It gets better as it goes on, fortunately. Unfortunately, not by much. There are 12
tracks on this album, seven of which appear to have been written for the film Red Planet,
the other five of which are pop records which may or may not be heard in the movie, and
which seem to have no relevance to a science fiction drama set in a colony on Mars. The
opening is appalling, a distorted dance cacophony entitled The Tower That Ate People,
taken from Peter Gabriel's Millennium Dome album Ovo. It does eventually settle into a
song more akin to something from Gabriel's So period, but the bulk of the track is simply noise.
Another version appears as track 11, this time extending the torment to over 6 minutes.
Montok Point by Strange Cargo is pounding electronic beat driven noise, the least said
about which, the better. The album ends with When the World is Running Down, an old track
by The Police, over which a relentless dance beat has been overlaid by an outfit called
Different Gear. Apparently this has done great business in night-clubs and in the pop charts.
I've never heard it before, and I never want to hear it again. And then there is Sting's
A Thousand Years, the lead track on his most recent album, and by current pop standards a
superior, atmospheric piece of work - though it does go on too long.
That leaves the tracks actually written for the film. There are three sections of score by
Graeme Revell. These combine routine atmospheric electronic soundscapes with choir and
orchestra. The electronic writing is the sort of thing anyone who knows how to plug MIDI
equipment together can produce in a lazy afternoon. The sounds are all presets, and the
musical inspiration seems just as off-the-shelf, while 'Crash Landing' shows the unwelcome
influence of the dance parts of the scoring of The Matrix. That said, the cue 'Alone' has a
briefly attractive melancholy.
Dante's Eternal Flame is written and performed by Revell with Melissa Kaplan, a light near
Eastern dance-pop tune which is presumably intended to be ethereal, and at least succeeds
in being listenable. And finally, there are three melodramatic songs written by Revell
and performed in the Goth-pop-operatic style by Emma Shapplin. It's film music Jim, but
not as we know it.
I will be quite intrigued to discover how all this fits together in the movie, but
whatever the reviews suggest about the relative merits of Red Planet and Mission to Mars (2000),
Ennio Morricone's soundtrack album for the earlier feature is infinitely the more recommendable.
Gary S. Dalkin