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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Composed and Co-Produced by:
Steve Jablonsky

Conducted by:
Nick Glennie-Smith
Gavin Greenaway

Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
Suzette Moriarty
Walter Fowler
Rick Giovinazzo
Penka Kouneva
Elizabeth Finch
Kevin Kaska

Additional Music by:
Lorne Balfe

Co-Produced by:
Bob Badami
Ramiro Belgardt

Reprise Records

Release Date:
June 23rd, 2009

Also See:
The Island

Audio Clips:
2. Einstein's Wrong (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

4. The Shard (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

6. Infinite White (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

12. Matrix of Leadership (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

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Buy it... if you're able to separate this ridiculously dumb music from its context and treat its twenty minutes of non-action material as simplistic but smooth atmosphere worthy of a place in a new age music collection.

Avoid it... if you demand any form of intelligence in your listening experiences or expect to hear a continuation of the marginally interesting Decepticon material from the previous score.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: (Steve Jablonsky) Fact: our population is hopelessly stupid. Fact: our population is satisfied by mediocrity. Fact: our population takes too long to learn from previous mistakes. Fact: our population has expendable cash to waste no matter how daunting our economic woes. Fact: our population rewards senseless movies more than intelligent ones. Fact: composers spawned from the Media Ventures/Remote Control studio of streamlined film music exist solely because of all the previous facts. There have been many opportunities through the late 1990's and 2000's to beat a dead horse in the process of flaming movie industry powerhouses like Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay for their adherence to the unspoken laws of stupidity. But the fact remains that films like 2007's Transformers are cash cows, preying upon the limited intellects of worldwide populations (and especially Americans) to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in profit for their studios. It took less than three weeks for a 2009 sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, to reach the $300 million mark, despite scathing reviews from nearly every respected movie critic and audiences who tolerated its exaggerated length while themselves giving it low marks. The storyline of the film is irrelevant; it exists only to show robots fighting robots, with human collateral as a sideshow. It's bad enough that there is no true depth to the plots of these films, for the original cartoon actually had some intriguing political messages, but the really poor, over-complicated design of the robots makes it impossible to quickly identify them during action sequences. Sometimes, it takes Peter Cullen's distinctive voice to come from a heap of metal to realize that Optimus Prime is actually on screen. There's something appropriate about the demise of General Motors at the precise time that their vehicles are contractually bound to these transforming robots; some of the characters in the franchise no longer represent vehicles that exist under GM's ownership since its bankruptcy, presenting one of the only interesting product placement dilemmas to ever exist in a franchise. Roger Ebert, who took time to write that people who applaud Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen actually espouse "wrong" opinions, summed up his review of the picture with a statement that simultaneously criticized the film's music. He said, "If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."

Despite reports that Hans Zimmer contributed music to or produced this score, the commercial album release indicates no such involvement. Returning once again to pull elements out of the Remote Control library of generic muck and rearrange them for the franchise is Steve Jablonsky, a man who very well could be as mechanized in his approach to this franchise as the robots on screen. In fact, a computer could very well have scored Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; like the film, perhaps skipping the humans completely is a plus. For the first film, Jablonsky betrayed any of the quality that he had flashed in his score for Steamboy and instead tread closer to stock Hans Zimmer imitation material that had also inspired his lazy work for The Island. His staccato ostinato for the Decepticons and heroic, masculine anthem for the Autobots were both highly derivative of Zimmer's style, albeit different eras respectively (the application of ostinatos is a relatively recent obsession with these people), and both were crowd pleasers. Even Warner Brothers was caught off guard by the demand for dumb, streamlined film music of this variety, losing sales because they didn't get a score-only album coordinated until the DVD release of the picture. The follow-up score is equally successful in its initial weeks on store shelves (outperforming the song album at after a few weeks), again proving all of the facts stated at the start of this review. Interestingly, film music collectors have reacted harshly to the music for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, almost always placing it behind the original film's score in terms of its memorable thematic content. Indeed, the Decepticon theme is buried in the environment of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, barely making a dent in "Heed Our Warning." The Autobot theme is more prevalent, but not in the extended crescendos of power that exist in the previous score. It's joined here by equally simplistic harmonics representing the ancient device that the robots are fighting over in the narrative. Jablonsky doesn't develop the Autobot theme into any significantly different variations when he does outright state the idea. It doesn't even grow a slightly bigger pair of balls. Nor does the action material here, which amounts to a waste of time given its completely non-descript slapping of the soundscape with tired constructs and library sounds, accomplish anything new. The sizable orchestral ensemble is enhanced as usual in the bass region, and the choir performs its standard "oooh's" and "aaah's." Electronic accents include the usual thumping electric bass for additional power. It's all familiar, including the addition of Lisbeth Scott's mournful and lovely voice as a dominant aspect of this score; her tone seems to have been anointed as the official soul of "the Remote Control sound."

The majority of those reading this far into this review will agree (or at least concede the possibility) that Jablonsky's music for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is brainless. Stupid. Imbecilic. Juvenile. This doesn't just apply to the ridiculously mundane chord progress that pleasantly flow through each cue, but also in the lack of creativity in instrumentation (duduk excepted) and, more importantly, a lack of intelligent design in its approach. It is the antithesis to a score like Jerry Goldsmith's The Boys from Brazil, which is a challenging but extremely smart shunning of stylistic norms that defied all expectations (then again, Michael Bay is no Frank Schaffner, so solely comparing Jablonsky to Goldsmith is perhaps slightly unfair). Would Jablonsky know the difference between a Viennese waltz and a German waltz if he had Johann Strauss slapping him on one side of the face and Richard Wagner on the other? Maybe, but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen doesn't indicate that kind of depth in talent. So to get back to the point: this score is brainless. Stupid. Imbecilic. Juvenile. The next question is this: does it matter? Why should Jablonsky delicately change meters and instrumentation to accent a slight change in ambience on screen when you're never going to hear the majority of it over the sound effects anyway? Not to mention the fact that an intelligent score for a Transformers flick could very well get a guy fired! If you accept the fact that scores like this exist for a reason, and therefore approach them with extremely low expectations, how bad can they be? Certainly, idiotic film music with mainstream appeal has always irritated true collectors of the art; anybody old enough to remember the music of Herbie Hancock, Giorgio Moroder, and Michael Gore and the Oscars they won over truly classic, timeless scores can testify to that. Jablonsky and similar clones are simply the current incarnation of such pop culture favorites, tied in this case to the action blockbusters that have risen from the birth of CGI capabilities. So if films like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are commonly accepted as stupid, and the accompanying music is commonly accepted as equally stupid, then can you really give the score a low rating simply because it's stupid? Moreover, there is the issue of the listening experience on album. Since Jablonsky doesn't make much attempt to hit specific synchronization points and construct other basic aspects that typically define film music, then why not forget the fact that this score exists for a film at all and rate it as a new age compilation album? In lieu of simply ranting about the poor merits of the score, perhaps looking at it as a new age product is better for the blood pressure.

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Think back to the early 1990's for a moment. The new age genre was flourishing, highlighted by Enya's soothing tones, and some of material coming from other artists was bordering on the realm of what film music collectors were comfortable hearing. The group Enigma comes to mind; their initial pair of highly successful albums of that period offered material equivalent in the 1990's to what Jablonsky is writing here to throngs of buyers in the 2000's. The varied choral aspect of the current Remote Control sound is simply an offshoot of Zimmer's music for Ron Howard's adaptations of Dan Brown books. The basic harmonies and pleasant rhythmic flows are new age staples. You can't of course, draw a total parallel between the two because Jablonsky's action material is still held over from Zimmer's own 90's style. This action music in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is actually better than expected in that it isn't totally obnoxious. In fact, it's a bit dull, which is a plus in this case. And you have to throw out the really awful Linkin Park contribution in "Nest," an irritatingly trashy heavy rock piece that has nothing in relation to the rest of the score and only serves as a marketing ploy. But then you have the remainder of Jablonsky's material, addressing the larger than life, historical aspect of this film. If you take parts of the cues "Prime," "Einstein's Wrong," "Infinite White," "Heed Our Warning" (arguably), "Tomb of the Primes," "Precious Cargo" (arguably), "The Matrix of Leadership," and "I Rise, You Fall" (and you reduce the bass and gain levels considerably), you end up with upwards of twenty minutes of what could easily be considered a very decent new age album. It's mindless music, but that's the entire point of wishy-washy new age ambience. Some of the parts with choir even remind of the Enigma days of new age's 1990's peak. Lisbeth Scott's voice is the clinching element in this classification, gracing three of those cues with a distinctly religious tone. Within the simplistic realm of Remote Control music, "Infinite White" is as gorgeous as it gets, surpassing the equally dumb but satisfying closing cue from The Island on the guilty pleasure meter for Jablonsky. Does this excuse the stupidity of the music in context? No. Entire films as dumb as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen shouldn't exist, though, and like some of the pop culture, musical-inspired flicks of the late 70's and early 80's, this is another place and time in which the music has to be separated from the soundtrack genre and reclassified. As a film score, Jablonsky's work is trash. Appropriate, but still trash. As a new age album with twenty minutes of satisfyingly simple atmosphere, it actually serves a purpose. Approach it as such and you'll be rewarded with more than just a jewel case for your expenditure. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.26 Stars
Smart Average: 2.44 Stars*
***** 104 
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  Gashoe13 -- 8/4/11 (2:41 a.m.)
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   Not a chance in hell! *NM*
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 43:56

• 1. Prime (2:14)
• 2. Einstein's Wrong (3:35)
• 3. Nest - co-written by Linkin Park (2:08)
• 4. The Shard (2:42)
• 5. The Fallen (4:03)
• 6. Infinite White (3:58)
• 7. Heed Our Warning (4:26)
• 8. The Fallen's Arrival (3:47)
• 9. Tomb of the Primes (2:47)
• 10. Forest Battle (2:04)
• 11. Precious Cargo (1:38)
• 12. Matrix of Leadership (3:50)
• 13. I Claim Your Sun (3:06)
• 14. I Rise, You Fall (3:35)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. Contrary to initial reports, the album indicates no formal role for composer/producer Hans Zimmer on the project.

  All artwork and sound clips from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are Copyright © 2009, Reprise Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/10/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved. Just as scores like this one exist to please primitive people, organized religion exists to scare and control the same primitive people.