Sometimes the gap between adventures in a film series can be just a touch too long cough Indiana Jones cough and the momentum that was built up is lost. On the other hand, sometimes a break can give time to breath new life into a series cough Batman cough. I rather fancy The Mummy series falls into the former category. Yeah, the first two movies were fun, although the second got far too carried away with not terribly convincing CGI spectacle by the end, but there wasn't really anywhere to go, hence part three decamps to the far east. Poor reviews and relatively disappointing grosses have hopefully put a cap on any further outings for the franchise, althoguh rumour has another 34985435 sequels are planned. Woo! Given the debt the Mummy movies owe to Indiana Jones, it's interesting to have Indy back on the screens in the same year and while, as a movie Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was something of a disappointment (yes, I kinda changed my mind... second viewing, I was bored, shame), John Williams was still on form. True, relatively speaking, it's probably the weakest of the four, but the detail of the writing, use of major themes and inherent skill with an orchestra made even the more routine passages still worth a listen. These things are all relative.
Randy Edelman has his moments, but tends to be far more convincing when composing for lighter films. His natural pop style and melodic sense are ideal for comedies, romantic or otherwise, but he can flounder a little when writing on a bigger scale. The biggest problem is his rather flat and unsophisticated orchestration, often doubling up the melodic line with synths, padding out the middle range to add body. This can work if used sparingly, but over long passages, a heavy mid range can can pall on the ear and starts to plod. What you really want is counterpoint, not orchestration padding. Having said that, The Mummy 3 isn't hampered too badly with synthetic padding, but when you have the London Symphony Orchestra to crank out your score, your orchestration should take full advantage. I'm not sure that's necessarily the case, but there is certainly plenty of oomph in most of the action passages. It's not perfect by any means and pales compared to what Messrs Goldsmith and Silvestri contributed to the first two movies. Their action soars and thunders, Edelman's just crashes along. The slightly unconvincing main theme doesn't really help; it's just feels a bit too light for this type of film, more suited to a boy's own adventure (Iron Will or something of that ilk). Silvestri and Goldsmith contributed heroic themes, but they did at least sound like they should accompany adults.
The eastern element is pretty much what one would expect from a film of this sort; more incidental and to add a bit of colour, but it's effective none the less. Oddly, some of the more effective moments are the quieter ones. Mother and Daughter Reunion, is fairly affecting, while the following cue, Ancient China is solely regional flavouring. However, the playful Rick's Long Rod is a cue where Edelman seems to be more at home; for 42 seconds, it feels like Edelman's natural territory. In contrast, trying to conjure some suspense in Entering the Tomb is only sporadically effective, although the suggestion of awe and wander midway through is more convincing, more than can be said for the percussive action that follows. I have to confess that first time through, The Mummy 3 did not impress me in the slightest, particularly disliking the main theme, although I have warmed to it. The action is sporadically entertaining, but of inconsistent quality. There are too many passages where the entire brass seem to be playing in unison (the end of the aforementioned Entering the Tomb a case in point) which is just tiring and leaves nothing to discover. Goldsmith and Silvestri might not have held back with their action - Silvestri's being particularly OTT - but there was always clarity in the writing and the music always seemed to be going somewhere, Edelman's often just fills the aural space. At 45 minutes, the album would be entertaining, but at 77, a tad too long, but jolly entertainment, even if replay value is rather limited.