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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Original Motion Picture Score)

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The Music of Extraordinary Bravado

Last summer saw the release of Marvel Studios' THE AVENGERS, a superhero ensemble film where exceptional disparate characters unite to stop a threat of global annihilation. The film was wildly popular with both critics and audiences and became one of the biggest hits of all time. But, ten years ago there was another film based on a comic book where exceptional disparate (literary) characters united to stop a threat of global annihilation that wasn't popular with either critics or audiences- THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. A box office flop, its storied behind the scenes turmoil involving disputes between star/producer Sean Connery and director Stephen Norrington were the only thing of note, as it led to the screen legend withdrawing from the business. Although I enjoyed both Sir Sean and Stuart Townsend's gleefully camp turn as Dorian Gray, the film is a disaster and it's reputation is made even worse when compared to the Marvel film, as that delivered on everything this film couldn't with delightful performances, great character interplay, witty dialogue, well-placed humor, stunning visual effects, coherent action scenes and having it all done with an unbridled sense of fun.

One area where this film trumps the other, however, is its score written by Trevor Jones. It's interesting to compare and contrast his work with Alan Silvestri's effort for the Marvel film (which I found surprisingly lackluster given the composer). Like Silvestri's effort, they both have one primary theme to encompass the team but have very small thematic identities for a select few characters. Jones' main theme is introduced in "Dawn of a New Century" and, like Silvestri's, is effective if not exactly the most memorable. The few minor themes here include a comical celesta-led motif for "an" Invisible Man (not "the" due to legal reasons), heard in "Task Requires Heroes" and an ominous low male choir used to reflect the villain of the piece, heard best in the aptly titled "Phantom's Lair".

Unlike AVENGERS, though, they're a few things that give this score the edge. One is the Victorian-era setting and gothic ambience of the film, which let Jones establish a particular mood and it gives the music a bit of depth. The dramatic material is pretty good, too, as "Mina Harker's Secret" and "Portrait of Dorian Gray" are full of pathos and do more for the characters than their expository dialogue. But of course, the real defining feature here is the action material. Played with brio by the London Symphony Orchestra, "The Game Is On" and "Capturing Mr. Hyde" put the main theme through the ringer and get the blood going. The climactic "Storming the Fortress" is a thrilling four-minute tour-de-force with the main theme at its most triumphant and "May This New Century Be Yours" serves as a nice epilogue to it. It might be a bit heavy for some due to its darkness and immensity, but I love it!

Having heaped praise on the score, the same cannot be said for the album presentation, which is frustrating. The three songs featured (two Ladysmith Black Mambazo cuts and a piece of source music) are decent but placed randomly in between the score cuts, ruining the album's flow. But, ignore those and you'll listen to one of the better superhero scores to have come out in the past decade. I hope Jones will do another film of this type soon (a better one, obviously) as he clearly has the chops for it. In short, it's the score of extraordinary brilliance for the film of extraordinary ineptitude.

Biography

Born: March 23, 1949 in Cape Town, South Africa

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Soundtrack composer Trevor Jones is best known for his work on science fiction fantasies like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Dark City, but he has also worked on films ranging from romantic comedy (Notting Hill) to political thriller (13 Days) to action-adventure (Cliffhanger). Born in Capetown, South Africa, Jones left the continent to study at the Royal Academy of Music and the British National Film School. 1981's Excalibur was the first big work he received; within the following 20 years, he...
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