chase (4:22)
  • Declaration of Independence (1:43)
  • Foot Chase (3:34)
  • Spectacle Discovery (3:18)
  • Interrogation (4:30)
  • Treasure (3:38)

Running Time: 38 minutes 47 seconds

Walt Disney 62493-2 (2004)

Music composed by Trevor Rabin. Conducted by Gordon Goodwin. Orchestrations by Gordon Goodwin, Tom Calderaro and Trevor Rabin. Additional music by Don Harper and Paul Linford. Recorded and mixed by Steve Kempster. Album produced by Trevor Rabin and Jerry Bruckheimer.

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