|7.||Magneto Stand Off||3:01|
|10.||The Statue of Liberty||2:38|
|12.||Logan and Rogue||5:57|
| ||40:22| Submit your review
In retrospect, the first X-Men film seems more of a long prologue to its first sequel, but still turned out to be an intelligent big screen outing for Marvel comic's X-Men that actually made a decent hash of character development, rarely sacrificing it for gadgets or action. It avoided the campiness of Superman, had more interesting plot and characters than Batman and the character development (notably Rogue and Wolverine) stronger than expected. It also made excellent use of two elder British thespians, in the shape of Messrs Stewart and McKellen, seem plausible leaders of their good and bad mutants factions. The studio, in its infinite wisdom, decided to cut out about half an hour of the film and as such the complexity of the characters and plot is likely to have been eroded somewhat, but the result still far above expectations.
One point of criticism has been Michael Kamen's score. Apparently director Brian Singer rejected the more strongly thematic approach that Kamen originally employed and wanted more of a stirring undercurrent of music, vaguely themeless, but dramatic in all the right places. Of course, it seems an almost impossible thing to comprehend, a heroic comic book film without a really strong main theme, but Kamen's use of the theme he composed for the animated TV series works well, even if it could have been employed more extensively. Magneto's gang are all eerie sounds, notably Mystique, who is accompanied by something that sounds like a synthetically altered glissando 'cello idea. Not perhaps an instantly memorable tune, but one that worked well in the film to add a sense of danger and mysticism to McKellen's somewhat less interesting and underdeveloped gang.
The opening track is one that has been praised above all others, a kind of over-dramatic Schindler's List dirge that builds into a more horrific cacophony as we are given a prologue detailing Magneto's powers and background. The impressively staged action and effects sequences are well complimented, although the album doesn't really dwell on this side to the music. Ambush is mainly a couple of minutes of build up followed by a brief finale of heroism and action does not return until Train, with Kamen mixing in synths that are more akin to a David Arnold Bond score, but the results are effective and don't overwhelm the orchestra as much as Arnold is prone to do. Lighter moments are few, but Mutant School makes for some brief, plinky plunky montage music and the quiet Logan and Rogue provides a restrained finale to the album.
For all my protestations of the score's quality, it is still not really Kamen on top form, which is possibly as a result of the strong exerting pressure of the director. There are some fine moments, but some choices seem less interesting, particularly Magneto's Lair and Cerebro during which not a lot happens, giving rise to one of those scores with a slow and slightly lifeless central section. The opening couple of cues and final few are all good though, with plenty of imaginative mixing of synths and orchestra. Not a score I could perhaps recommend wholeheartedly, but certainly a whole lot better than has been suggested.
I just don't understand all the hype around this film. The few clips I have seen from it seem to be typical brainless super hero stuff - guys and gals running around in strange outfits. So, I don't like these kind of films. Sue me. But I must admit that I was looking forward to the score by John Ottman, who I was convinced would deliver something special. So, when it was announced that Ottman wouldn't be able to score, nor edit, the film, due to his involvment with Urban Legend II, I wasn't happy. And to have Michael Kamen score the film instead just didn't seem like a good idea. And while the result isn't exactly terrible, it could be a lot better.
The biggest drawback is the lack of themes. Too much of the score is just themeless, dissonant, underscore (with too many synths) - the kind of film music that rarely works on CD. There are of course themes (like the slow string and woodwind based theme given its best rendition in the closing track), but none of them are especially memorable or well used. A film like this should of course have a great, bombastic main theme. It may be an unoriginal approach, but that's what I want. And when I don't get it I get cranky...
Sure, themeless action scores can be great - Don Davis' score for The Matrix comes to mind. But what made Davis' score interesting were the inventive orchestration and the energy and power. X-Men has none of it, even if it gets kind of bombastic in a couple of cues, such as track nine, "Museum Fight" and track eleven, "Final Showdown". But none of them saves this score from being a disappointment. Kamen's music for X-Men could have been so much more. The composer certainly has the capacity and talent needed.