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Godzilla vs. Kong
Album Cover Art
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Produced by:
Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL)

Co-Orchestrated by:
Sara Barone

Additional Music by:
Antonio Di Iorio
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WaterTower Music
(March 17th, 2021)
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Regular U.S. release.
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Buy it... if you can disengage your brain long enough to appreciate a kaiju score of the lowest common denominator, Tom Holkenborg closely following the Hans Zimmer playbook with predictable results.

Avoid it... if you expect anything in this score to sound authentic, from the themes to the instruments, for this work plays like an unfinished demo recording from start to finish.
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WRITTEN 5/19/21
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Godzilla vs. Kong: (Tom Holkenborg) In Japan, there have been countless films depicting the famed Godzilla versus something, with that "something" including every conceivable bizarre creature except for Donald J. Trump. (Give it time.) The 2021 movie Godzilla vs. Kong represents the first of these massive, dedicated kaiju face-offs from Hollywood, serving as a direct sequel to 2017's Kong: Skull Island and 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The hopelessly ridiculous plot of the 2021 follow-up proposes that there is a hollow area within the planet, literally called "Hollow Earth" and not yet claimed by the rich as a tax haven, from which the monstrous beasts in these franchises come from. Meanwhile, evil corporate and military interests are using mysterious technologies unsanctioned by Elon Musk to build and control giant fake monsters. Not only do audiences get to see the oddly proportioned battles between the two titular beasts, but an appearance by the uber-silly Mechagodzilla against both of them is another attraction. Forget for a moment these creatures have almost zero personality, even Kong, and that void of depth extends to the human characters that carry over into this flick. Ultimately, the film is another excuse to show the cause of extensive but likely unsuccessful property insurance claims, as usual. Despite the general stupidity of the concept and its execution, audiences propelled Godzilla vs. Kong to mammoth earnings both in cinemas and via streaming. Director Adam Wingard, who had composed the music for a few of his prior films, had clear misgivings about the connection between his film and those prior in the concept, deciding that the famous musical themes by Akira Ifukube and others for these characters would not be appropriate. "I knew it would be controversial on one hand because the original themes have been kind of revived but, on the other hand, I wanted this to stand on its own legs," Wingard said. "I wanted to embrace the MonsterVerse version of the character." This MonsterVerse started with 2014's Godzilla, and it has to be lamented that each entry since then has featured a different composer's work.

As Wingard admitted, the original Japanese/Toho musical influence on the franchise had already been resurrected brilliantly in the current MonsterVerse by Bear McCreary for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a classic score that best combines the heritage of the concept with edgy new appeal. Apparently, that didn't impress him. Not helping his decision-making process was an electronica junkie turned Hans Zimmer clone, Tom Holkenborg, who has so thoroughly digested Zimmer's Kool-Aid by this point that he parrots all of the senseless Remote Control mantra about ignoring established musical themes. The real reason men like Zimmer and Holkenborg don't want to take the time to adapt classic themes into their scores (and, yes, it can be done) is because they want to creatively and artistically reinvent the wheel for a new generation, taking credit for succeeding better for a modern audience when, in fact, they're not providing anything more effective than the original. Likewise, one has to wonder if these Remote Control composers, going all the way up to Zimmer himself, are even capable of pulling off a display of masterful adaptation like McCreary accomplished for the 2019 film. Do they not try because they don't think they can do it? It wouldn't have been difficult to adapt material from Henry Jackman's Kong: Skull Island for this entry, but Holkenborg doesn't go there, either. It's lazy and disrespectful to make no attempt at an adaptation of at least Ifukube's main Godzilla theme (the 2014 production of Godzilla was not exempt from this criticism, too), especially with McCreary proving this ridiculous Zimmer mentality invalid. Between Wingard and Holkenborg, much effort was thus put into needlessly creating a new musical universe for the franchise at this juncture, and, not surprisingly, the composer ends up using many of the same stereotypes of monster music without actually repeating the beloved themes or even generating memorable monster music. The whole exercise comes across as rather pointless. Making matters worse is the issue that Holkenborg's recording sounds atrociously woeful, a product that proves that all the money and training of Remote Control, including the best samples in the world, cannot alone save a relative amateur from producing substandard music.

Holkenborg, shedding his Junkie XL moniker, has shown promising progression as a composer over the years prior to Godzilla vs. Kong, which is why this score, along with the likewise underperforming Zack Snyder's Justice League concurrently, is a greater disappointment than just one inferior entry in the Godzilla franchise. Even if you accept Holkenborg's abandonment of the franchise's prior themes as a director prerequisite, the execution of his replacement is so wretchedly conveyed that one has to question his capability to make effective conceptual decisions for this level of solo blockbuster assignment. Rarely do the talents and competence of a composer come under this kind of scrutiny in a review, but Godzilla vs. Kong is a prime example of not just Holkenborg's failure, but Zimmer's for sculpting and releasing him into the industry with methodology that yields a work like this. In the end, Holkenborg's score for Godzilla vs. Kong did not receive a proper recording. In fact, it was never finished. What listeners encounter is one massive demo recording from start to end, the tone of the instrumentation cheaply rendered and the juvenile over-emphasis of notes suggesting no natural performance inflection and incomplete constructs. It's the ultimate auto-tuned score, with no competent orchestrations, no nuance in the movement between notes, and extremely poor separation between the layers of orchestral samples, soloists, and electronics. The words "orchestral samples" are no accident, as this entire score sounds sampled as in the typical demo recording one would expect for a common first draft. Without any natural performance variance, each instrument sounds like it's being keyboarded. There's no indication that an actual orchestra recorded the score for Godzilla vs. Kong, so perhaps we are indeed hearing a glorified synthetic demo. Holkenborg does, in true Zimmer fashion, strive for something meaty to throw into the press release, and for this score that means the "biggest bass amp in the world" and the "biggest drum in the world." Neither actually has any functionally positive impact on the finished product. In fact, while Holkenborg was trying to figure how to get this massive, custom-built drum rolled into his garage and sample the thing, he somehow forgot to devise a way to incorporate any actually convincing jungle instrumentation.

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Average: 2.04 Stars
***** 6 5 Stars
**** 12 4 Stars
*** 25 3 Stars
** 44 2 Stars
* 60 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 67:31
• 1. Pensacola, Florida (Godzilla Theme) (2:18)
• 2. Skull Island (Kong Theme) (7:24)
• 3. Apex Cybernetics (2:02)
• 4. A New Language (2:29)
• 5. Just Now (1:50)
• 6. Tasman Sea (9:30)
• 7. Through There (1:25)
• 8. Antarctica (2:36)
• 9. Hollow Earth (3:48)
• 10. The Throne (2:11)
• 11. Lunch (1:59)
• 12. Nuclear Blast (3:59)
• 13. The Royal Axe (4:48)
• 14. Mega (7:39)
• 15. Hong Kong (13:14)

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The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.
Copyright © 2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Godzilla vs. Kong are Copyright © 2021, WaterTower Music and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/19/21 (and not updated significantly since).
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