Though every Transformers film has come with a predictably terrible and slightly shameless album with music that is apparently ‘from and inspired by’, I avoid that nonsense as we all know that Michael Bay loves his soft-rock to accompany his endless shots of helicopters flying over sunsets. This is a review of Steve Jablonsky’s score to the film.
Many have criticised it, but I have been a fan of Steve Jablonsky’s scores for the Transformers films. When we do not have to put with Bay’s beloved soft rock as the non-diagetic soundtrack to his franchise, Jablonsky’s score may not have been particularly original (he is a protégé of Hans Zimmer and his compositions certainly demonstrate obvious influence and perhaps minor plagiarism), but with rousing strings and thumping drums, he has created some memorable riffs for his Transformers scores that perfectly suit the films.
Jablonsky’s score for Transformers had some very memorable compositions and because it had riffs and themes attributed to certain characters; it in my view enhanced what was by far the best film and score of the four films. The music for the first film was true punch-the-air stuff in my view. It is a shame that Michael Bay has not been able to develop the franchise and has only seemingly gone generally backwards (with number 2 the low point), and it pains me to say that with Age of Extinction, as an overall score, is actually Jablonsky’s weakest score of the franchise.
Things start off really well with the opening track ‘Decision’, a very brooding and atmospheric piece that builds slowly and with subtlety, using a very memorable riff similar to that of his previous Transformers compositions. Track 2 ‘Best Thing that Ever Happened’ is a gentle and soulful piece that actually works better when listened to in isolation than when in the film, it does however feature a vocal that is then repeatedly used that in my view does not work.
However the soundtrack then seems to descend into generic blockbuster material with its conventional compositions, but not memorable, serving well as background music but never an emotionally involving listen like the memorable riffs of his score for the first Transformers. ‘Optimus is Alive’ tries to incorporate the original riff he used for ‘Optimus’ in his score for Transformers, but only that really stands out and is far too brief. The longer tracks like ‘Cemetry Wind’ and ‘His name is Shane and he Drives’ feel more like a succession of noises than a solid composition that builds involving tension, and the following 10 tracks all are never less than very listenable, but very generic, lazy and uninvolving, often resorting to lazy sforzando’s. While, the bizarre vocals and guitars in tracks like ‘Hacking the Drone’ really do not work at all.
It is not until track 17 and 18 (‘The Legend Exists’ and ‘Dinobot Charge’), that Jablonsky’s score picks up again; ‘The Legend Exists’ using the memorable riffs from the wonderful ‘Arrival to Earth’ on his score to Transformers wonderfully and the very long ‘Dinosaur Charge’ is a truly rousing and epic piece reminiscent of ‘It’s Our Fight’ from Jablonsky’s Dark of the Moon score that deserves to be played loud and is back to his punch-the-air-and-shout-yes compositions that made all the previous Transformers scores memorable.
Tracks 19 to 23 play out the film’s climactic battle sequences and even though ‘Honor to the End’ and ‘Leave Planet Earth Alone’ once again use slightly clichéd vocals, these last five tracks are dramatic and rousing compositions with epic string arrangements that stand up well when listened to in isolation, especially the final track ‘The Knight Ship’ which makes sure that it’s string arrangements gradually build to a memorable crescendo. They may lack originality, but are at least emotionally involving compared to the score’s middle section (which is unfortunately very similar to the actual film).
At least Age of Extinction does not contain the painful attempts at ‘variation’ by containing a composition of completely different style and sound that is supposed to be a soundtrack to the human characters.
It may be overall his weakest and least memorable of the franchise, often resorting to even more generic and truly forgettable compositions than before, but Steve Jablonsky’s score for Transformers: Age of Extinction still has enough memorable tracks to make it a superior effort to most blockbuster scores. Many tracks are forgettable, but those that standout do truly enhance the emotional involvement of the actual film and make for a truly uplifting and rousing listen in isolation, it is just a shame only a few do this. However these few tracks, in my view, make this score worth purchasing.