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Comments about the soundtrack for The Matrix (Don Davis)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
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• Posted by: Mike Dougherty   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Monday, July 28, 2008, at 9:49 a.m.
• IP Address: donated.filmtracks.com

(The following donated review by Mike Dougherty was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in July, 2008)


The Matrix: (Don Davis) Continuing the collaboration between composer Don Davis and directors Larry and Andy Wachowski is 1999's The Matrix. This score signifies Davis' big break into the film scoring business, in light of the film's surprising success at the box office (its domestic gross exceeding $160 million) and its tremendous popularity among audiences and film score fans. Though the score is puzzling upon the first few listens, the result is a remarkable addition to the action genre.

Faithful to the style of his other scores, Davis employs a recent trend called "postmodernism," a composing style based on employing a minimum of melodies as to create atonality (The Matrix has no themes). Some film score fans won't enjoy this postmodern approach; the score by itself tends to make the listener hungry for some kind of theme to connect with the film. Those who enjoyed the electronica cuts used in some of the film's action sequences should consider buying the song album as a supplement. These tracks emulate the attitude of the film while offering lighter moments to the score's dark tones. Still, this score really breaks new ground in regards to atonal film scoring.

Davis does a lot of musical experimentation with The Matrix, creating some interesting sounds with the orchestral, synthesized, and choral accompaniment. Though brief, the choral performances really evoke a sense of awe, as in "The Power Plant." Boy soprano Theo Lebow (as also heard in John Debney's End of Days) makes a brief, yet haunting performance in "Welcome to the Real World." Lebow's talents aren't used to their fullest, and his solo ends before he gets the chance to grace the rest of the score with his eerily beautiful vocals. "The Hotel Ambush" starts with a synthesized-bongo drum beat that also ends rather suddenly. The strong rhythm, as heard in the "Ambush" track, should have appeared more consistently, bearing in mind the film's hip and stylish take on science-fiction. "Unable to Speak" is the score's only weak spot -- the track is difficult to listen to by itself, without the help of the film's mildly gory scene. (Imagine the sound of an orchestra warming up before a concert, except three times louder and faster.) Thankfully, this situation occurs early in the album, and Davis spares the rest of the score from tracks as extremely atonal as this. These are minor flubs, brought on mostly by the scoreUs foundation on minimalism.

The Matrix consists mostly of some taut and exciting action and chase music, heard in tracks like "Main Title/Trinity Infinity" and "Ontological Shock." Listeners should recognize the recurring motif that appears throughout The Matrix -- an arrangement in which the brass fades into a loud note, then fades out. (Imagine the sound of the trumpet section playing one note while zooming by at 30 miles per hour.) Davis' rippling orchestrations for brass bring Elliot Goldenthal to mind, others orchestrations suggest the name of James Horner (a composer for whom Davis arranged many scores). The brass section plays a strong role in this score, as in "Bullet-time" (named after the film's break-through special-effects sequences). The orchestra performs with an immense degree of energy, creating a very strong action score.

After 20 minutes of mounting darkness, the heroism of the score finally breaks through in the last two tracks. "Anything is Possible" is a spectacular finale to the score, building up to a glorious explosion from the brass section. This is definitely one of those "goose-bump" finales that score fans enjoy. Here, the 24-bit digital sound really delivers. The score's finish also reprises a portion of the main titles, offering an effective conclusion to the album, and keeping the door open to the film's future sequel(s).

For the most part, this release features the score's finest moments rolled into one energetic half-hour. To no surprise, the folks at Varese also left some of the film's stand-out cues on the cutting room floor (on the missing-in-action list are the Neo/Morpheus kung fu fighting sequence, the "de-bugging" of Neo, and the lobby entrance, to name a few). Strangely, this is one example of a score that actually works better on CD than it did in the film. That's because the fast-paced action, the songs, the sound effects, and the film's stunning visuals drown out Davis' fine work. This album offers listeners the best opportunity hear and appreciate Davis' score in its full glory. ****






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rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. Scoreboard created 7/24/98 and last updated 4/25/15.