July 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Battlefield Earth


Crotchet  Amazon UK  Amazon USA

Another summer, another dumb would-be sci-fi blockbuster. It's rumoured that no one ever aspires to make a bad film, but why then start with one of the worst books ever written? Battlefield Earth has proved perhaps the most derided big budget film since Inchon (1982), a war epic vanity project financed by the Moonies. Battlefield Earth is Scientologist John Travolta's long cherished war epic of Scientology founder Ron L. Hubbard's SF novel. It wants to be this year's Independence Day (1996). It is this year's Plan 9 From Outer Space (1958). Unsurprisingly the usual suspects for scoring such a project proved otherwise engaged when their agents received the call, so the task of providing a musical accompaniment fell to the up-and-coming Elia Cmiral.

Cmiral is a Czech composer who has been scoring films for a decade, and writing for the theatre since he was 18, debuting with stage production of Cyrano de Bergerac. Most film music fans probably didn't notice his existence until John Frankenheimer's Ronin (1998). One could hardly fail to notice, as much of the film, which astonishingly survived, proved an earthy battlefield between the director's set-pieces and Cmiral's drum-and-bass 'inspired' score. A contemporary space-opera should have offered the opportunities for something big, bold and thrilling, and the music here that has any sense of melody draws a line somewhere between the portentous choirs of Alan Silvestri's The Abyss and the military might of David Arnold's Independence Day. However, if you have those, you don't need this for they do the job far better.

Meanwhile the vast bulk of this very fragmented - 28 tracks in 48 minutes - everything and the kitchen sink score consists of relentless percussive assaults, atmospheric synthesiser patches and the occasional 'ethnic' voice. It's consistently hyperactive, as if a normal action movie score had been injected with speed then entered into the action movie 100 yard dash. Suffice to say it goes 'bang, crash, thud' a lot and conclusively proves that more is less. The whole thing rapidly becomes incredibly tiresome, with only an attempt at alien pop music 'Psychlo's Top 40' to show how much worse things could get. Or perhaps, as a cure for not having a headache.

With Independence Day and his James Bond scores David Arnold has shown how orchestra, intense percussion and electronics can combine in a modern way and yet remain melodically engaging. Battlefield Earth shows how the formula can go drastically awry. It may be functional in the film, but on disc it offers nothing you haven't heard many times before, and usually in ways which are far better executed.


Gary S. Dalkin



Gary S. Dalkin


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