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Transformers: Dark of the Moon by Steve Jablonsky

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Poster and Memorabilia)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Poster and Memorabilia)









Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Composed by Steve Jablonsky
Warner Bros (2011)

Rating: 6/10

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“There is certainly a lot of opportunity for STEVE JABLONSKY to finally let loose here, and ever so occasionally he does to great effect. Yet this effect is frequently diminished by an overall lack of coherence thematically and structurally.”

Less Than Meets the Ear
Review by Richard Buxton

Third time lucky for MICHAEL BAY and his not-so disguised robots? Box-office figures say yes, critics suggest other however, not that the series was in need of any luck. With DARK OF THE MOON comes the end of MICHAEL BAY’S role as director, rounding out a heavily divisive trilogy of a series that will undoubtedly be extended into the future for as long as Paramount can squeeze a few extra bucks out of it. Needless to say, DARK OF THE MOON’S predecessor REVENGE OF THE FALLEN was far from a classic, and is arguably the embodiment of Hollywood’s innovation and originality famine that shows no signs of ending. As long as the money keeps flowing, things are unlikely to change, leaving audiences with a choice of either seeking out pastures new or embracing the likes of the TRANSFORMERS movies in the hope that they can offer a satisfying distraction.

DARK OF THE MOON, like REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, is a strikingly lengthy distraction running at 154 minutes long and one that largely consists of inconsequential filler that drags the film by the scruff of the neck towards the next, admittedly visually stunning, action sequence. There is certainly a lot of opportunity for STEVE JABLONSKY to finally let loose here, and ever so occasionally he does to great effect. Yet this effect is frequently diminished by an overall lack of coherence thematically and structurally.

Even excluding the third entry in the series, JABLONSKY’S scores are notably lacking in any strong thematic foundations, instead opting for a more textual and rhythmic thread that continues in DARK OF THE MOON. The most recognizable themes of the series surely came from the first film in the form of the “Autobots” and “Arrival” themes, and having almost entirely skipped REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, they experience minimal revival here, making a rare appearance when the gravity of the Transformers’ situation deems it necessary. The most notable instances being poignantly reflective “There Is No Plan” (8) and the contrastingly erratic and stilted “The World Needs You Now” (13). The emergence of this familiar theme after little to no reference in the preceding moments of the film will be a jarring experience for anyone with extensive interest in the franchise’s musical history.

It’s one thing for a member of the audience to take note of a piece of music as the film plays, but it’s something else entirely when one is ejected from within the film’s universe and begins to question the use of a piece of music. Such an experience is a jarring one, and is exemplified in the highly suspicious “It’s Our Fight” (14). 2010’s INCEPTION and its trailers introduced the world to the one-hit-boom that has graced countless trailers since. ZACK HEMSEY’S “Mind Heist” is often credited with the origins of this sound, and it is a sound that clearly impressed MICHAEL BAY as the piece has seemingly undergone a minor facelift for use in DARK OF THE MOON. The resemblance is unavoidable and will undoubtedly standout in the opening moments of the climactic final action sequence of the film. Thankfully this “homage” only takes up half the track, leaving JABLONSKY to return to his original formulas. The piece not only suffers from this glaring similarity however, it also suffers from the fact that HEMSEY’S piece was written for motion picture advertising, not a film itself. This causes a lack of evolution in the piece, merely meandering through the single idea heard within the often-relentless noise. The same can be said for “Battle” (7) a piece with a distinct “trailer music” flavour, albeit a weak one. This does not suggest that trailer music is of an inferior nature to what one would normally expect in a film score, it’s just an inappropriate stylistic choice on this occasion. Whilst on the look for references to other scores/compositions, it’s worth noting the slow-building reference to THE LAST SAMURAI heard in “Sentinel Prime” (2); the cumulative build up creates ample suspense for a forceful climax, but this comes in the form of an overall crescendo rather than anything particularly different. Finally, JABLONSKY briefly takes a trip into his past, reviving moments from his THE ISLAND score in the swelling “No Prisoners, Only Trophies” (12).

In the overall landscape of the score, DARK OF THE MOON mirrors that of REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, in that it consists of three major styles: frenetic action, triumphant and melancholic fanfare, and brooding atmosphere. As with REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, the latter two styles fare far better than the strident and raucous action sequences that once again border on the incomprehensible. The aforementioned “It’s Our Fight” makes for an uninspired but still listenable action track, a description that one will struggle to attribute to the mind-numbingly repetitive “Shockwave’s Revenge” (11). The fact that the entire track is encompassed in the first 10 seconds should give you an idea as to the total lack of diversity on display. Having said that, many of the score’s highlights are indeed repetitive but do not take the route of hitting the listener over the head with abrasive repetition; rather a satisfying textual progression is established and develops, no matter how minimally. “The Fight Will Be Your Own” (10) combines a delicate synth pulsation with aching strings and brass to create a stirringly evocative soundscape that goes to show that a little restraint and subtlety can go a long way.

JABLONSKY saves the best for last in what is arguably the strongest suggestion that at least a trace of thematic development has taken place across the TRANSFORMERS trilogy. “Our Final Hope” (17) reprises the propulsive string ostinato heard in the main themes of the preceding films and sets them as a backdrop to an ominous yet rousing theme of heroism and sacrifice. In the few notes that comprise the theme all that is great in the film, however little that may be, can be heard. The colossal, interplanetary struggle of good and evil is in abundance here, and while it is a track most will either love or hate, it is undoubtedly effective at producing the emotions conveyed onscreen.

It is so far unclear as to whether MICHAEL BAY’S departure from the TRANSFORMERS series means a new composer, but if that is the case DARK OF THE MOON does a fine job in summarizing JABLONSKY’S contribution. There are moments here of outstanding beauty and stirring emotion, but these are continually undone by stilted action music and a general lack of ambition to truly go beyond the pre-established blockbuster borders. Had JABLONSKY used the first film as a launch pad into extensive ideas and themes, reflecting on the scores might be very different. As it stands, TRANSFORMERS will always be something of a missed opportunity.

Rating: 6/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Dark Side of the Moon 3:49  ****
2 Sentinel Prime 3:16  ***
3 Lost Signal 4:09  **
4 In Time You'll See 3:17  **
5 Impress me 3:01  **
6 We Were Gods Once 4:23  ***
7 Battle 3:41  ***
8 There is No Plan 3:37  ***
9 We All Work for the Decepticons 1:52  ***
10 The Fight Will be Your Own 4:41  *****
11 Shockwave's Revenge 2:01  *
12 No Prisoners, Only Trophies 3:32  ***
13 The World Needs You Now 2:00  **
14 It's Our Fight 6:32  **
15 I'm Just the Messenger 4:26  **
16 I Promise 1:59  ****
17 Our Final Hope 3:42  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 60 minutes  


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