Home > Reviews > TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN – Steve Jablonsky


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I recently joked on a film music message board that I should simply recycle my review of Steve Jablonsky’s first Transformers score in order to pay homage to the sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I fully appreciate that sequel scores should maintain a certain thematic consistency with their predecessor, and predicted that in all likelihood Jablonsky would trot out the same tired power anthems and banal über-heroism that he saddled the first film with… but, really, it’s just going to be the same score again, right? Wrong. Somehow, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is actually worse.

The film, which again is directed by Michael Bay and stars Shia LaBoeuf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel and John Turturro, picks up the story a couple of years after the events of the first movie: Sam Witwicky (LaBoeuf) is now at a prestigious college and has the delicious Mikaela Barnes (Fox) as his girl, but his seemingly idyllic life is shattered when the Decepticons return to Earth to try to kidnap Sam after he inadvertently discovers the ancient origins of the Transformers. Needless to say, Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, quickly follows in order to save Sam, and the Earth itself.

The Transformers movies are big, dumb fun, with little in the way of subtlety or nuance to hide the explosions and special effects and breathless action. In many ways, Jablonsky’s score is the musical equivalent of “big, dumb fun” – it’s loud, energetic, fast-paced, and has all the superficial heroism one comes to expect from summer blockbusters these days. My problem – as it has been throughout with scores of this type – is the total and utter lack of sophistication, depth, and innovation. To use a British colloquialism, it’s all mouth and no trousers, and to be frank I’m getting sick of it.

All the ingredients are there: large orchestra, large choir, electronic enhancements, plus the recurrence of the main theme from the first film to signify the heroic Autobots. The opening cue, “Prime”, provides a nice re-statement of the main theme augmented by cooing vocals, and later cues such as “Infinite White”, “Tomb of the Princes” and “Matrix of Leadership” restate the material to satisfying effect, especially when the theme is accompanied by a choir. Unfortunately, Jablonsky abandons his themes for great chunks of the score – a surprising decision given their effectiveness first time around. The delightfully evil Decepticon theme, with its processed vocal effects and staccato rhythms, is almost totally absent (it appears briefly in “Heed Our Warning”), as is the soft guitar-driven theme that underscored the more tender moments between Sam and Mikaela.

Several mid-album cues, notably “The Fallen” and “The Fallen’s Arrival”, just plod along aimlessly with low, grunting synth lines and pseudo-ethereal vocals. No matter the shallowness of the music, I never actually expected a Transformers score to be dull, but somehow Jablonsky manages to make this score unexpectedly boring for long periods of time. Even the action music, in cues like “Forest Battle”, seems curiously uninspired and insipid, as if Jablonsky was simply going through the motions. Maybe he realized that no-one would hear his music under all the whirring sound effects and metallic explosions anyway, and settled merely for writing sonic wallpaper.

But the worst is yet to come. Much has been made of the fact that the popular rock band Linkin Park contributed additional score music to the film, most notably in the third cue “Nest”, which features extracts from a new Linkin Park composition called “New Divide”. Needless to say, the resulting collision of styles is utterly horrific: a harsh, grating, completely out-of-place debacle which is clearly nothing more than a marketing tool to sell crossover score albums to fans of the band.

I guess I should just stop worrying about the state of summer blockbuster scores and continue exploring film music’s nether regions to find the best soundtracks of the day, because I’m clearly not going to be satisfied with any of the offerings from the major studio system. The time when Hollywood’s cornerstone projects would also produce the year’s top scores has now seemingly long gone, and one has to increasingly look to Britain, France, Japan, and the independent arenas to find musical satisfaction. There’s clearly a market for scores like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, otherwise directors like Michael Bay wouldn’t keep commissioning them, and mainstream consumers wouldn’t keep buying them in their hundreds of thousands, but I’m certainly not part of that audience, as I am no longer a 14 year old boy. If you enjoy the Remote Control sound, and enjoyed the first score, you are likely to find Jablonsky’s score similarly to your taste. For everyone else, you’re welcome to join me over there, where you’ll find me listening to Alexandre Desplat, Joe Hisaishi, Christopher Young, and all the other composers who actually write good music.

Rating: *½

Buy the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Prime (2:14)
  • Einstein’s Wrong (3:35)
  • Nest (2:08)
  • The Shard (2:42)
  • The Fallen (4:03)
  • Infinite White (3:58)
  • Heed Our Warning (4:26)
  • The Fallen’s Arrival (3:47)
  • Tomb of the Primes (2:47)
  • Forest Battle (2:04)
  • Precious Cargo (1:38)
  • Matrix of Leadership (3:50)
  • I Claim Your Sun (3:06)
  • I Rise, You Fall (3:35)

Running Time: 44 minutes 00 seconds

Reprise/Warner Bros. 519972-2 (2009)

Music composed by Steve Jablonsky. Orchestrations by Kevin Kaska. Additional music by Ryeland Allison, Clay Duncan, Tom Gire, John Sponsler and Hans Zimmer. Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson. Edited by Ramiro Belgardt. Album produced by Steve Jablonsky.

  1. superultramegaa
    March 20, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    Yeah, this is one of those scores where without the complete score (the complete in-film tracks) you’ll get nothing out of it. “New Divide”, while I agree should never have been there in the first places, is at least properly developed in the score. Plus the complete scores contain a lot of the reprises of the first film’s themes that were sorely missing from this album release.

    I too used to hate this score and think it almost as bad as Transformers 4. But then I listened to the complete score, re-listened to “Forest Battle” and “Prime” a few times, gave “Infinite White” a chance, it became one of my favorite scores. Not that it isn’t absolutely a RCP style score rather than a Jablonsky one, because Lorne Balfe and Zimmer’s influences are incredibly strong here.

    However the thematic content/continuity, and the way themes are references/used, is wonderful, and you can tell the reprises of “Prime” were where Jablonsky gave his most care and effort to. Listen to “Jetfire Rambles the Plot” on YouTube and tell me that track didn’t have love and care put into it.

    (Why do I feel the need to make responses to almost 9 year old posts?)

  2. M
    March 26, 2018 at 5:52 am

    Aside from “Heed Our Warning”, which sounds like a rip off of “The Thing” theme, I didn’t like this score. But Jablonsky’s work in “Dark Side of The Moon” was very good I think

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