"There has hardly been a critic from Urban Cinefile to Uranus
that hasn’t loathed Mission to Mars (the film). I should
point out that I haven’t seen it myself – and
everything I read encourages me to maintain the status quo in
Most of the criticism has revolved around a charge of style
over substance, so there was no reason for me not to harbour high
expectations of the Morricone score, particularly to a film with
"Mission" in its title.
It certainly begins auspiciously, with a sparsely accompanied
heartbeat (a splendidly effective strategy on Pink Floyd’s
Dark Side of the Moon, so why not Mission to Mars?). But the
uninspired figure of ascending scales it introduces is,
ironically, a major let down. If this is supposed to be taking us
skyward, it does so with all the magic of climbing an extension
Gradually – via a slow moving sequence of lush strings
and angelic voices – it segues to the main theme, which is,
thankfully, the highlight of the score. Lyrical and lovely, the
quietly contemplative melody evokes the subtle majesty of space
and the mythical romanticism that has long been associated with
the Red Planet.
All the great moments on this soundtrack are variations on
this theme. Sadly, they’re punctuated by all manner of
ambient electronic meanderings that sound like Morricone is
randomly stuffing around with any old spacey blimp, bloop and
glook patch on his synthesiser.
More original is the long passage of endless organ drones and
repetitive bass pulses of the cue titled Towards the Unknown.
It’s more original but a very bad idea. Akin to a forsaken
piece of NASA space junk it goes nowhere slowly, and is almost
painful to listen to.
If you don’t mind constantly cuing your CD player there
are pleasures to be enjoyed from this soundtrack. But be sure to
keep the remote at hand. If you simply let it play through,
getting to the best bits will seem interminable, or at least like
a long, slow trip to Mars without an in-flight entertainment