- Composed by Steve Jablonsky
- Paramount Music / 2016 / 69m
Jonathan Liebesman’s 2014 reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not have found much love from critics, but it clearly did from audiences, as its half-billion-dollar box office take confirms; no surprise therefore that a sequel was quickly put into production. Liebesman wasn’t attached to it for very long (if indeed he ever was at all), with Paramount turning instead to Earth to Echo director Dave Green. Ironically, while reviews have mostly suggested the film is an improvement on its predecessor, it doesn’t look like it’s going to generate nearly as many ticket sales, so the third film for which most of the cast has already signed might not make it.
Brian Tyler’s score for the first film was one of his best – a spectacular collection of his trademark packed-to-the-rafters action music bolstered by a stirring, memorable theme. It reminded me really what a Brian Tyler score for Transformers might have sounded like – firmer and fuller than what it actually got, a lot more interesting, still entirely appropriate for that kind of film. And, yes, rather similar to his music from the television Transformers Prime, which I guess had already given the game away. Steve Jablonsky is the man assuming scoring duties on the sequel, so now we can all find out what a Jablonsky-scored Transformers would have sounded like. Oh, wait…
It opens, and you’d expect nothing less, with a stirring anthem which goes on to serve as the main theme, in “Squirrel Formation”. It’s good: bold, ballsy, heroic. It’s more disposable, less memorable than Tyler’s, not quite packing the same punch – but the composer gets so much mileage out of it during the lengthy album it does get inside your head, its enthusiasm really rather infectious. A parade of action tracks are built on it and it continues something established in Henry Jackman’s recent Captain America: Civil War – this is Remote Control music where the orchestra sounds like an orchestra. I never understood why it was thought that processing it so much and doubling it with samples was seen as a good idea and I hope this becomes the norm and isn’t just a blip, because it makes things sound so much better.
The second track, “Shredder”, introduces the bad guy’s theme – a simple, menacing idea heard usually on the low strings or brass. It’s a bit generic but does the job. In the lengthy “Shredder Escape” it really goes through its paces and finds itself pitted against a very cheerful new theme which is a nice one built very much on the musical DNA of the original tv series theme (I don’t think it is actually from the tv show, but I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong). It gets a great extended arrangement in “Turtle Power”. The “Heroes in a Half Shell” phrase from the tv theme does make an appearance in it, and “Half Shell” which closes the album will satisfy all fans of the show. In “Krang” there’s a different sound introduced, much more heavily electronic – I like the retro keyboard which drives the piece forward, but not as fully convinced by some of the noises accompanying it.
It’s enjoyable music, providing the kind of in-the-moment highs you get from fast food. What draws it back is that 70 minutes is too long for fast food – a large number of the album’s 22 tracks are essentially constructed the same way, a few bars of ominous doom before action music (either light or dark) bursts forth, one of the anthemic themes plays, it climaxes a couple of minutes later and then starts again in the next track. That makes it have the feel of one of those curious trailer music albums – a classier version, but not exactly music for the ages. It’s fun, just not lasting fun, the themes are good but not developed, just repeated and the 1990s Varèse Sarabande album release of this which would have been half an hour long would have been a lot more satisfying.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Brian Tyler