CD review by Gregory S. Burkart
Brian Tyler has established a reputation as one of the decade's most interesting composers in a variety of film genres, but to date his strongest work has accompanied horror, science fiction and suspense films ? the high points represented by a rich, exotic score for the TV miniseries Children Of Dune, a throughly chilling one for Bill Paxton's Frailty, and a truly inventive approach to cult hit Bubba Ho-Tep. Tyler's compositions have also elevated less imaginative fare like Darkness Falls, making one wish he could be offered material befitting his musical skills.
That being said, I have to admit to being thoroughly underwhelmed after hearing Tyler's score for Fox's latest twin-franchise space monster mash-up, and wondering what the hell he must have been thinking. Not because the film itself failed to rise to the occasion(I don't review films in this column, so I'll step off that topic altogether), but because it seems the composer essentially lowered his own self-expectations and either chose to, or was coerced into, rehashing themes from both the Alien and Predator franchises and slamming them together at a hundred miles an hour to create a brash, cluttered mess of a score that left me surprisingly cold... and to be honest, more than a little tired.
After listening to this entire score in one sitting, I was mentally exhausted; not from an emotional or intellectual challenge, but from being bashed across the ears with a relentless onslaught of bombastic excess that had no discernible dramatic arc, but was virtually cranked to 11 for its entire 70-plus minute duration, chock-full with thunderous timpani, crashing cymbals, staccato brass sections and screeching strings.
Through my fatigue, the one thing that stood out most when listening to this CD was the notion that I'd heard so much of this material before. Right out of the gate, the prologue explodes out of the speakers to the martial/tribal drums and stabbing brass motifs reminiscent of Alan Silvestri's Predator theme, followed by some dissonant string patterns in the subsequent ?Opening Titles? reminiscent of Goldsmith's score for Alien. There are some pleasing references to James Horner's early work for New World Pictures (such as Battle Beyond The Stars or Humanoids From The Deep ) in the form of lilting arpeggios, deep French horn drones, and lots of rattling percussion in cuts like ?Predator Arrival? and ?Special Delivery,? as well as direct lifts from Horner's bombastic work on Aliens, replete with metallic strikes and rapid-fire pizzicato strings ? most prominently employed in tracks like ?Predicide,? ?Coprocloakia? and ?Power Struggle.? Tyler may be lifting other works from whole cloth, but at least he's lifting from the best. On the plus side, this score is superior to that of the previous Alien Vs. Predator... but frankly comparing the two is essentially weighing the extent of their musical clichés, as neither contains much originality.
Technically, the orchestra assembled here is tight, effortlessly handling the wild rhythm patterns and rapid-fire tempo changes, and the recording quality is superb. But ultimately, instead of hearing these hard-hitting cues echoing in my mind after the CD was complete, I instead found myself craving the original works on which Tyler is riffing here, namely Goldsmith and Horner's excellent '80s output. Fortunately, I had the recent reissue of the Alien soundtrack close at hand (as should you), my nostalgic cravings were sated, and my ears soothed again.
In retrospect, I realized that this score basically represents musically what the producers of both the Alien and Predator franchises attempted with this film and the previous AVP installment: take multiple entertaining and successful concepts and slam them together as violently as possible in the hope that something exciting will result. Like the films, however, this score is less than the sum of its parts, creating fission instead of fusion, flying apart in all directions ? all sound and fury, but in the end, signifying nothing. I still hold great admiration for Tyler's work, and I know that he is capable of original and inventive musical ideas. I'll just hold out for the next one. Fortunately, he's also one of Hollywood's most prolific composers, so I probably won't have to wait very long.