Home > Reviews > SAN ANDREAS – Andrew Lockington

SAN ANDREAS – Andrew Lockington

sanandreasOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

For Los Angeles natives, San Andreas is a disaster film which could hit too close to home. It’s been more than 20 years since the last major earthquake to hit the area – the 1994 Northridge quake, a 6.7 – and many people feel that a ‘big one’ is imminent, considering that the famous San Andreas fault runs almost directly through the city. Director Brad Peyton’s film takes a look at what might happen if the fault were to rupture, and the devastation that the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco would suffer as a result. The personal story within the film centers on Ray Gaines, played by Dwayne Johnson, a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter rescue pilot, who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) from the aftermath of the disaster. The film, which also stars Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, and Paul Giamatti as a Cal Tech seismologist, has been a surprise commercial hit, and has been praised for its special effects and action sequences, while being simultaneously derided for its rather terrible dialogue and cliché-ridden plot.

The score for San Andreas is by Canadian composer Andrew Lockington, who has built up quite a reputation for himself as an action composer of some note after several years of working with and for Mychael Danna. Many of Lockington’s previous scores – notably Journey to the Center of the Earth, City of Ember, Journey 2 The Mysterious Island, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – received a great deal of critical praise, but I never really connected with them in the same way that my peers did. There’s nothing especially wrong with those scores at all; they’re perfectly enjoyable, appropriate action and adventure romps, with some good thematic writing, but I never really felt they were worthy of being lauded *that* much. However, San Andreas may have finally turned me into a believer. Lockington’s work here left a significant positive impression on me, much more so than any of his previous scores. It’s thematically strong, at times emotionally powerful, and has a large amount of dense and complicated action music that is satisfying on multiple levels, both in terms of pure adrenaline and in terms of the music actually having interesting things to say. It’s classically orchestral enough to appeal to fans of old fashioned action writing like me, but contemporary enough in terms of electronic and synth content to still be relevant to modern audiences. In short, it ticks every box.

Stylistically, Lockington’s score has the feel of 1990s Hans Zimmer mixed with contemporary Brian Tyler, taking a ‘best of both worlds’ approach that is appealing and, more importantly, successful. The score is anchored by its central theme, which first appears softly in the opening cue, and re-occurs frequently throughout the score. It’s not quite a theme for Ray Gaines himself, but more a theme for the heroism and resilience of people in general; it does appear when Ray does something super-human in his helicopter, his car, his plane, or his boat, but also acts as an anthem to celebrate the triumph of humanity over everything that nature can throw at it. Other than its noble, patriotic feel, one of the things the theme really has going for it is its adaptability. It’s underpinned with thrilling white-knuckle tension in “Natalie’s Rescue,” has a real sense of scope and muscle in “Emma’s Rescue,” has breathless energy in abundance in “Escaping the Tower,” is accompanied by bubbling synths in the nervous “Need a News Feed,” and so on. In cues like “Coit Tower Destroyed” and “Extinction,” when it’s augmented by a cut-glass boy soprano solo courtesy of Gabriel Kuti of the Trinity Boys Choir, it takes on a religioso quality that is an appropriate reminder of the human cost of the tragedy unfolding on-screen.

A steadfast secondary theme, which bears a striking resemblance to Michael Kamen’s main theme from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, is introduced in “San Francisco,” but appears sparingly throughout the rest of the score, until it receives its most striking performance in the penultimate cue, “Resuscitation,” a definite score highlight. A more low-key, gently romantic theme for Ray and Emma’s changing relationship appears in “Divorce Papers,” where it is anchored by a pretty piano solo from pianist David Arch, and later during the finale of the otherwise action-packed “The Kiss,” where it swells to quite lovely heights. There also seems to be a recurring motif for ‘things collapsing’ – a defiantly modernistic blast of gargantuan Inception-esque sound – which gives a sense of monumental scale and abject terror to cues like “Hoover Dam,” “Emma’s Rescue,” and “Stanchion Collapse,” and may be enough to make the needle on the Richter scale move on its own. Interestingly, although it sounds like an electric guitar, Lockington actually created this sound by taking a piano, cutting the high-tension strings, recording the resulting sound of that happening, and then running it through a modular synthesizer.

The action music, which makes up the bulk of the album, is dense and busy, with cues like “Natalie’s Rescue,” “Hoover Dam,” “Emma’s Rescue,” the soaring “Skydive,” and “Tsunami” impressing greatly. Whereas a lot of today’s action music tends to rely purely on rhythmic ideas, often underpinned by those infernal endlessly chugging cellos, Lockington takes great pains to change things up. Different instruments take the lead, different instruments convey the rhythmic ideas, the ostinatos constantly change tempo to keep them interesting, and once in a while he will throw in a texture that comes completely out of left field: listen to the awesome interplay between trilling flutes and frantic high strings two minutes into “Emma’s Rescue,” for example, or the unusual percussion rhythms deep down within “Stanchion Collapse”.

Also worth noting in these cues is the contribution of the absolutely immense brass section, which plays a major role in giving the action sequences depth, power and weight. This was clearly influenced by conductor/orchestrator Nicholas Dodd, who has provided similar heft to scores by David Arnold, Clint Mansell and Mychael Danna.

In a world where the action music for Marvel super-hero movies and Fast and Furious franchise flicks is becoming increasingly interchangeable, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear a score like San Andreas. Yes, it does adhere to some contemporary stereotypes, and Lockington’s approach to scoring a disaster movie of this scope is exactly as one might have expected it to be, but he achieves what he set out to do with a great deal of panache and orchestral creativity that sets his work here apart from the crowd. The thematic writing stands out – the fact that there is an identifiable and memorable theme is shocking enough in 2015 – and the emotional content, when it comes, is almost enough to make Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino’s acting convincing. Almost. Anyone who enjoyed Andrew Lockington’s previous action extravaganzas will find plenty to their liking here; for those like me, who had never quite been convinced before, San Andreas could well be the score that makes you see the light.

Buy the San Andreas soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Theme (1:42)
  • Natalie’s Rescue (5:17)
  • Caltech (2:06)
  • Divorce Papers (3:28)
  • Hoover Dam (2:49)
  • San Francisco (1:51)
  • Connecting the Dots (1:40)
  • Emma’s Rescue (5:42)
  • Escaping the Tower (1:32)
  • Need a News Feed (2:40)
  • Blake’s Trapped (2:05)
  • Remembering Mallory (3:05)
  • Coit Tower Destroyed (3:33)
  • Skydive (2:50)
  • Stanchion Collapse (2:45)
  • Plan B (2:32)
  • Tsunami (2:46)
  • Extinction (1:01)
  • The Kiss (3:09)
  • I’ll Bring Her Back (3:13)
  • I Love You Dad (3:25)
  • Resuscitation (6:39)
  • End Credits (2:58)

Running Time: 68 minutes 48 seconds

Watertower Music (2015)

Music composed by Andrew Lockington. Conducted and orchestrated by Nicholas Dodd. Featured musical soloist David Arch. Special vocal performances by Gabriel Kuti. Recorded and mixed by Andrew Dudman. Edited by Tom Kramer. Album produced by Andrew Lockington.

  1. June 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Nice review, Jon, glad to see you liked this. I must say, I apparently need to revisit this score. I’m a big fan of Lockington, I particularly adore “Journey 2” (can’t see how you didn’t connect with that, at least). I’ve only heard this once on album, and haven’t seen in context of the film (which usually helps), but it didn’t make too much of an impression at first listen. It struck me as feeling very much like a typical RC/Tyler style summer blockbuster, albeit perhaps more orchestrally interesting. None of the themes seemed memorable to me, in a way that J2 was immediately to me. To each their own, I suppose. Either way, I’ll definitely give this a few more spins, thanks for the review!

  2. Michael
    June 16, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    “Many of Lockington’s previous scores – notably Journey to the Center of the Earth, City of Ember, Journey 2 The Mysterious Island, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – received a great deal of critical praise, but I never really connected with them in the same way that my peers did.”

    Which is strange, since your reviews for Lockington’s early works were very positive. Other than that, good review.

  3. Costas
    November 23, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    The action theme also is a note to note rip off of the main theme from Don Davis’s UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN, although with different note values.

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