Skipping past Goo Goo Dolls front man John Rzeznik's composition on teen angst,
'I'm Still Here (Jim's Theme)', and the liberated 'Always Know Where You Are'
(with BBMak), we hear James Newton Howard's latest journey into Disney animated
adventure. The score to Treasure Planet is a solid swashbuckler, with
the heroic fanfares, comic scuttling, and intense snarling that Robert Louis
Stevenson's classic, and certainly oft retold, "Treasure Island" story
traditionally inspires. Only, interstellar sailing is now on the itinerary...
Young Jim Hawkins comes of age amidst black holes, supernovas, and a cyborg
John Silver, during a treasure hunt across deep space.
Thematically, the soundtrack is predictable but pleasant.
It fits right alongside Howard's Dinosaur and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Max Steiner are vaguely acknowledged
in the spacefaring flourishes, aficionados may be pleased to hear that Holst's
"The Planets" receives a subtler homage than usual, and there are
would-be chanteys with whistles, fiddle, and pipes. Contemporizing the elements,
and linking them into Rzeznik's songs, is a tasteful use of electric guitars.
And to round out this soundscape, Howard employs (if you haven't already guessed)
a celestial choir. These cosy effects are enjoyable, even exciting, from the
briefly meditative 'To the Spaceport' through the Jerry Goldsmith-lite 'The
Map', and onward in an eclectic mix from the rousing 'The Launch' to the comedic
'Ben' to the satisfying finale (co-composed by fiddler Alasdair Fraser). It
is a sign of the music's success that James Newton Howard's Treasure Planet
ultimately sounds neither old nor new, but functions like a retrospective of
sorts, bridging a gap between 'now' and 'then'. As drama, this means the soundtrack
does not fully articulate one of its crucial elements: adventure. It does, however,
provide enough to be great fun.
CD-ROM enhancements on the album feature Internet
links and the 'I'm Still Here' music video. Since Rzeznik's creative stylings
do not exactly set my spirit alight, I cannot personally justify facing a prompt
every time I pop the disc into the computer. Presented in a surprisingly flashier
manner, the booklet includes lyrics, detailed credits in an "Oh, my eyes!"
font, movie stills, and related publicity. Just don't bother looking for track
times. The score has a digital edge to its sound, yet that too seems to be in
keeping with the old-fashioned take on the future.