CD Review: Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen – The Score

By • July 5, 2009

Composer: Steve Jablonsky
Label: Warner Reprise
Suggested Retail Price: $9.99
Grade: B+

There are some givens when you got to see a Michael Bay film- among them that you’ll be trying to make sense out of his sixty edits-per-minute imagery, the acting, effects and slo-mo shots will be pushed to eleven on the popcorn meter, and that you’ll need to protect yourself from the nuclear-level sound effects. It’s no easy task for any composer to keep up to Bay’s filmmaking frenzy, but men like Mark Mancina, Trevor Rabin, Harry Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer have given it their darnedest for the likes of BAD BOYS, ARMAGEDDON and PEARL HARBOR.

Now Steve Jablonsky, a one-time member of the Zimmer Team, has been brave enough to tread where other musicians have feared to, becoming Jablonsky’s new composer for his own movies like THE ISLAND and TRANSFORMERS, as well as the horror ones he produces like the revamped TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and FRIDAY THE 13TH. Knowing that trying to accompany the visual and emotional shifts in Bay’s films is like to catch every drop of falling snow with one’s tongue, Jablonsky’s come up with a pulsating wall of sound for Bay’s own pictures, delivering adrenalin-charged music that somehow cuts through the madness to play the plots with the director’s biblical level of importance.

Now Jablonsky’s level of earth-changing resonance take on its coolest mythic grandeur for Bay’s latest, and perhaps most hugely entertaining absurdity TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. It’s his gonzo attempt to create a true Transformers history, one that reaches back to the beginning of mankind’s. And it’s an effort that once again has polarized the Autobot audiences and Decepticon critics. Sure other “summer” sequel blockbusters have opened to better notices, but with unusually drab scores that don’t do much to change the composer’s status quo. Yet with REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, Steve Jablonsky comes up with music that truly is bigger and better, creating new themes that are in the same score universe, and knowing when to bring in the old ones without use them like some big metal crutch.

The task here certainly seems more challenging than Jablonsky’s first TRANSFORMERS whirlwind, especially since his score plays with far more prominence than the rock songs (which have been given their own CD). What’s makes REVENGE OF THE FALLEN’s score even better as its own listening experience is that Jablonsky has filled this score CD with his more emotional stuff, while not stinting on the percussive action that fans expect. If it’s amazing you can hear the score’s power on the actual film soundtrack, then it’s doubly fun hearing its full vibe here, one that has a surprising dramatic straight line that really pulls together Bay’s visual helter-skelter. It’s a task that every good score should accomplish for even the most intimate love story. And in the case of an orgasmic effects picture like REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, Jablonsky’s feat of musical and melodic cohesion is nothing short of superhuman.

If there’s an appeal to The Transformers, it’s how “human” these robots are, even when they’re in the form of jive-talking ice cream trucks or a noble big rig. It’s Jablonsky’s job to put soul into the machines, a sound that has a heroic boldness about it, yet also blends the power of a orchestra with the latest in hi-tech samples. Top that off with a massive chorus, and you’ve got an operatic mix of the musically real and computer-created that’s appropriately fit for the FALLEN’s robot Gotterdammerung.

Where the first (and best) section of the original TRANSFORMERS was about the metal mystery of what was coming to Earth, Jablonsky’s music is about what was here all along, especially in the eerie tribal voices and primitive, gnarly beats of “The Fallen,” a cue which fuses the sound of Peter Gabriel’s PASSION with the malefic metal of Nine Inch Nails. The biblical quality of FALLEN also plays the side of the angels with the beatific voice of “Infinite White” and “Tomb of the Primes,” while the chorus of “Heed Our Warning” sings with the robot’s native “language”- one of the nifty musical touches that helps flesh out these fantastical characters. Jablonsky’s also sure to keep in step with the source tunes by having the alt. hipness of Linkin Park’s grunge guitar in “Nest.” But in the end, a score like REVENGE OF THE FALLEN has got to be about pace, percussion that can sound like the beats of a Decepticon transmission signal in “Einstein’s Wrong,” or sound off with the hammering darkness of “The Fallen’s Arrival.”

With his music ever-present during the long, but never boring running time of REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, Steve Jablonsky’s stirring new themes have more than enough gas to motor the score before That Theme kicks in. So when you finally hear his original TRANSFORMERS motifs in “Forest Battle,” they pack a real superhero “Tad Daaa!” thrill that’s homemade for the fanboys who find Optimus Prime to be a cooler (and more human) than Batman. And by the time we arrive at the non-stop Egyptian climax in “I Claim Your Sun” and “I Rise, You Fall,” Jablonsky’s score has morphed into a dizzying fusion of TRANSFORMERS score old and new, a sound that electrically embodies the Hollywood popcorn machine that Michael Bay’s made a mint out of. Traditionalists might freak at it. But for those willing to give themselves over to this kind of popcorn excitement, Jablonsky’s score has once again done a damn fine job of playing a Bay blockbuster in a way that’s smarter, and more melodically satisfying than you’d think, or hope for. So suck on that Megatron.

Jam with Jablonsky and the Primes here


By Rubén Cañón on December 4th, 2009 at 10:28 am

I totally agree… Transformers music is much more complex than most reviews say around the internet. The task is never easy when working with Michael Bay, but MediaVentures/Remote Control composers always seem to capture whatever the filmmaker wants.


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