Why is it that dragon films pretty much always crap? Dragonslayer; its mediocrity enhanced by Alex North's score which is simply too striking and melodramatic, fine though it is on its own. Then there's Dragonheart which is lightweight, but tolerable and Randy Edelman's score is one of his most enjoyable. Reign of Fire I liked, but nobody else did and it didn't exactly set the world alight (boom boom), despite being bolstered by an entertainingly crunching score from Ed Shearmur. However, worse than all of those is Eragon, a novel that appears to have been written by a teenager whose entire experience of storytelling is filtered through Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Funny, because it actually is. One can't help but think that if it had been written by an adult, it would have been turned down as derivative crap. Anyway, Patrick Doyle ends up on the scoring stage of the movie version and, fortunately, his music is considerably better than the movie for which it was written.
Sometimes, it's hard to come to an album late in the game without writing a review which could be deemed derivative (and possibly crap, if you're so inclined), but the overriding feature noted by all reviewers is that Eragon is a monothematic score. Or, at the very least, the main theme appears in every track and minor themes (such as the faux mystical opening of Fortune Teller) disappear without trace. Fortunately, it's a good tune and malleable enough to work in numerous moods, although the full throttle hero arrangement rather puts to mind an upbeat WW2 movie than dragons, but no matter. However, given the wealth of characters - most of whom have an almost identical functional counterpart in the original Star Wars - it's surprising that Doyle doesn't delineate them musically, particularly the villains who get nothing of note whatsoever. There are plenty of ominous passages, Ra'Zac and the pant wetting Battle for Varden in particular, the latter featuring some of Doyle's most exciting and effectively sustained action writing, but nothing to strongly identify the bad guy. Darth or whatever he's called.
After the lengthy Battle, a pleasing triumvirate of cues conclude the score and provide a nice coda after the 10 minutes of preceding excitement. It's certainly a refreshing change to have a score that actually resolves itself rather than just stopping. However, the final two tracks of the album are given over to two songs. I can't say I've ever liked Avril Lavigne and Keep Holding On does nothing to change my mind. Jem's more lyrical ballad, based on Doyle's theme, at least ties into the score but is otherwise disposable. There's not a great deal to dislike about Eragon; despite only having one strong theme, it's not too repetitive (three quarters of an hour is about right) and there are just enough moments of respite to prevent it becoming tiring or bombastic. A few steps behind the imagination of his scores for Harry Potter or Nanny McPhee but another very enjoyable effort from the affable Scot.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad