Latest reviews of new albums:
White House Down
  • Composed by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2013 / 48m

Roland Emmerich’s latest big-budget action extravaganza, White House Down sees Channing Tatum save not just his daughter but also the US President after the White House is attacked by some nasty terrorists.  Stretching credibility, the President is played by Jamie Foxx – a black president!  Come on now.  The music, as usual for this director’s films, comes from the team of Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander.  Kloser hasn’t also written the film this time round, though he did serve as producer, and probably made everyone’s tea.  After the excitement of David Arnold’s three scores for Emmerich and then the brief diversion to the great John Williams on The Patriot, the change in musical approach since Kloser (later joined by Wander) took over is so extreme, it doesn’t really make sense – it’s hard to talk about any of the previous four Kloser/Wander scores for Emmerich without repeatedly using the word “bland” – I’ve just never been able to reconcile the outlandish extravagance of every other aspect of the films with the understated timidity of their scores, which seem to serve no purpose whatsoever.  It’s a very pleasant surprise then that White House Down starts more promisingly – the “Opening Theme” is still a bit bland, but only a bit, and at times it threatens a certain dynamism; then there’s a lovely patriotic theme explored in the next couple of cues (and further still in “End Theme”, where it’s properly developed – that’s easily the standout track on the album).

Then the action starts, in “Let’s Go”, and things just become very dull.  It’s based on little cells of music thrown around here and there, with sparse orchestration that could if taken in a certain direction have been used like in one of those glorious 1970s action/suspense scores; but instead, it all rather fizzles out whenever it seems about to burst into life, relying on synth percussion to provide a feeling of momentum – so perfunctory does it sound, it actually does quite the opposite.  Unfortunately the bulk of the score is like that – it feels so tentative, so afraid to get noticed.  I want to get it to stand up and tell it to grow a pair, but I guess I’d look a bit silly if I did that.  It’s not awful, not by any means – and listening to a track like “Fighting Vadim”, there is a bit of genuine excitement – there’s just not enough of it to produce a compelling album; and it’s so insulting to Kloser and Wander that I feel bad for saying it, because I’m sure they worked very hard, but as a film score, really, what’s the point of music like this?  It’s just there to sit in the background, music for the sake of having music; is the film any better for having this music in it than it would be if it had no music at all?  I really don’t understand the direction Emmerich has gone with the scores for his films; with sequels to Independence Day reportedly next on his agenda, let’s hope he comes to his senses.  As for White House Down – it’s professional, frequently slick – but really very bland.

Rating: ** | |

Tags: , , ,

  1. Irons (Reply) on Tuesday 16 July, 2013 at 22:34

    I can’t think of any composers more middle-of-the-road than Kloser and Wanker (sorry, sticking to his original name, for obvious puerile reasons). I mean there’s the well-loved composers, the whipping boys, those who divide the film score fan community, and then there’s those two, getting dream assignments (imagine 10 00 BC scored by Arnold or Debney, 2012 by Young or Silvestri, White House Down by Beltrami or Tyler) and churning out the quintessence of blandness. It’s hard to dislike them because their music is competent, but as far as I’m concerned, impossible to like them because it has no impact whatsoever.

    Anyway, sorry for basically re-wording what you fine review already said, in a nutshell I fully agree ^^.

  2. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Wednesday 17 July, 2013 at 01:19

    funny Irons, I’ve always thought ‘bland’ was a pretty good word to describe a lot of Brian Tyler and Marco Beltrami’s scores, even Young’s… and 10,000 BC a ‘dream assignment’.. whAT?

  3. Bernhard (Reply) on Wednesday 17 July, 2013 at 09:28

    Jason, I must agree with Irons. As a composer it must be amazing to work on a project like 10.000 BC. Yeah, the movie was pretty bad, but still, you can have a lot of fun with it, mixing some stone-agish music with near-east ethnic stuff for some action scenes. Think of ‘The last AIrbender’: BAd movie, but one of Howards best works ever.

  4. MacmIllan Flakes (Reply) on Wednesday 17 July, 2013 at 09:38

    When he says “dream assignment” I think he means that the film’s story and setting provided such a large canvas to write to, which could have resulted in some great music (despite the qualities of the resulting movie). Think Jerry Goldsmith for examples.

  5. Craig Richard Lysy (Reply) on Wednesday 17 July, 2013 at 16:09

    My sentiments also. Just one nice cue, the opening.

    All the best.

  6. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Thursday 18 July, 2013 at 00:41

    Yeah I understood somewhat that irons was referring to 10,000 BC as a dream assignment more as a conceptual assignment than what the “movie” ended up becoming (I talk out of my ass so much, I haven’t even seen it, but when a trailer is THAT bad…….. and how do you hire a cast like that with a $100 million budget?). But let’s be REAL for a second, macmlllan Flakes, my dog (presuming ‘you a gangSTA like me), this isn’t the 80’s or even 90’s, and I dare you to give me five examples of scores of the past decade that are fundamentally excellent, scores birthed from puerile films. Bernhard made one as such with JNH’s ‘The Last Airbender’ (I haven’t seen the film, or even heard the entire score, but the cult? “Flow Like Water” track is indeed somewhat of a masterpiece.. and I’m aware of the films’ laughably condemned reputation. still not sure I’d rank it up there with Newton-Howard’s absolutely finest works, though). And with that aforementioned dare, mr. cornFlakes, I do expect a legitimate response; I’m sure there -are-more than that number of examples to be given, I’m just not aware of them (or me’s blimey memory doesn’t feel like kicking in). Also, Goldsmith WAS the master, FAR AND ABOVE all others, at composing heavenly stuff for shite productions, so its somewhat unfair to hint that its anything close to a universal phenomenon in Holllllllywood.

    Maybe my comment above about Tyler and Beltrami was a bit harsh, and I certainly didn’t mean to put them in Kloser’s category, because while I’ve heard ‘few’ impressive things from those two, I’ve really heard, well, .nothing. impressive by Kloser, howEVER I’ve only listened to ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ (booooooooring, and atrocious ‘flick), and wouldn’t go near Aliens vs. Predator, which I read someone yesterday comment fondly on regarding Harold’s music, simply because the movie’s concept was so offensive and asinine. ‘suppose Irons mention of Arnold was apt, given how superb his work was on ID4/Godzilla. And Williams’ score for ‘The Patriot’ was so good too.. I think Dean Devlin broke off from Emmerich as producer after The Patriot, one can’t help but muse on the notion that every Emmerich film after that has been such a refined turd (though 2012, confessedly, I did enjoy). I had no idea White House Down was even directed by Emmerich ’till I read James’ review, and even given his disastrous record in this god-forsaken century, I was surprised he would be attached to THIS level of dreck. Don’t believe I’ve seen a stupider looking movie come out for a very long time.

    LASTLY, I apologize to Chris Young for lumping him in that blandness category; he doesn’t really deserve it. But even so, an ONGOING mystery is how some people are so fond of Brian Tyler, whom I don’t think I’ve heard a …single… impressive piece of music, oh wait no, I did enjoy the FIRST 45 SECONDS of Battle: L.A. Even Clemmenson awarded his ‘Children of Dune’ with 5 (#@%*)@#%@) stars, and I drudged through that mind-numbing banality with sheer confusion. Maybe people unconsciously are pulled in by Tyler’s hipster look, quite a handsome young(er) fellow for the profession. Stillllll, when I’ve read his influences are composers like Horner, Williams, etc, I’m left pretty baffled.

    end rant

  7. Bernhard (Reply) on Thursday 18 July, 2013 at 10:16

    The point is not, that Goldsmith was such a mastermind. It was just about a composer writing real entertaining stuff for an interesting concept and ‘Airbender’ and ‘Goldsmith’ have just been used as emphasizing examples.

    Nobody meant to give Wanker and Kloser the pressure of having to be the next Goldsmith’s, we just wanted them to do a little better than temp tracks.

  8. Irons (Reply) on Thursday 18 July, 2013 at 12:55

    Jason Farcone, about Brian Tyler, I’ll agree his music quite often lacks real personality, but what it rarely lacks (and Wanker/Kloser’s scores always lack) is some boldness and attitude and a feeling the enveloppe was pushed musically.

    As for Beltrami and Young, I can absolutely understand why you wouldn’t like them or connect to their music, but however you choose to look at it, they are both among the most daring, diverse (despite their common horror pidgeonholing), complex and idiosyncratic composers working today. They may have written their share of bland scores, but nowhere near as systematically as Wanker/Kloser.

    Now I agree Wanker and Kloser aren’t as prolific, and I’m kind of curious about Anonymous.

  9. ed (Reply) on Thursday 18 July, 2013 at 16:33

    Yeah, these guys are hard to appretiate. His music is bland, and James Southall’s description is, simply put, spot on. To be christened with the name ‘Thomas Wanker’ is bad enough outside of the U.S (Thomas VANKER the real pronunciation). I can never fathom the musical route Roland Emmerich decided to persue. He turned his back on David Arnold, and not only that, decided to depart from the producing efforts of Dean Devlin.

    There is nothing recommendable about this score – only in the hope for ID42 that Emmerich reconciles his relationship with Arnold…Doubtful; but it seems like the most feasible option – not that it ever warranted a sequel anyway.

  10. Henry Kissinger (Reply) on Thursday 18 July, 2013 at 19:27

    Jason, you’re right on the money. Nixon himself couldn’t have said it better.