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Artwork copyright (c) 2003 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall





The Matrix was a highly-enjoyable action/sci-fi film that presented an intriguing concept (though not exactly an original one) and produced an enjoyable enough film out of it; then the success went to somebody's head and the pair of back-to-back sequels attracted the kind of hype that was previously known only by The Phantom Menace.  And look how that turned out.  The first of them, The Matrix Reloaded, was OK but took far too long to get going and had a pretty undefined ending (it could hardly have been thought of as a self-contained movie) - those problems were arguably more than compensated for by the spectacular fights and action scenes.  But The Matrix Revolutions suffers from similar problems - dull for most of its first hour, rather difficult to decipher (perhaps that's just my feeble brain), takes itself far too seriously and has a bewilderingly daft deus ex machina ending - and it doesn't even have the spectacular fight scenes.  Keanu Reeves, bless him, has done OK in all the films (in a role about as demanding as mental arithmetic would have been to Isaac Newton) but the limitations of some of his co-stars, particularly Hugo Weaving, it has to be said, are all to obvious.  The first movie was actually about something and had reasonably interesting characters - the others are just typical sci-fi shoot-em-ups without much to say, and the major players from the first movie are relegated to bit parts alongside the elaborate - but not always impressive - effects.  But the music - well, that's another story entirely.

Don Davis wrote a wonderfully experimental score for The Matrix with lots of fresh ideas (for film music) and then expanded on it and produced one of the most thrilling scores for years with The Matrix Reloaded; delightfully, he has managed to step up yet another gear with Revolutions and has provided probably the best score of the year.  It's such a delight to hear genuinely modern music being written for film when most of Davis's contemporaries just churn out the same generic material time after time.

For the first time, the soundtrack album accompanying the film has concentrated on Davis's score first and foremost, and here Maverick Records present almost an hour of it; there's just one track that isn't by Davis (Pale 3's "In My Head", about which the less said, the better).  Pleasingly, Davis has continued his collaboration with techno expert Ben Watkins, aka Juno Reactor, on a few tracks; probably not quite as spectacular as the car chase music in Reloaded, we still get some thrilling stuff in which the orchestra is not overwhelmed by the percussion, nor just pops its head up occasionally in between loads of synths - like in, say, David Arnold's Bond scores - but in which they genuinely work very well together and seem like a seamless whole.  Most impressive is Davis's purely orchestral (and choral) material.  Of course, the familiar main title music opens the album, and there's a special thrill now associated with that brief piece of music and you just know you're going to be hearing something really worth hearing afterwards.  There's a really thrilling set of cues in the middle of the album - "Niobe's Run", "Woman Can Drive" and "Moribund Mifune" - that showcases Davis's non-stop action music at its very finest.  Relentless, powerful, dissonant, portentous - it is everything you imagine modern film music can be, and then some.  Some brief moments of respite are needed afterwards just to give the listener a chance to brief, and these do appear at the very beginning of "Kidfried", though it's not long before it's back to thrilling stuff.

"Saw Bitch Workhorse" is a wonderful track title, especially when you work out what it means - I'll give you a clue, it's an anagram - and it's a wonderful cue as well, perhaps the best example of Davis's modern style, with his wonderfully elaborate and tremendously precise orchestrations being shown off to their fullest by an absolute powerhouse performance from the Hollywood studio musicians in the orchestra and choir, who deserve a lot of praise here: this must be one of the most difficult scores to perform they'll have worked on in a long time.  "Trinity Definitely" is the only really restrained track on the whole album, providing the calm before the storm of "Neodämmerung", the album's highlight.  Davis combines his orchestral majesty with choral chanting, in Sanskrit, the same language John Williams used for "Duel of the Fates" in The Phantom Menace, and in all honesty in a combination of the two pieces there could only be one winner, and for once it's not the man at the top of the film music ladder.  Davis's piece is so furiously complex and full of unstoppable thrills, it's probably the most satisfying piece of music that's been written in a long time.

Things calm down a little - well, they couldn't really do much else - in "Why, Mr Anderson?" - which is one of the sillier bits of the movie, but Davis's cue is sincere and actually quite moving.  Well, until it explodes into more thunderous action after about two minutes - but that's fine too!  The track's resolution sounds like it might come from a biblical epic with its heraldic brass and portentous choir - and, indeed, the religious parallels are quite obvious in the film as well, especially at the end ("Spirit of the Universe") when a character who is clearly meant to represent God (or at least some kind of god, if not the capitalised version) comes on the scene.  That last cue is a remarkably powerful and fittingly moving conclusion to a great trilogy of scores, with the orchestra, choir and solo boy soprano almost bringing a church hymn to mind, though actually things don't stop there because Juno Reactor's remix of Davis's "Neodämmerung", which is heard over the movie's end credits, appears as "Navras"; another terrific piece.

I harp on so much about how little effort film composers seem to put in these days to coming up with something a bit different from the norm, daring to be experimental in the way that the great film composers who emerged during the 1950s and 60s did; well, it's only fair to say that this is exactly what Davis has done.  Time will tell whether the enormous success of these Matrix movies and their scores will actually lead to a shift in Hollywood's attitude towards music and its composers and allow them to once again be themselves and let a little of their own personalities come through, or whether it will remain a very occasional thing that comes about only occasionally when a composer like Davis or Elliot Goldenthal finds an amenable director.  Let us hope it is the former, but even if it's the latter, Davis has surely assured his place in film music history with this trilogy.  The Matrix Revolutions is easily the year's best score to date and, while it clearly won't go on to win many awards, I don't think Davis's remarkable vision in creating this music could be overstated.  No doubt most fans will quickly forget it and move back to harping on about Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings music, but to me Davis has managed to do all the things here that Shore managed not to do - he's taken risks, tried to move film music onto the next level, not been afraid to put so much of his own voice in there or write challenging music - and even more amazing is that he has succeeded on all counts.  The Matrix Revolutions is a score to be applauded and my only fear is that Davis might not find filmmakers as accommodating to his own voice as the Wachowski Brothers have been. 

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  1. The Matrix Revolutions (1:19)
  2. The Trainman Cometh (2:38)
  3. Tetsujin (3:18)
  4. In My Head Pale 3 (3:50)
  5. The Road to Sourceville (1:23)
  6. Men in Metal (2:16)
  7. Niobe's Run (2:44)
  8. Woman Can Drive (2:39)
  9. Moribund Mifune (3:45)
  10. Kidfried (4:46)
  11. Saw Bitch Workhorse (3:56)
  12. Trinity Definitely (4:12)
  13. Neodämmerung (5:57)
  14. Why, Mr Anderson? (6:08)
  15. Spirit of the Universe (4:48)
  16. Navras (9:13)