John Debney talks The Scorpion King (2002)
Let’s face it: you either love The Scorpion King or you absolutely hate it, there is no middle ground.
This spin-off of The Mummy Returns is set 5,000 years before the original Mummy films and tells the story of how Mathayus (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in his first film as a leading man) rose to power as the “Scorpion King.” Mathayus is initially part of a small group of Akkadians contracted by King Pheron to kill a sorcerer working for a tyrannical king named Memnon (she has been using her powers of foresight to predict the outcomes of battles, making Memnon unstoppable). They are betrayed by Pheron’s son Takmet (who murdered his own father and joined Memnon after they left on their mission) but Mathayus is still able to reach the sorcerer’s tent…only to find that it’s actually a beautiful sorceress named Cassandra.
Mathayus hesitates long enough to be captured and after his companions are killed, he is left to die a slow agonizing death buried up to his neck in the desert. Thereafter, Mathayus seeks vengeance on Memnon for killing his companions (one of whom was his half-brother) and also information from the sorceress (for example, why she persuaded Memnon to not kill him on the spot as he did the others).
Along the way, Mathayus meets various allies, including the Nubian king Balthazar (who initially does not like Mathayus because he despises Akkadians). When Cassandra returns to Memnon after being with Mathayus for some time, the latter organizes an all-out assault on Memnon’s stronghold Gomorrah to save Cassandra and kill Memnon once and for all.
The orchestral score for this film was composed by John Debney; this music was mixed in with various rock songs (the latter are what appear on the soundtrack album for the film). In the extended “making of the score” video which you can access in the link above, there are numerous shots of the orchestra in the recording studio with the in-progress film playing on a large screen for the conductor’s reference. As I’ve said before, this is the stage of film music production that I love the best, and I hope to witness it in person one day.
Debney (and the film’s director) discuss how various parts of the score came together, including the overall sound of the music. Since this is meant to take place long before any recorded history, Debney did not want to invoke one culture above another, but instead wanted to create a sense of something new and unfamiliar. The director also discussed including a touch of rock music, and thus giving the film something of a more contemporary feel in certain places. This is really one of the better interviews I’ve found for the making of a film score and even if you’ve never seen The Scorpion King, I really think you will enjoy it.
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