Home > Reviews > THE MATRIX RELOADED – Don Davis

THE MATRIX RELOADED – Don Davis

matrixreloadedOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The original Matrix movie was a bona-fide phenomenon when it was released in 1999, breaking new ground in many areas: the level and depth of the story by directors Andy and Larry Wachowski; the mysticism and theology that peppers the story; the fetish chic “look” of the film; the once-innovative special effects, with the now passé bullet-time slow motion sequences; and Don Davis’s lavish, electronically enhanced orchestral score, which was lauded by fans but which I personally didn’t care for. Whatever your feelings about its artistic merits, the impact of The Matrix was and is impossible to ignore – and the sequel raises the bar again.  Beginning where the original movie left off, The Matrix Reloaded sees Neo (Keanu Reeves) now an established member of the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, one of many ships under the control of human freedom fighters who are striving to rid the world of the race of machines who have enslaved humanity and tricked them into thinking they are free by creating “the matrix”, a vast computer programme designed to simulate reality. Along with crewmembers Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) and Link (Harold Perrineau), the crew seek to fulfill the prophecy of “The One” by tracing the Matrix to its source and freeing humanity… but this is only the beginning.

The Matrix series will surely go down as the catalyst that launched Don Davis’s film music career. Before 1999, he was a jobbing composer doing orchestrations for Randy Newman and working on low-budget and straight-to-video fare. Now, he picks and chooses from quality projects, and is likely to see his professional reputation growing and growing. The Matrix Reloaded is a richly textured, highly intelligent, mature piece of work that surpasses his original in almost every respect. The complexity of the orchestral writing, the creativity in the dissonance, the integrity of the electronic accompaniments, and the occasional bursts of choral beauty are all first-rate.

This time around, Davis enlisted the help of modern electronic composers Ben Watkins (of the groundbreaking trance music group Juno Reactor) and Rob Dougan to collaborate with him on certain scenes. With Watkins and Dougan on board, Davis’s music takes on a life of its own. Although it is, on the whole, more orchestral than the original Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded uses the electronic angle to greater effect, adding a level of intensity that, as well as being thoroughly enjoyable, also illustrates one of the film’s central points of merging the organic with the fabricated.

Once again, the chaotic, fiendishly complicated brass performances and broad, sweeping string writing that permeated the original featured prominently, with the unique circular “fading” effect that acted as a thematic leitmotif in the first movie reappearing here. Both the ‘Main Title’ and ‘Trinity Dream’ are hyperkinetic collisions of orchestral forces that truly boggle the mind with their complexity. ‘Teahouse’ is a short, yet powerful combination of Watkins’s driving synthesizers and percussion performances by Gocoo, Japan’s most famous cutting edge Taiko drum group. However, the three centerpieces of the score are undoubtedly the cues ‘Burly Brawl’, ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’, and the conclusive 17-minute ‘Score Suite’.

‘Burly Brawl’ pulsates to great, throbbing orchestral blasts (which occasionally nod in the direction of James Horner and Aliens) and a furiously fast electronic overlay which allows the cue to simply blast the listener out of his or her chair. A portentous Latin choir adds seriousness and weight to the track, which otherwise is a battering assault on the senses. For its entire 6-minute length, it hammers relentlessly, making repeated powerful statements and leaving the listener breathless. ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive’, again, is driven forward by relentless electronic and percussive beats, and thunders onward for over 10 minutes, but this time the music has a more hard-edged, techno feel to it. The ‘Score Suite’ is majestic in every way, swelling to choral and thematic majesty at several key times, presenting full and vibrant recapitulations of the micro-motifs, and generally providing a grand overview of the entire score’s best moments. The chromatic brass writing is a wonder to behold, and some of the orchestral passages are so complex you wonder how the orchestra managed to get their heads round it.

Warner Brothers and Maverick Records released music from The Matrix Reloaded as a 2-CD set, with one disc of songs and one disc of score. However, the second disc is where most of the brilliance lies – the majority of the first disc is disposable, with the exception of the song by Marilyn Manson is good (but I like him anyway), and Rob Dougan’s ‘Furious Angels’, which is an orchestral extrapolation on his own “Clubbed to Death” track from the first movie, and should really be considered score.

The Matrix Reloaded stands easily as one of the best film music experiences of 2003, and if the Academy do not rigidly adhere to their “no sequels” rule, I can genuinely see this being a contender for awards next spring. Whatever else Don Davis does in his career, this trilogy of films can stand as beacons within his filmography. This is thrilling, challenging, powerful, staggeringly brilliant stuff.

Note: For a fuller listening experience, I suggest you also visit Don Davis’s official web site at dondavis.filmmusic.com and download the six additional score cues available there. Several of them, especially ‘Multiple Replication’ and ‘Chateau Swashbuckling’ add a richness of texture to the score, while the totally unique ‘Niaiserie’ is a wonderful piece of French-inspired source music.

Rating: *****

Track Listing:

DISC ONE

  • Session (written and performed by Linkin Park) (2:23)
  • This is the New Shit (written and performed by Marilyn Manson) (4:20)
  • Reload (written by Rob Zombie and Scott Humphrey, performed by Rob Zombie) (4:25)
  • Furious Angels (written and performed by Rob Dougan) (5:29)
  • Lucky You (written and performed by Deftones) (4:08)
  • The Passportal (written and performed by Team Sleep) (2:55)
  • Sleeping Awake (written by Sonny Sandoval, performed by P.O.D.) (3:23)
  • Bruises (written and performed by Unloco) (2:36)
  • Calm Like a Bomb (written by Tim Commerford, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello and Brad Wilk, performed by Rage Against the Machine) (4:58)
  • Dread Rock (written by Paul Oakenfold and Ian Green, performed by Paul Oakenfold) (4:40)
  • Zion (written and performed by Fluke) (4:33)
  • When the World Ends – Oakenfold Remix (written by Dave Matthews, Glen Ballard and Paul Oakenfold, performed by Dave Matthews) (5:26)

DISC TWO

  • Main Title (Don Davis) (1:30)
  • Trinity Dream (Don Davis) (1:56)
  • Teahouse (Juno Reactor/Gocoo) (1:04)
  • Chateau (Rob Dougan) (3:23)
  • Mona Lisa Overdrive (Don Davis/Juno Reactor) (10:08)
  • Burly Brawl (Don Davis/Juno Reactor) (5:52)
  • Matrix Reloaded Score Suite (Don Davis) (17:35)

Running Time: 90 minutes 52 seconds

Maverick/Warner Sunset 9362-48411-2 (2003)

Music composed and conducted by Don Davis. Orchestrations by Don Davis, Erik Lundborg and Conrad Pope. Additional music by Ben Watkins and Rob Dougan. Recorded and mixed by Armin Steiner and Larry Mah. Edited by Joe E. Rand. Album produced by Don Davis, Ben Watkins and Guy Oseary.

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