Latest reviews of new albums:
San Andreas
  • Composed by Andrew Lockington
  • WaterTower Music / 2015 / 72m

A disaster movie that looks like it should be directed by Roland Emmerich but isn’t, San Andreas stars Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino and is actually directed by Journey 2: The Mysterious Island‘s Brad Peyton.  An earthquake hits Los Angeles and lots of buildings are destroyed; the two lead characters (who are divorced) must battle their way out of the city and get to San Francisco to rescue their daughter.

Director Peyton stuck with his Journey 2 composer Andrew Lockington and it is undoubtedly the Canadian composer’s biggest film yet.  His previous bright action scores have proven to be very popular and so a lot of people held out very high hopes for this score, perhaps an opportunity to hear the sort of thing David Arnold used to get to write for Emmerich.  To be honest it isn’t like that (it’s more like a superior version of Harald Kloser) but it’s certainly an entertaining piece of work that pushes all the right buttons.

Andrew Lockington

Andrew Lockington

The score begins with a “Main Theme”, though it’s not one you’ll be humming in the shower, before getting straight into the action in the five-minute “Natalie’s Rescue”, which proves to be one of the best tracks on the album.  If anything it reminds me a bit of Brian Tyler, a pulsating piece of music with high energy levels throughout, orchestrated to the hilt.  Shortly afterwards a version of the main theme (which is actually far more satisfying than the one in the track labelled as such) gets a touching workout in “Divorce Papers”, one of the few softer moments in a score filled with action; later the first half of “The Kiss” is also moving, tinged as it is with sadness and a heavenly choir (if only it didn’t have the electronic overlay it would be even better).

The action is handled well, is nicely orchestrated and refreshingly not just a load of oppressive misery: there is colour to it, not just shades of grey, moments of tension and indeed despair as you’d expect but some heroism too, enough shafts of light breaking through to keep things fresh.  A couple of cues are really first rate – I just love “Skydive” and “Tsunami” which are thrill rides and a half.  A surprise comes in “San Francisco” when a new theme is introduced (related to the main theme) that is the most Michael Kamen-like thing I’ve ever heard anyone other than Michael Kamen write, based on that wonderful heroic chord progression he used in various scores from Robin Hood to Band of Brothers.  The motif then disappears for ages but gets a great workout in the grand finale, the sweeping “Resuscitation” (which is a great cue) before things come to a satisfying close in the end credits.

A couple of things hold the score back.  The first is the electronic element, which isn’t too prominent but adds an unwelcome abrasive edge to some of the action music that I’m sure the composer could quite easily have achieved from his orchestra but somebody thought that wouldn’t be cool enough for the kids.  It feels a bit of a cheap trick that detracts from the impressive orchestral music.  The second is that while much of the action is good and there are a few punctuating cues that have an emotional feel to them, there are also a few suspense tracks that don’t really add much to the listening experience and drag just a bit too much.

San Andreas is a score with a lot going for it; it’s main problem really is that for all its impressive qualities, it does rather go in one ear and out of the other, lacking something to truly set itself apart and a genuinely memorable theme.  Its orchestral quality sets it apart from the Remote Control type efforts but of the more serious modern action scores it doesn’t quite have that unique selling point that might have got it up with the likes of Godzilla (either 1998 or 2014, in fact).  The highlights are great but they’re spread just a little too thin for the album to be fully satisfying.  Still, it’s not that far from being really very good indeed (there’s a lot more that is good than that isn’t), and the popular composer’s fans are sure to be pleased.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

Tags: ,

  1. MrZimmerFan (Reply) on Monday 18 May, 2015 at 11:25

    I have to say, i enjoyed a lot, yeah, isn’t better than Journey 2, but better than PJ 2 (i enjoyed that too, but San Andreas is better)

  2. TJ (Reply) on Monday 18 May, 2015 at 23:14

    Lockingtons’ Journey to the Center of the Earth (not Journey 2) is one of my favorite recent scores. City of Ember wasn’t bad either. Surprisingly, you don’t have reviews of either. 😉

  3. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Tuesday 19 May, 2015 at 08:30

    Not Journey 2? I think that one’s better than the first!

  4. tiago (Reply) on Thursday 28 May, 2015 at 02:43

    Both Journeys are pretty good, but I prefer the second one, mostly because it has a beautiful James Newton Howard-style main theme.

    As for San Andreas, it’s a fine score too, but a little too “Brian Tyler-y” for me. For some moments, I thought I was listening to Into the Storm or one of the Expendables scores. It’s the same problem that hurted the score for Hercules last year, by Fernando Velázquez, which I thought it could be more Basil Poledouris and less Tyler.

  5. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Thursday 28 May, 2015 at 09:48

    I kind of understand what you mean by “Brian Tyler-y”, not necessarily stylistically, but San Andreas does have a bit of an action music wallpaper effect after a while like Tyler’s scores tend to, i.e. it’s still good action music, but it doesn’t sound very scene-specific or like the composer is making much effort to differentiate one action sequence from the next. I still think Lockington’s action in “stock” mode is fresher-sounding and more energetic than Tyler’s in “stock” mode, but maybe that’s just because his career is newer…we’ll see where things stand in a decade or so (if Lockington keeps getting assignments, hopefully).