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THE KINGDOM – Danny Elfman

September 28, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Clark Douglas

Peter Berg’s “The Kingdom” is a strange animal. It’s not really much of a thriller, or an educational film about another culture, or a slice-of-life movie, or a political sermon… and yet, there’s plenty of action, explosions, foreign locations, and sermonizing. The movie doesn’t quite work on any level, and yet it’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly everything went wrong. The movie fails by not succeeding, rather than by any major slip made along to road.

Danny Elfman’s score is unfortunately as underwhelming as the film itself, and also fails simply by not succeeding. Elfman manages to avoid all the usual clichés of middle-eastern scores… wailing women, duduks, and so on… but the generic thriller music he provides has very little of Elfman’s own voice, and is startling in it’s sheer lack of structure (which Elfman usually excels at). It’s a somewhat incoherent mess, for the most part.

Elfman kicks things off with a very busy main title full of electronics, percussion, jittery guitars, and chopping motifs. It feels like something we’ve heard before, just not as interesting. The cues that rely heavily on electronic thumping are rather dull, and these tend to dominate the album. “Starting to Click/Saving Levitt” is essentially five minutes of drum loops, percolating along to keep the story moving. The few action cues that appear (like “The Chase”) are reasonably interesting, but nowhere near as accomplished as, say, Elfman’s “Mission: Impossible” score.

The highlights are probably the quiet moments, dominated by a lightweight guitar theme that gets a lengthy workout in the final cue. It’s not much, but it’s pleasant listening. Elfman’s soundscape actually reminds me a great deal of John Powell’s work on “United 93”, though this is certainly much more jittery than that, and a lot less well-structured. Even so, the blend of understated tenderness and unobtrusive motion feels similar, and one gets the sense that Elfman could have provided a whole lot more and gotten away with it. I’m a fan of Elfman’s more difficult, experimental works (like much of his stuff from the late 90’s), but this is his least interesting score in a long time, perhaps the weakest of his career. A big disappointment.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • The Kingdom/Titles (4:29)
  • Waiting (2:19)
  • Attack on the Compound (2:43)
  • The Detonator (1:57)
  • The Killing Room/Trouble Coming (2:01)
  • To the Prince’s (1:09)
  • Digging Deep (1:17)
  • Starting to Click/Saving Leavitt (4:55)
  • Friendship (3:49)
  • The Chase (4:49)
  • The Sales Pitch (2:12)
  • The Marble (1:08)
  • Finale (6:50)

Running Time: 39 minutes 43 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-6842 (2007)

Music composed by Danny Elfman. Conducted by Pete Anthony and Blake Neely. Orchestrations by Steve Bartek and Edgardo Simone. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Bill Abbott. Album produced by Danny Elfman and Bill Abbott.

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