First Impressions: Pacific Rim by Ramin Djawadi

By Michael Harris

One of my most anticipated movies of the summer, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, is set to drop in a week and you better believe I will be there opening weekend.  Late last week I bought the score off iTunes and began listening to it.  Scored by Remote Control Productions regular Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, Game of Thrones) I approached it with caution, not expecting much, though seeing that Rage against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello was involved, though, gave me hope that it might rise above Djawadi’s standard fair.  I’m sorry to report that my initial listenings have reinforced my old views of Djawadi and his work.

PacRimThis is not to say that the score is bad in anyway, rather it is merely serviceable.  The opening theme to the movie, and indeed a lot of the score, sound like discarded sketches for Djawadi’s Iron Man score, with a combination of a string heavy orchestra with some Zimmer-esque drum pads and Morello’s guitar.  I’m sorry to say that it sounds more like something off Metallica’s S&M album they did with the San Francisco Symphony, but not nearly as exciting.[1]

All of the RCP/Zimmer trademarks are in the score, right down what many have started to call dismissively the “Inception Horns.”  This is a bit unfair because those horn blasts in the Inception score are, in my opinion, one of the greatest examples of music/sound design in the last 15-20 years; right up there with Ben Burtt’s work on Wall*E and the sound of the tripods in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.  But as heard in Djawadi’s Pacific Rim, they are watered down and lack any of the Zimmer punch.  This goes to the heart of the dark side Zimmer that will be discussed in our upcoming Temp Track podcast: how the innovative music and sound designs that Hans does quickly get recycled and tired in short order as they are adopted by the larger RCP community.  Or at least that is my opinion, my co-hosts might feel different (we shall see!).

My biggest complaint with this score is that it feels like it has identity issues.  It wants to be both electronic and cutting edge by having Tom Morello contribute guitars, not unlike what Johnny Marr did on Inception, but by using the orchestra more prominently than the guitar, he fails to achieve the aural cohesion that Zimmer had on the earlier film.  Djawadi has yet to figure out how to create a sonic whole with the orchestral and non-orchestral elements, hence my comparisons to Metallica’s album.  Granted, this is not something easy to achieve, though Zimmer once against showed how to do it with Man of Steel.

I still have high hopes for Pacific Rim itself, because you don’t really get more basic in terms of awesome plots than having giant robots fighting giant monsters.  Maybe it’s my love of Japanese movies and anime, which were del Toro’s inspiration, but I’m still pumped for the film.  And who knows, once I see the movie and hear the score in context, I might change my mind about it.  But for now, I can’t really recommend buying it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to the original, still awesome, “Inception Horns.”  BWARRRRRRRRRGH!

[1] And I love a lot of the tracks off of S&M.  Their version of “The Call of Ktulu” on it is the reason I even started listening to Metallica.

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