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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
by Steve Jablonsky

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

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 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky
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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Soundtrack) by Steve Jablonsky

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Composed by Steve Jablonsky
Reprise Records (2009)

Rating: 6/10

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“Followers of STEVE JABLONSKY will already know that he is capable of far better than the majority of the music heard in the TRANSFORMERS series and certainly REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.”

A Cold Serving
Review by Richard Buxton

2007 saw the release of TRANSFORMERS but to the dismay of many a film score fan, its arrival did not bring with it an original score, but instead merely a soundtrack release of barely relevant material. Yet, thanks to persistent clamour from fans, STEVE JABLONSKY’S score was eventually let loose to a fanfare of excitement, at least from those who had asked for it. 2009’s sequel, REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, was not to suffer the months of suspended animation between film and score and fan fervour was subsequently significantly subdued. Was this purely a case of skipping the period of anticipation towards the release, or did it stem purely from a sense of disappointment in how the music sounded alongside the film? Critical and fan reception would suggest a sentiment resembling the latter. Sales-wise the score outperformed the original, but it was met with significantly less excitement post-listen.

With the third TRANSFORMERS film’s release in June 2011 came the apparent end of MICHAEL BAY’S involvement in the franchise, rounding out his trilogy of contributions to the war between Autobots and Decepticons. While the first film in the series failed to set any particularly noteworthy benchmarks in areas other than visual FX, it is undoubtedly the most critically favored of the three. REVENGE OF THE FALLEN however was met with almost universal derision for being “a horrible experience of unbearable length” (Ebert, 2009), an understandable criticism for a summer blockbuster that runs for a total of 150 minutes. Regardless of the film itself, surely such a long running time would allow JABLONSKY the time to craft a deep, enriched and fleshed out listening experience that would surpass the original? Sadly, not.

JABLONSKY’S work for the first film was never more than a simple and entertaining listening experience, and it never pretended otherwise. His themes for the Autobots, their arrival, and the Decepticons were memorable in that they were simply pleasing to the ear and refreshed the memory of the various key moments in the film. Unfortunately, his score for the sequel bizarrely discards almost all relation to the stronger moments of the first score, leaving the listener to navigate their way through a largely forgettable array of action music in order to find anything repeatedly listenable.

The score opens with “Prime” (1), a simplistic reshuffle of the equally simplistic “Autobots” of the first score. The repeating brass motif and staccato strings slowly build to a rousing climax that rounds out a largely satisfying introduction to the score. Yet, for those with the slightest memory of JABLONSKY’S “Autobots” theme, “Prime” will surely be nothing more than a lesser imitation. The relative absence of the “Autobots” theme and various others is certainly one of the score’s downfalls and leads to the question of why? Why were these established themes pushed to the wayside, appearing in the briefest of forms? Perhaps REVENGE OF THE FALLEN being a sequel is somewhat to blame. The major characters of the entire series were given their celebrated introductions in the first films, potentially leading the composer and filmmakers to believe any such introductions or relations to their themes was unnecessary in the sequel. Whatever the reason, the music certainly suffers. REVENGE OF THE FALLEN is almost a case of inert evolution in that there are different themes, but they fail to improve upon their predecessors. Beyond “Prime”, the “Autobots” theme does resurface momentarily in the score’s climax “I Claim Your Sun” (13) and “I Rise, You Fall” (14), and while it’s return is certainly appropriate for an ending to the film, it is consequentially a reminder of a far superior score and film. The “Decepticon” theme’s deep, haunting choir is alluded to in “Einstein’s Wrong” (2), but in what is once again an inferior effort, with the female choir ostinatos never quite achieving the oppressive atmosphere achieved previously.

REVENGE OF THE FALLEN truly finds its calling in the mid-section of the score. Bypassing the mind-numbingly repetitive bass/guitar stabs of “The Shard” (4), the score opens up drastically, into genuinely fluid and enjoyable experience. “Infinite White” (6) is as simple a track as you will hear in most modern scores, but the combination of the crying vocal and the strings that echo it with the booming bass-synth make for a powerful four minutes, and serve as a break from the relentless assault by the previous three tracks. The reinterpretation of “Prime” heard here is an intriguing one, squeezing out all of the remaining melancholic emotion within the four-note sequence. The following track “Heed Our Warning” (7) does little to advance this section of the score, but as with “Einstein’s Wrong”, the choir does a reasonable job in remembering the “Deception” theme. “Tomb of the Primes” (8) then continues the trend established by “Infinite White”, starting out with a similarly poignant vocal before ascending into a cathartic orchestral rendition. The “Prime” theme again re-emerges in the ever-so emotional “Matrix of Leadership” (12), suggesting that a significant lack of material may have been one of the issues in play here. The theme is relatively satisfying; it is in its repetition that the glaring holes in the shape of missing themes stand out.

Seeing as a large section of the Transformers series is dedicated to the twisting and clashing of metal, the action-based music has a certain responsibility lying on its shoulders, and in this case it is a responsibility that goes unfulfilled. “Forest Battle” (10) does a good job in summarising the action music on offer here in that it is loud, crass and painfully repetitive. Not until the flourishing finale is the listener mercifully spared the never-ending choir shouts and whirring strings that threaten to derail an already disproportionate soundtrack. One should take solace, however, from the way in which the score incorporates the obligatory signature licensed track that accompanies REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. “Nest” (3) does a commendable job in reassembling the LINKIN PARK track “New Divide” into something that resembles a film composition, although it does suffer from some of the same inconsistencies the rest of the score is blighted by.

Followers of STEVE JABLONSKY will already know that he is capable of far better than the majority of the music heard in the TRANSFORMERS series and certainly REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. The score does have its moments of genuinely engaging music, but even these moments wear extremely thin come their final regurgitation in the closing moments.


Rating: 6/10





Reference:

Ebert, R (2009) ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’. Review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, directed by Michael Bay. Rogerebert.com Available at: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090623/REVIEWS/906239997


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Prime 2:14  ***
2 Einstein's Wrong 3:36  ***
3 Nest 2:10  ***
4 The Shard 2:42  **
5 The Fallen 4:04  ***
6 Infinite White 3:58  ***
7 Heed Our Warning 4:28  ****
8 The Fallen's Arrival 3:48  ***
9 Tomb of the Primes 2:47  ****
10 Forest Battle 2:05  *
11 Precious Cargo 1:38  ***
12 Matrix of Leadership 3:50  ****
13 I Claim Your Sun 3:07  **
14 I Rise, You Fall 3:336  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 44 minutes  


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