Chinese director Chen Kaige is nothing if not ambitious, which he demonstrated in his biggest Western success, Farewell My Concubine (1993), and The Promise is another example of his large-scale filmmaking approach. Reportedly the most expensive movie ever made in China, it is a sort of fairy tale, romance, and war epic, set, as Kaige puts it, "3,000 years ago in the future, somewhere in Asia," involving a goddess, a slave girl who becomes a princess, a general, more than one tragic love story, and lots of battle scenes. As such, A-list Hollywood composer Klaus Badelt (Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) has his work cut out for him, but he also has the resources, in the China National Symphony Orchestra, to do that work. He has created a suitably big orchestral score with Chinese elements here and there (introduced in the first track, "Freedom of the Wa"), employing traditional methods to underlie the action. His "Wuji -- Main Theme" is a slow, sweeping, symphonic cue signaling that he is as interested in small effects as in big ones. But the more dramatic music is there, too, notably in the theme for "Guangming, the General" and "Princess Kite," leading to the climactic "The Robe," with its thundering percussion effects. That track comes only halfway into the lengthy album, but what follows is more of the same. The Promise demands lots of stirring music, and Badelt provides it.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Promise, film score|