Latest reviews of new albums:
Bumblebee
  • Composed by Dario Marianelli
  • Paramount / 57m

A prequel to the Transformers film series, Bumblebee is also the first in the series not to be directed by Michael Bay, and has attracted a far more positive critical response than any of the previous five; perhaps not surprisingly, it’s also not attracted anywhere near the sort of box office these films usually do. It’s only the second film directed by Travis Knight, and is nothing like his previous one (Kubo and the Two Strings) – in one of the most unlikely composer assignments I can ever remember, his Kubo composer Dario Marianelli signed on to do the film (and managed to not get replaced late on, which had always seemed like a possibility – c.f. Mychael Danna on Hulk or Carter Burwell on Thor 2). It’s not often that you hear a new blockbuster Hollywood film score and genuinely don’t know what to expect – but given Marianelli has never scored anything remotely similar to this before, that was indeed the case here. In fact, he’s written a pretty big action score which is very much in keeping with the modern sound, albeit one with a greater sheen of class over the top than has been heard in this franchise previously.

While the opening cue, with its “epic” choir and electronics, might lead you to think Marianelli’s basically just emulating a Remote Control score, it’s not long until you hear some Goldenthal-style rasping trombone trills in “Bee on the Run” and you can rest easy that it’s something more than that. There is a recurring heroic theme but I have to say it’s not particularly memorable and it gets a bit lost amongst all the action. Some of the action is really good – I like “Marina Tower” a lot (it reminds me a bit of Brian Tyler, whose Transformers Prime is very good) and throughout the final portion of the album there’s a whole host of exciting cues. Elsewhere there are a few softer cues, which are more typically Marianelli – they’re very pleasant when they come (first in “Charlie” and perhaps best towards the end of “Meet Bumblebee”) with a nice, pastoral feel to the guitar and piano music – and most importantly, you get some relief from the otherwise pretty much non-stop action. There’s also a bit of semi-comic, vaguely Thomas Newman-style material (which Steve Jablonsky also used in his scores for the franchise), first in “Chasing Mum”. Really, it’s all fine, and shows that Marianelli could do more films like this if he wanted to – he’s demonstrated a side to himself that we didn’t really know was there – but while it’s obviously better than another generic Remote Control score, and while it is proper music, with at times ferociously complex orchestration, it’s not really the most memorable – it’s really in films like Kubo that he can really shine.

Rating: ***

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  1. Rory (Reply) on Tuesday 15 January, 2019 at 20:21

    Jablonsky’s Transformers scores are the one Remote Control spate of offerings I still have a huge soft spot for. I agree there are parts, particularly in opening few tracks, that really struggle with anonymity, but on the whole, I really enjoyed this. Marianelli takes a more nuanced command of the orchestra, and it serves the movie incredibly well in its more tender scenes.

    He clearly did his homework, too: that Newman-esque writing is pretty much bootleg cues from the first film with the serial numbers filed off and some additional writing on top.. And there are a couple of similar-yet-distinct callbacks to Arrival to Earth in some of the large dramatic moments.

    May I ask where you got it? I’ve been perusing for a CD release, but so far I’ve only found digital outlets.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 15 January, 2019 at 20:33

      I got it digitally. I know lots of people still prefer CDs and I understand why but I just don’t have the space for them!