It’s been said, with regards to the obscure monkey mayhem movie Link, that the only people who remember the movie are Jerry Goldsmith fans. It’s fair to say that the only people to remember 2006’s Annapolis may be Brian Tyler fans. It was the first Hollywood studio film to be directed by Justin Lin, who would later skyrocket to international fame by taking over the then-moribund Fast and Furious series and leading it to four more films and record box office numbers, and its creaky tale mixing boxing and military cadets was a minor flop upon release.
In fact, one could say that the most notable thing about Annapolis is that it introduced up-and-coming film composer Brian Tyler to Lin; their collaboration would continue thereafter into the much more successful Fast and Furious films. Annapolis came at a fruitful time for the composer, when he was mixing lower-key films with would-be blockbusters on his resume, and there are definite echoes of the big-ticket style he would later display in scores like Iron Man 3 in the music for Annapolis.
The music is eclectic, with noble military music, intense Goldsmithian action, quirky orchestral passages, and even some hard-edged contemporary tones. It would be easy for a score to lose focus with such variety, but Tyler is able to consistently blend the disparate genres into cohesiveness thanks to a pair of very strong themes. A more serious theme, not unlike what James Horner produced for military films, is prominent in many places beginning with the film’s main titles, while a more upbeat theme is referenced frequently as well; Tyler occasionally joins the two, letting them flow smoothly into one another, and his loyalty to his themes across various musical genres is impressive.
It’s hard not to see the score’s influences worn on its sleeve: the contemporary music is clearly inspired by An Officer and a Gentleman and Top Gun, with shades of Glory and In Country for the somber militaria and the occasional (albeit fully orchestral) training montage sound from Rocky. Tyler is best able to break away from these influences in his action music, which inventively uses his themes both as melody and counterpoint: “The Brigades/Showdown” is the easy highlight because of this fierce and smart sound–again, not unlike what Tyler would conjure up for later movies.
In the end, Annapolis is a diverse score with excellent thematics to glue it together, and despite the obviousness of what Lin must have played for Tyler as inspiration, the music works well as an album. The film may be forgettable and forgotten, but the album is a forgotten gem in Tyler’s mid to early career discography. Perhaps due to Annapolis‘s failure at the box office, it was one of the discs in Varése Sarabande’s “Family Dollar Housecleaning” and can often be found remaindered at that discount store chain for $3 to $4. Anyone looking for an introduction to Tyler, investigating the seeds of some of his later success, or simply enjoying a diverse and counterintuitively cohesive album will not be disappointed.