Movie Wave Home
Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer

Composed by


Album running time

Performed by
led by
conducted by

Additional music

Engineered by
Music Editor
Produced by

Released by
Serial number
201 724-1

Artwork copyright (c) 2005 DreamWorks LLC and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Film music plunges new depths


When Hans Zimmer and Jay Rifkin launched their "composer factory" Media Ventures, it offered filmmakers the chance to get scores written quickly, recorded professionally and of an almost certainly predictable style.  Numerous composers have passed through the production line, and many have gone on to become fine and very successful film composers in their own right (Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell being the most obvious).  A dispute between Zimmer and Rifkin may mean that Media Ventures no longer exists in name, but it certainly exists in spirit as Zimmer and his protégés continue to churn out scores written by committee for an extraordinary and seemingly ever-increasing number of films.

What is most striking about Gregson-Williams and Powell is how incomparably better their scores became after they "went solo".  This can surely be no coincidence: the concept of composing by committee may be a timesaver and may be able to give producers and directors exactly what they want, but it comes with the inevitable cost that the music isn't going to feature the unique personality of any one composer.  All the composers credited will end up having to abandon their own voices and writing in one generic style.  The sad thing is that the millions of people who go and enjoy films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Armageddon probably don't notice a thing, so it is hard to argue that the practice is not effective.  The few thousand people who do notice (the kind of people who read websites like this one) tend to notice, though, and while many are not bothered, I find it to be an increasingly troublesome process.  Seeing a film (or buying a CD) these days with "Music by..." written on the cover doesn't necessarily mean anything.  I get the impression (though may be mistaken) that whoever is the current flavour of the month at Media Ventures (or whatever it is now called) tends to get the main credit, but the score is very much written by numerous different people.

The Island bears the credit "Music by Steve Jablonsky".  Jablonsky attracted a bit of attention for his music for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror (this provides me with a good opportunity to launch into a rant about remakes, but I'll leave that for another time) and rather more attention for his delightful orchestral (solo) score for the anime film Steamboy.  A look inside the CD booklet for The Island reveals not only Jablonsky's name, but four composers credited with additional music, five orchestrators, Hans Zimmer named as the score's producer and other composers listed in the "thanks" section.  This, one suspects, means that the score is unlikely to be the result of a great artistic vision by a talented film composer, however impressive Jablonsky's solo efforts may have been.

While things like Pirates of the Caribbean may be exceptionally generic (you could cut and paste the music into numerous other films and never notice anything was wrong), they do generally make for enjoyable albums.  Sadly, that is not the case with The Island, which must be one of the most offensively, relentlessly inane and banal musical concoctions ever to have featured in a motion picture.  For the first thirty seconds or so, we get heroic Pearl Harbour-style strings (in unison), augmented of course by synths and this material is reprised occasionally through the score.  It's easy to picture it accompanying, say, slow-motion shots of firefighters in Backdraft or slow-motion shots of astronauts in Armageddon or slow-motion shots of beautiful soldiers in Pearl Harbour or slow-motion shots of submariners in Crimson Tide.  It's even more simplistic than any of those scores, though - and it is, by a considerable margin, the highlight of this score.

Most of the rest of it is sampled percussion with occasional bursts from some strings or a guitar or even a ukulele.  For the action music - let the drum loops play!  For the "emotional" stuff - swell up those strings in unison and add a synth choir!  Just one thing - don't worry about a tune!  It isn't music by any definition I would use - yes, there are instruments playing notes written on a page (well, written on - I nearly cruelly typed "by" instead of "on" - a computer and then printed onto a page), but there's no beginnings, middles and ends, no progression of anything, no obvious technique.  It's just noise - sonic wallpaper designed to augment the sound effects.  It makes no attempt to heighten the drama, tell us anything about the characters, do anything other than simply be there throughout the length of the film.

The saddest thing of all is that Jablonsky has proven himself to be a composer of real talent, and no doubt all the others who worked on the score are as well.  Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair - one would hardly expect the score from a film whose advertising proudly proclaims it to be "From the director of Armageddon and Pearl Harbour" to be a great piece of art.  But on balance I don't think I am - this is barrel-scraping stuff and the sooner film music manages to escape from this sort of thing, the better.  (For a score of real imagination and flair whose style would have been ideal for this movie, check out Marco Beltrami's I, Robot - it's scores like that that keep me from giving up altogether on modern film music, no matter how tempting it may be after hearing garbage like The Island.)  If Microsoft tried to write a MovieMusicWizard which wrote scores for films and during their product testing it produced something like this, the programmers would be sent straight back to the drawing board because nobody would consider it to sound anything like as real as anything human beings would come up with.  This is an absolute stinker, as depressing and disheartening an album as a fan of film music could ever find. 

Buy this CD from by clicking here!


  1. The Island Awaits You (2:22)
  2. Where Do These Tubes Go? (2:06)
  3. Sector B (2:49)
  4. Starkweather (4:12)
  5. Agnate Ukuleles (2:37)
  6. You Have a Special Purpose In Life (4:34)
  7. Mass Vehicular Carnage (2:25)
  8. Renovatio (4:12)
  9. I'm Not Ready to Die (2:32)
  10. This Tongue Thing's Amazing (4:28)
  11. Mass Winnings (5:07)
  12. The Craziest Mess I've Ever Seen (5:07)
  13. Send in the Clones (4:30)
  14. My Name is Lincoln (3:42)
  15. Blow The Prom Kings (5:24)