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THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS – Don Davis

November 7, 2003 Leave a comment Go to comments

matrixrevolutionsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

For Don Davis (and for quite a number of score and movie fans) 2003 has been the year of The Matrix. With the original 1999 movie becoming a surprising world-wide smash, and the May release of The Matrix Reloaded taking a staggering $281 million in the US alone, The Matrix Revolutions is one of the most eagerly awaited films of this, or any year. Equally, following the stunningly realized score Davis provided for Part II, his work on Revolutions has equally become one of most anticipated releases of the year. In a rare turn of events, the score actually meets – and in some cases – surpasses all the expectations, making it easily one of the best scores of 2003. With the talented Wachowski Brothers, Andy and Larry, picking up where the last movie finished, The Matrix Revolutions finds Neo (Keanu Reeves) somehow trapped in an unusual limbo world in between the real world and the Matrix, in which he must again battle the nefarious Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), and from which he must escape before the sentinels reach the stronghold inside the last human city, Zion. Meanwhile, the human leaders and the erstwhile crew of the Nebuchadnezzar – Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Link (Harold Perrineau), Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Lock (Harry Lennix) – begin making preparations for the imminent invasion…. an invasion which will surely mark the final battle between humans and machines on what remains of the Earth.

Continuing the linear stylistic transition that began in Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions is the most traditionally symphonic score of the trilogy, eschewing a great of the thunderous electronics from the previous two scores and concentrating on by-the-book choral and orchestral majesty. The familiar cyclic brass phrases are there again in abundance, acting as a trilogy-wide leitmotif, and bringing a sense of consistency to the series. But, whereas both the original Matrix and Matrix Reloaded contained a great deal of chaos, dissonance and complex writing, Revolutions is surprisingly straightforward, with Davis scoring the action in a more familiar way, albeit with added emotional oomph.

This is not to say that The Matrix Revolutions is in any way simplistic: on the contrary, Davis has still managed to work in some of the most challenging, fiendishly clever, and structurally brilliant orchestral writing heard in a box-office blockbuster for many a year. Percussion led “off to battle” music is the order of the day in ‘Men in Metal’, recalling in both composition and attitude parts of James Horner’s excellent score for Aliens, while the middle-album action music, in cues such as ‘Niobe’s Run’, ‘Women Can Drive’, ‘Moribund Mifune’ and ‘Kidfried’ is quite astonishingly good – underpinned by a constant percussion tattoo, and with the orchestral and choral forces churning majestically in the foreground. Some of the instrumental battles, with horns and violins vying for supremacy, are almost as exciting as the ones on-screen. Sometimes they descend into vivid dissonant clashes, at other times they rise to passionate, tonal peaks. At all times, they are brilliant.

However, rather than rest on his laurels and be content with writing some of the best action music of the year, Davis builds on his motifs in his finale, which is nothing short of operatic – at times reaching near-religious proportions in its choral intensity. Beginning with ‘Saw Bitch Workhorse’, and continuing on through the overwhelmingly immense ‘Neodämmerung’ (which has the choir chanting in Sanskrit), the thunderous ‘Why, Mr. Anderson’, and the fresh, clean-sounding ‘Spirit of the Universe’, Davis contributes some of the most emotionally overwhelming and powerful music of his career. Strings soar, brasses fly into vivid fanfares, choirs chant, crescendos are reached and – in the finale – a boy soprano cries hopefully for the fate of the human race. Mixed in with this is the lush ‘Trinity Definitely’, the musical culmination of all those little hints of a love theme Davis has dotted in throughout the trilogy, and which finally comes to fruition with a gentle, but beautiful confirmation of the abiding connection between Neo and Trinity – a poetic duet between sonorous oboes and strings.

With the exception of two short cues at the beginning of the album (one of which, ‘Tetsujin’, features more of the large-scale taiko drumming from Reloaded), only in the conclusive 9-minute ‘Navras’ does Davis revisit the ballistic orchestral/electronic fusion writing that was so prominent in Revolutions, again collaborating with Juno Reactor front man Ben Watkins. With the orchestral elements and the Sanskrit chanting in place, Watkins overlays the action with a throbbing dance music beat and effective world-music vocals that lend Davis’s music a tough, modern edge that, while very different to the rest of the music in THIS album, still feeds in nicely with the trilogy as a whole.

With these conclusive six cues as his springboard, Don Davis will surely join the legions of the film music greats from this point on: as one of the few viable successors to the Williamses and Goldsmiths of the world, his only challenge will come when he asked to write something this brilliant again. The Matrix Revolutions is a quite magnificent album and, when combined with the previous two scores to make an all-encompassing “work”, can surely be regarded as one of the most important contributions to film music of the late 1990s/early 2000s. Knowing the Oscar rulings surrounding sequels, it seems highly likely that Don Davis’s work will be rules ineligible for Academy Award consideration next year. If this is the case, Davis will have be content with the knowledge that his work on these three films is, easily, some of the most accomplished writing by a modern composer in many, many years.

Rating: *****

Track Listing:

  • The Matrix Revolutions (1:19)
  • The Trainman Cometh (2:38)
  • Tetsujin (3:18)
  • In My Head (written by Reinhold Heil, Tom Tykwer and Johnny Klimek, performed by Pale 3) (3:50)
  • The Road to Sourceville (1:23)
  • Men in Metal (2:16)
  • Niobe’s Run (2:44)
  • Woman Can Drive (2:39)
  • Moribund Mifune (3:45)
  • Kidfried (4:46)
  • Saw Bitch Workhorse (3:56)
  • Trinity Definitely (4:12)
  • Neodämmerung (5:57)
  • Why, Mr Anderson? (6:08)
  • Spirit of the Universe (4:48)
  • Navras (9:13)

Running Time: 63 minutes 28 seconds

Warner Sunset/Maverick 48412-2 (2003)

Music composed and conducted by Don Davis. Orchestrations by Don Davis, Erik Lundborg and Conrad Pope. Additional music by Ben Watkins. Recorded and mixed by Armin Steiner. Edited by Joe E. Rand, Barbara McDermott and Steve Galloway. Album produced by Don Davis.

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