In 2007 Michael Bay brought the 1980s series Transformers to the big screen in vivid, metal crunching fashion. The story was somewhat lacking, there was stupid comedy, and some bad acting, but it was still an exciting film. One of the positive things I took away from the film was the score by Steve Jablonsky. It was big, bombastic, and sounded very good.
I remember checking store shelves for it and not finding it, I checked online and did not find it. What's the deal? It is a big release, it should have a score album, right? It turns out there were no initial plans and it took an online position to show the powers-that-be that a market did exist. It came out in the Fall of that year, and it turned out to be a great album. Fortunately, with the release of the second film, they chose not to wait four months to release it. The question is now whether or not it is any good.
The score, was composed by Steve Jablonsky and marks the third direct collaboration between Jablonsky and Michael Bay, beginning with The Island. He has also developed a relationship with Bay's production company, Platinum Dunes, having scored the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and its prequel), Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, and Friday the 13th. I have not heard those separately, but do not recall the scores as standing out that much, unlike his Transformers work, not to mention The Island. Jablonsky definitely knows how to step up for the big effects films and deliver the goods in the form of eminently listenable scores that work well even apart from their films.
This new score is not quite as strong as the original, but I think that would have been a tall order under any set of circumstances. That is not to say it doesn't deliver, it does, I just get the feeling that the original themes could have been used to stronger effect, as I only really noticed the Autobots theme used. That is not to say the new material is bad, just not quite as I had hoped.
We open in similar fashion to the first score, in heroic fashion. The first cue is called "Prime" and it is a slow burn sort of track that brings us back into the Autobot fold and prepares us for the return of the transforming heroes. It is followed by a weaker cue in "Einstein Was Wrong," which brings Sam Witiwicky into the story as he has his mental meltdown brought on by a shard from the All Spark left over from the first movie.
Track three features the collaboration of Jablonsky and Linkin Park on an instrumental version of "New Divide" (featured on the soundtrack album). This version is called "Nest" and it is a strong techno/rock/industrial cue that is big and heroic and fits the film nicely, and plays better than the original version. This is a cue I would have liked to have heard a little bit more of throughout.
Next up is "The Shard," this piece brings in a little darkness and, dare I say, tension to the mix. It then moves from darkness and tension straight into evil with "The Fallen," which is used to introduce us to this franchises version of Star Wars' Emperor. It is a slow cue that will definitely give you pause.
The flow continues as we move from tension, to evil, and now onto the epic. "Infinite White" with it' synth, strings, and soaring female vocals it is simultaneously soothing and foreboding. We need not wait long to discover what the bad guys have in store as we slip from the soothing into another cue dripping with dread in "Heed Our Warning" and leads into a very dark mid-section that runs through "The Fallen's Arrival" and "Tomb of the Primes."
The action ratchets up as we hit "Forest Battle." This plays with one of the bigger action pieces of the film and leads into a more upbeat and hopeful tone, with its use of the Autobots theme from the first film. It also brings us closer to the cue of hope that is "Matrix of Leadership."
Everything builds up the action packed finale "I Rise, You Fall." this plays with the Egypt battle and plays off the earlier evil as we get the heroic Autobot theme reigning triumphant.
Overall, this is a very good score that fans will want to have in their collection. Granted, I am still more likely to reach for the original (same goes for the movies), but there is no denying that the score is one of the high points of the movie and Steve Jablonsky continues to impress.
As good as it is, it does seem to run short. We get 44-minutes of score from a movie that is nearly 2.5-hours long. There have to be missing cues here. It is the reverse situation of the soundtrack release, which had songs that were not in the film, in this case I suspect we are missing chunks of music that may have helped smooth this out, as it does jump around a bit.
Bottomline. You will not be disappointed. Of the two music releases for this film, this is definitely the one to get. This is a big score that bears no pretense of subtlety, it is exactly what you want from a score for a film whose stars are giant alien roots.