Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for The Meg is a tad dull and has a fair amount of generic-sounding action music, but these less-than-great moments are outshined considerably by other tracks that are truly fantastic.
From the composer who brought you the magical music from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe as well as the sea-based action adventure Sinbad, Mr. Gregson-Williams offers a score to a less than greatly named The Meg, a Jaws-style film featuring a considerably larger shark. It’s definitely a good base for a fantastically over the top action score, as good music often arises from poorer films (case and point The Amazing Spider-Man). The question is, did Gregson-Williams pull it off?
Sort of. If I am honest I haven’t listened to a great deal of his albums, the only ones I have are listed above. From what I have gathered from them, Gregson-Williams does a pretty average score overall but really shines in key moments. Examples include Surfing from Sinbad and The Battle from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. The composer makes fantastic music in these particular moments, but then switches to mainly average for the remainder of the album. Having listened to it several times now I can definitely say it is the same case for The Meg. There are a few standout tracks but otherwise it is a fairly dull affair.
The score begins with Sub Disaster, a track that starts off in very dark and creepy territory. You can really hear just how scary the deep sea is here with rumbling brass and quiet but effective drums in the background. It sets an uncomfortable tone right off the bat, before leading into more action-based territory after a minute or two. Percussion moves in quickly as the pace abruptly changes up from slow and creepy to fast and frantic. This then combines with brass towards the end to make for a very edge-of-your-seat finale.
The standout cue for The Meg then shows itself in Mana One. Immediately after it starts there is a considerable change in tone from scary in Sub Disaster to a much more epic and heroic one here. One again percussion is used to a large degree, and after a few seconds a recorder kicks in to play what presumably is the main theme for the film. It is a dramatic and uplifting piece that sadly doesn’t get a lot of album time, standing out here mainly. It is a shame because the theme itself is rather good, and that combined with it being played by a rarely used instrument makes it unique and quite interesting.
A New World visits a more wondrous setting, primarily using vocals as well as strings to create a much slower and more Planet Earth like musical style. Brass kicks in as well after a few minutes, shifting the tone slightly from wonder to a more sinister area. Here the music sounds quite similar to Alien, playing that same two-note repetition on a piano to give off a very ominous feeling. This is continued through A New World into Jonas Descends, a slightly more percussion-heavy piece that still keeps the slow pace and dark mood. This continues right through to the end of the track, at which point the vocals return for a more upbeat finish.
The action is really kicked up a notch in Tracker, a much faster-paced cue that makes excellent use of strings as well as percussion to create a very tense running-for-your-life tone. Brass makes cameo appearances throughout in a quiet and very creepy manner, which does a great job of adding to the overall mood of the track. The action then continues through Shark Cage and stops at You Saved Me, a much less rapid piece using strings to convey a sense of survival as well as a little victory, but the score isn’t done yet.
We Have A Plan makes a return to the musical style of Mana One, with uplifting percussion in addition to another welcome appearance of that main theme. This time however it is played through a percussion-based instrument (I couldn’t say for sure which one) rather than a recorder, which if I am honest really doesn’t do the theme justice. This particular thematic style is little more than a cameo, lasting only a few seconds before the composer kicks it up a notch by playing the theme again using strings and vocals. It sounds better, but still not as good as the original recorder-based one. This also only lasts for a few seconds, overall making for a fairly disappointing track that shows potential rather than really going somewhere interesting.
The score then draws to a close in To Our Friends, a rather victorious-sounding track that brings the album full circle. The recorder makes a return for another playthrough of the main theme, sounding just as good as it did in Mana One. Segments of it are also based by brass, making the theme sound a little more refined overall. Sadly though it doesn’t continue for long as the score dives right back into brass-based action for the final two minutes of the album, making for a less-than-final sounding track as the action just abruptly ends to mark The Meg‘s finale.
Overall, Harry Gregson-Williams’ score to The Meg is a little disappointing. He has composed a great main theme in Mana One as well as using a rather unusual instrument to demonstrate it. This combination makes for a pretty great piece, that sadly is very underused for the rest of the score as it only makes two more appearances (both of which also being very short). The musical style of it as well as the theme itself are easily the best part of The Meg, which is why it’s frustrating that the rest of the album is mainly dull-sounding action music. Gregson-Williams does a fantastic job with the wondrous side of this score, it is just a shame that the rest isn’t as good.
Standout Cue: 2. Mana One