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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

The seventh theatrical TMNT movie, Mutant Mayhem is the first to be based on a true story, with the turtles fighting off some bad guys this time round. It is the third reboot of the series – the original trilogy of films were scored by John du Prez, whose birth name is Trevor Jones; then came the standalone one scored by Klaus Badelt (birth name Klaus Badelt); then the next reboot featured a terrifically entertaining score by Brian Tyler, and earned a sequel scored by someone else. This latest one is scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who have won more Academy Awards for writing film music than Jerry Goldsmith or Bernard Herrmann, which suggests they must be really fucking good at it.

Their film scoring career is really quite curious, I think. While many may disagree I thought their early scores for David Fincher were decent enough film scores – quite different from what anyone else was doing, thoughtful in their way and – while nothing I would want to listen to on an album – they did their job. The level of critical acclaim from outside the film score niche fanbase was typical of what happens when famous musicians from other fields enter the world of film, so I couldn’t get particularly upset about it.

More recently though there’s been a definite shift, with that distinctive sound they had disappearing and being replaced by Thomas Newman impersonations on their last couple of films, Soul and Empire of Light (neither of which was nearly as accomplished as it would have been had Newman himself done them) – and the somewhat limited Mank was OK for what it was, but it’s hard not to suspect that Conrad Pope (who orchestrated it) would probably have come up with something a bit more dramatically potent had he been left to his own devices.

And that brings us to Turtles. The duo usually score Oscar-bait stuff – “prestige pictures” if you like. I doubt that Mutant Mayhem will be troubling too many voters when the awards season comes around – so this is branching out, in a way. The music is possibly the closest they’ve come to sounding like what you might have thought a Trent Reznor film score would sound like before he actually wrote one – this is essentially an instrumental heavy rock album.

It’s not to my taste, to say the least. Film music can be anything and some styles of it will appeal to some, others less so. This is industrial electronica for the most part – we do have a lot of weird noises as we did in The Social Network and those other David Fincher scores – but this time they form part of a much larger wall of sound rather than taking the spotlight. I dislike it so much I wonder if I myself fell for a bit of an emperor’s new clothes situation when I held those Fincher scores in a relatively high regard compared with some of my peers back at the time.

There are a few minutes of more Vangelis-like dreamy soundscapes but not enough of them to redeem the album for me. It’s not aimed at people like me, so your mileage may of course vary. It feels like a big swing and a miss to score a summer action movie like this – and I’d rather have that than just another predictable Hans Zimmer knock-off – but I’m pretty confident in saying that I can’t remember the last time I found a film score album to be as jarringly unpleasant as this one. It’s horrible.

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