One of the most popular requests from Varese Sarabande has been the release of Jerry Goldsmith’s score to 1998 film Small Soldiers. The 20th anniversary re-release features Goldsmith’s entire score and additional remixes of classic pieces from the Joe Dante film; at over 30 tracks, this is one soundtrack that gives you the most for your money.
What makes Jerry Goldsmith’s score to Small Soldiers so special is that it isn’t treated with any less passion because it’s a kid’s movie. This is a work of passion, full of grandeur and spectacle that makes it a joy to listen to in its own right. But it’s also clearly a lot of fun; the use of rock guitar, playful percussion motifs and blazing horns make for a fantastical piece of music.
There are certainly themes here that clearly have been influenced by Goldsmith’s other works; the brassy tones reminiscent of his work on the Star Trek movies, the sinister string movements create atmosphere seen in the likes of Alien and Poltergeist and the playful, deranged orchestral riffs identifiable in the like of the Gremlins movies. Plus the terrific use of rock guitar to covey the military undertones gives the Small Soldiers score its own distinctive flavour.
Goldsmith treats the score like that of a big 90’s action movie full of military pomp and circumstance; tracks like ‘Globaltech’, ‘He’s Here’ and ‘Assembly Line’ are filled with military drum beats, horns and rousing fanfares of wind, brass and percussion. The aforementioned rock guitar riff is a nice touch too. The Alan / Gorgonite themes in tracks like ‘Alan’s Town’ and ‘Archer and Alan’ are more magical in tone; Goldsmith capturing a more innocent, heroic tone with some beautiful string movements and soaring wind instruments. The first part of the album also has some moody, atmospheric pieces too; ‘Boxes of the Truck’ and ‘Gorgonite Scum’ mix subdued horns and heavy synth beats to create something a little more sinister.
The first highlight of the album is the tenth track ‘Prepare for Assault’ that starts with a bold dramatic fanfare of military drums, horns, a rousing heroic orchestral movement and great version of ‘the animals came in two by two’ with guitar and flute. The next few tracks continue the similar themes and styles discussed above, until the sixteenth track ‘The New Army’, which starts off with a jazzy, sultry Jessica Rabbit vibe and leads into an upbeat, heroic medley of military themes, again making great use of flute and rock guitar.One of my favourite tracks on the album was the subsequent ‘Bombshelly’, which has a fantastical, sweeping 40s musical number vibe and grand mix of percussion, wind, soaring strings that is absolutely beautiful.
Of course, Goldsmith also relies on his more sinister repertoire to create a few delightfully creepy tracks. Anything with the Gwendys (‘ The Gwendy’s Term of Surrender’ and ‘Gwendy’s Attack’) are filled with sinister string movements, deranged piano pieces, bombastic percussion and eerie horns, that are nightmarish and creepy. The latter is a particular highlight, ending on a huge, grandiose climax that makes full use of the orchestra at hand.
After a few more big pieces, filled with military horns, rock guitars, marching drums and haunting choral tones, Goldsmith wraps up the films score four big final tracks. ‘Trust Me’ is a tense, atmospheric piece, filled with emotional string beats and a sense of rising, frantic tension, while ‘No Prisoners’ is huge and grandiose, the rock guitar riffs are terrific. ‘Chip Dies’ starts off slow and mournful and descends into a deranged piano piece that feels right out of a Danny Elfman movie. ‘Off to Gorgon’ is a sad, bittersweet ending, the gentle strings, rising and hopeful, mixed with the familiar rock guitar riff and beautiful wind instruments; the soaring strings are gorgeous and military theme at the end is a lot fun.
There are also four alternative versions to the tracks to make the most out of the re-release and a great bit of Vargner’s Ride of the Valkyries for a bit of added drama. But Perhaps the biggest surprise is a version of Richard Strauss’s soaring Sprach Zarathustra with a funky, disco synth vibe that is very, very fun.
The re-release of Jerry Goldsmith’s Small Soldiers soundtrack is absolutely worth it and its easy to forget just how great a score it really is. It’s big and bold with some huge soaring pieces that make it much, much more than just another soundtrack to a kids film.
Small Soldiers: The Deluxe Edition is now available from Varese Sarabande.