Film scores

Soundtrack review: Max (Trevor Rabin – 2015)

max-wide-soundtrack

Trevor Rabin is one of the composers I always get excited about. He’s part of the team that made action movies in the 90s sound awesome. His scores for “Armageddon”, “Enemy of the state”, and “Gone in 60 seconds ”or“ National treasure are still among my favorites and he masters that electronic action sound that made that decade a joy. “Max” is a coming of age story about a young teen who finds comfort and adventure in the companionship of Max, the heroic military dog of his fallen brother. I have a soft spot for movies that feature dogs as main characters. The story doesn’t sound like a vehicle for that kind of action movie but I trust Trevor Rabin.

I am a little put off by the tense but too quiet opening cue. It just doesn’t register and I consider the score starts with “Max rushes coffin”. There is honest emotion in this piece but it doesn’t go very deep. Same with the next cue, “Carmen teaches Justin”. The score seems to settle in an upbeat, optimistic but a little superficial tone. This might be a conscious decision as the story’s message might in the end be just this one. The music doesn’t let the drama and loss that sink the main character’s heart take over the listener as well.

The adventure cues are nothing you haven’t heard before. Luckily for a cue like “Bike ride” this is a good thing because the sound is very exciting. This is adventure music at its best and it sounds like the composer had a lot of fun writing it. I want more of this. A cue like this is a celebration of life and if I find only one gem like this in a score I am happy. As I also am when I hear the deeper moments in “Keep him in line”. The great moments rarely last for an entire cue though. I found a gorgeous motif in the second half “Mom’s law” but I can’t give that cue 5 stars.

Then there’s a cue like “Let’s do this” which just sounds… empty. From a title like this I expected inspiration, fun, adventure but all I get is some guitar strums that don’t seem to go anywhere. It gets livelier in the second half with a beautiful piano crescendo but it’s just not enough. The music seems to try to rise only to lose its balance and collapse back on the ground. I know Trevor Rabin can do better. i know he could have climbed the entire score to the level of the spectacular “Round two” or the suite from the end.

My problem with “Max” is that it never explores the emotions it presents very deeply. The music seems to stay at the surface barely touching what goes on underneath. Sure there are exciting moments like “Max escapes” but even that momentum doesn’t last long. The score is too nice, too contained and, in the end, quite forgettable. I had a hard time connecting with it but still I can’t complain because I did found some moments I will remember. They just weren’t very many.

Cue rating: 76 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 8 / 38

Album excellence: 22%

Highlights:

Bike ride

Max excapes

Max’s suite

 

 

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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