Without evident irony, Alan Silvestri's score is paired up with Klaus Badelt's dreadful Pirates of the Caribbean for one of Amazon's buy two and save a few quid deals. It is well known than Silvestri was made to jump ship from Pirates, yet by the same thing happening to Craig Armstrong on Tomb Raider 2 (I can't be doing with the endless subtitles), Silvestri moved onto this project almost immediately. Silvestri's certainly a more exciting prospect than Graeme Revell was for the original, whose music for Angelina Jolie's lycra glad assets' first film was a dreadful bore. In many ways, the film got the score it deserved, one of the crappiest big budget motion pictures I've ever had the misfortune to endure. Saying that The Cradle of Life is an improvement is damnation through faint praise. It's not great, but by sticking to the Indiana Jones formula even more carefully (replace the Ark of the Covenant with Pandora's Box and you have the basic premise) than first time through, the results are at least moderately entertaining, but even so, Spielberg did it much better.
Tempting a prospect though Alan Silvestri is for such a theoretically rousing adventure, the results fall short of expectation. I don't wish to drag up the old 'doesn't have a theme' debate, but Silvestri is usually much better than average in this area and so it's quite a surprise that his main theme is rather unexciting; a grim, but nobly heroic fanfare. It works better covering the scenery as each new location is introduced than as an action motif for the heroine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best portions are the action cues of which there are a good number, although they are more solidly crafted than inspired. There is certainly none of the swashbuckling swagger of The Mummy Returns and the propensity toward digital percussion to drive things along seems to have allowed a little laziness in its construction. Yes, it's exciting, but this is more of the brass punctuating a digital underlay than excitement through complexity and counterpoint. If any of Silvestri's ideas from Pirates of the Caribbean are used here, then it's still a level of sophistication many times that of Klaus Badelt's ear numbing score. Still, outings like the early Luna Temple and the exciting Escape from Chen and Flower Pagoda Battle work well enough on visceral thrill alone, with plenty of Silvestri's touches to give it a bit of personality.
For films and scores of this sort, it is often the quiet moments that make or break the enjoyment of the album. Again, the results here are variable. Some are downright tedious, 'I need Terry Sheridan' (sounds like the name of a fat, balding football manager to me) and Captured by the Shay Ling noodle around not doing much, but some are quite attractive. Arrival in China has the expected sonorities of the region molded into a slightly sombre, but most fetching lullaby and it's just unfortunate that it doesn't last longer. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of any kind of spectacle. There isn't much in Jan de Bont's film, and hence little Silvestri's score, for anything approaching awe and wonder; again, The Mummy Returns might have been a naff film, but at least Silvestri was given some (CGI) gob smacking moments to compose for, which added an extra dimension that is sorely lacking here. Eliminating a few of the suspense and other quiet cues would improve things somewhat, but it just doesn't seem as though his heart was in it. However, like Jerry Goldsmith, Silvestri is too good to do anything less than a professional job, even if we all hoped for something inspired.