Oblivion Soundtrack Review

Joseph Kosinski directs this post-apocalyptic view of the world in which our hero, Jack, is tasked with being what is essentially a janitor for robots/drones to clear out the planet once and for all after a foiled alien invasion has left the planet irradiated and un-livable.  Jack has a sense that something is amiss with his mission and that all is not what it seems… turns out, he’s right.  So there’s a quick plot summary for you.  There’s a lot of opportunity for spoilers in this movie, so I’ll intentionally keep it vague.  If you want spoilers you can find those on some other website.

Let’s dive right into the score.  The composer, Joseph Trapanese, worked along side French post-rock band, M83, in creating the music for this film.  In full disclosure let me say that:
#1) I’m a big post-rock fan, which includes M83.  Their particular brand of electronic/shoegazing rock is right up my alley.  See my tumblr if you want to see how much.
#2) I REALLY LIKED the Tron: Legacy score.  It seemed like an excellent melding of two genres.
So, I was all prepped to melt when I realized the combination I was about to hear.  I was equally sorrowful after I listened to it.  Let me explain why.
To begin with, I listened to the Tron:Legacy score several times.  I hadn’t even seen the movie and I had it on repeat in my vehicle.  As a result of this, I felt like I had already heard roughly half of the Oblivion score.  Trapanese doesn’t seem to have a lot tools in his composer’s toolbox.  There’s a definite “something’s about to happen” sound, along with “dramatic reveal” music, and accompanied by the obligatory “shit is goin’ down!” sections, but past these obvious and somewhat canned sections it all starts to sound the same.
In the case of Tron, Daft Punk seems to have taken the lead musically and Trapanese was a supporting partner (arranging and orchestration).  This seems to play to his strength.  With Oblivion the rolls appear to be inverted.  Trapanese is the driving force behind the work and M83 is there for indie street cred on a few tracks.  Their fingerprints are definitely there in several places, but they provide hollow window dressing in this empty shirt of a score.
Without being too brutal, I’ll break it down this way: 70 – 80% of the score could have been pre-written cues and I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.  Trapanese definitely has some talent, but needs to develop his voice more before scoring another film of this magnitude.  It all “fits” with the music and the lack-lustre scoring is less noticeable when alongside moving pictures, but as a stand alone work, it’s sorely lacking.
Hopefully Oblivion II: The New World will have a different composer.
Chad Taylor – View more reviews by Chad Taylor here.  You can listen to Chad’s music project by clicking this link