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Soundtrack review: The Predator (Henry Jackman – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The Predator (Henry Jackman – 2018)

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“The Predator” is a 2018 American science fiction action film directed by Shane Black and written by Black and Fred Dekker. It is the fourth installment in the Predator film series (the sixth counting the two Alien vs. Predator films), following Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990), and Predators (2010). Black had a supporting role in the original film, while John Davis returns as producer from the first three installments. The film stars Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Sterling K. Brown and follows a group of PTSD-afflicted soldiers who must fight off an invading pair of Predators.

Anybody who grew up in the 80s like me has the first “Predator” movie on his iconic favourite movie list; Arnold was one of the heroes of my childhood and “Predator” was one of the peaks of his 80s career. I always rewatch the movie with the same pleasure. The second one was different but alright, while the third one and, from what I read, this new one as well chose a concept I enjoy a lot, a group of misfits thrown together to fight the creatures. Musically, Alan Silvestri was in charge of the first couple of movies and while the first one was an awesome, powerful testosterone filled Silvestri special, the second was…different and quite polarising; my favourite composer Hans Zimmer calls it the best action score ever while I personally regret ever listening to it with those hideous tribal inserts. Now, it’s time for Henry Jackman to take the mantle and as great a composer as he is, he’s been hit and miss with blockbusters: I still listen to his “X-men” themes and I enjoyed his King Kong score while I’d rather forget his Marvel compositions.

The opening cue “Arrival” gives me hope for the score as it’s a bold and dark military orchestral piece that reminds me a lot of the brass balls that Silvestri’s original composition had. This is how a “Predator” score should open, with a combination of suspense and aggression. The music continues to be enjoyable as it’s alive, varied, not a trace of the generic I was fearing; sometimes I hear that military urgency that I usually found in 90s Jerry Goldsmith scores, other times the melodies reign with just a touch of electronics to accompany the orchestra and I get the theme for “Rory”. But it’s the military sound that hits the spot, with that nervy main theme coming back with the horns and strings in “Project Stargazer”. I feel the suspense, I feel the angst and I feel the insane courage needed to fight the predators. I also hear some moments of musical grandeur that in a way follow the path set by Jackman in the better moments of “Kong: Skull Island”.

The more the score progresses, the more it sucks me in and I enjoy the complex net that Jackman weaves and the dense texture of percussion, horns and a very jumpy string section. This is mighty fine orchestral music and a cue like “Out of the cage” would fit well in the original Silvestri score. I am feeling the music in my bone as the composer manages to evoke the terror of the story. Often the score takes a turn towards horror music while also providing a few, rare, moments of warmth.

Henry Jackman takes no prisoners as he lets his music explode and fire on all cilinders; he simply embraces what a Predator means, this sneaky, invisible, cruel creature and delivers a good old fashioned monster movie score. Every now and then he just gets in the zone and absorbs the story before unleashing it through his music like he did in “Captain Phillips” for example; just like then, he strips his composition of any possible dead weight and filler moments and just keeps the juicy, heavy meat. “The predator” is the kind of balls to the walls score we often heard in the 80s and maybe the beginning of the 90s but not as much since then. He does here just what Alexandre Desplat did when he scored “Godzilla”: focus on the vicious monster with his music, ignoring anything else. It’s just the fight between man and alien on frantic and heavy orchestral accords.

“The predator” took me back to the awesome, steroid filled orchestral action scores of the 80s; Henry Jackman channeled his inner Silvestri and delivered a sold, in your face composition that will pleasantly surprise a lot of listeners. Get your Silvestri- Zemeckis fix right here, complete with subtle Predator noises and the hymn like elegy “Remembrance” where I can almost see the flag flying.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Highlights:
Arrival
Rory
Project Stargazer
Out of the Cage
On the Loose
Apex Predator
Team McKenna
Onslaught
Contact
The Sacrifice
Alien Abduction
The Last Stand
Man vs. Predator
Remembrance

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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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2 Comments

  1. Rich Sims 30th September 2018

    A very good overview with your feelings of Jackman’s compelling score. Mihnea, your reviews are getting better!

    Reply
  2. Frank Black 1st October 2018

    You know this score is 70% completly ripping Silvestri. It’s almost like what Brian Tyler did for Rambo or Alien vs predator. I’m not sure how this is legal or morally accepted. Has it been that long since you last listened to Silvestri Predator 1987? Thanks for the review.

    Reply

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