Friday, May 16, 2014

Movie Music Musings: The Matrix Trilogy Part 2

I mentioned in my musings on the score for The Matrix that the techno music made the biggest impression on fans of the film. I won’t say that Don Davis’ work was ignored, because his signature Matrix motif is very recognizable. But his dense tension and action music is the kind that supports the visuals but not in an obvious thematic way. While this was an innovative direction for film scores of the time, it was only the beginning. With The Matrix Reloaded he was going to switch things up a bit.

While The Matrix was primarily a horror and suspense score, Reloaded plays much more like an action film score. The pure horror moments are replaced with a more triumphant sound for the Zion sequences, and fleshing out of the love theme for Neo and Trinity.

The biggest change comes in the form of Don Davis teaming up with techno music artists like Rob Dougan and Juno Reactor. This fusion works wonders during the action scenes, adding electronic driving pulses to Davis dense style. The final result takes the trilogy’s music to an entirely different level, one that is much more accessible in some ways.

For me there are two highlights for the electronic and orchestral combo in Reloaded. The first is the Burly Brawl where Davis and Juno Reactor score the fight between Neo and the infinite Agent Smiths. The music starts out aggressive, almost like a battle between the orchestra and the electronics. It builds and builds and builds into a frenzy of insanity.

My favorite cue is the techno heavy Mona Lisa Overdrive, which accompanies the intense freeway chase in the film. Here Juno Reactor dominates the music creating a dance worthy piece that works Don Davis’ orchestral sound, and warps it. The track is relentless, building a bit with each battle, but then returning to a constant motion. It’s one of my favorite tracks from the whole series and from the 00s in particular.

Thos looking for pure Davis material will find some really great stuff with the moments between Neo and Trinity, and a bit more melodic interludes when the heroes confront the Merovingian. But Reloaded is a score this is all about the action tracks, and the techno fusion.

For film score fans, Matrix Reloaded was an odd release. In 2003 at the time the film came out, a two-disc album was released. The first disc included mostly songs used and inspired by the film. But also had some of Rob Dougan’s contributions Furious Angels and Dread Rock, both are worthy additions. The second CD contained the score and Juno Reactor and Don Davis material. But most of the Davis only material was relegated to a 17-minute suite at the end. It was OK, but not a great representation of the album.

La-La Land came to the rescue in 2013 with a new two-disc set of the complete score. All of Davis’ material is included, as well as all the key music from Juno Reactor and Rob Dougan. The only thing missing was Dread Rock, but you get some interesting alternate versions of tracks and source music.

In a way Matrix Reloaded is the most fun and energetic music of the series. It provides a solid sample of Davis’ approach to the concept, and the techno pieces are a perfect fit. The final entry would go in yet another direction.


  1. I think my favorite techno score is to the film Pi by Darren Aronofsky. The film itself, particularly for a first effort is fine, just not one of those films I want to re-watch as much as some others. However, the soundtrack made up from various artist is pretty cool

    1. Oh man "Pi" is a really good soundtrack. It fit the movie like a glove too. That movie was one of my favorites back in the 90s, but I haven't seen it in years. I have the soundtrack though. Because of that soundtrack, I picked up some more work by Massive Attack, and enjoyed that as well. Clint Mansell has gone on to a great career in film scores (usually with Aronofsky). His style is very atmospheric and moody. But his work in "Pi" has plenty of energy. I might need to listen to that again today. It's been a while.

  2. Run Lola Run also has an effective techno sound, though conceivably a completely different style of music could work for it equally well.The Matrix almost demands techno.

    1. Oh man, "Run Lola Run" is one of those movies I kept meaning to see, and never got around to it. I've heard a lot of good things about it.

      The "The Matrix" and techno go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is great to hear Davis really embrace the sound in this score. But for "Revolutions" he would go in yet another direction. :)