Why You Should…
If you’re willing to see some form of maturation in the careers of this composing duo, with praise deserved for their loyalty to their original material.
Why You Shouldn’t…
If your heart is dearly tethered to David Arnold’s classic, in which case any further attempt to listen to this will reduce you to either tears or cardiac arrest.
Release Date: 17th June 2016 (GENERAL RELEASE)
Composer(s): Thomas Wander & Harald Kloser
Label: Sony Classical Records
Additional Music By: Thomas Schobel.
Conducted By: Tim Davies & Mike Nowak.
Orchestrated By: James Brett & Marcus Trumpp.
For many years, 20th Century Fox Studios had pondered a potential sequel to the perennial sci-fi classic Independence Day, now firmly rooted in pop culture as a landmark film. The original still remains a gratifying popcorn blockbuster that mostly relied on the lead performances by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, and its visual effects, ultimately earning an Oscar for the latter category. Since defining the alien invasion genre at large (and also establishing that they only invade America in the process), director Roland Emmerich has maintained a quiet cult reputation as a director invested in films showcasing disasters of catastrophic proportions, a trait that unashamedly carries over to his sequel, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE. Presumably a part of a planned trilogy (isn’t everything these days?), the narrative unfolds 20 years after the original, with the establishment of the ESD (that stands for Earth Space Defense, not a performance-enhancing drug!) to prevent any further threat to planet Earth. Whatever made the aliens wait twenty years, let alone picking the exact same date as the last mutual encounter to strike back remains a mystery. A new casting array, with returning members from the original must seemingly converge to safeguard Earth from the first hostile threat, unexpectedly making an ally out of a secondary alien species in the process. The delay to green-light the project was understandable, given the cautionary response to the idea of a sequel, but it wasn’t enough to stop a meandering reception nor a slightly disappointing box office revenue either, implying that the creative team hadn’t learnt from the pitfalls of the first entry.
The only semblance of hope for the sequel within the film score community was the return of David Arnold to the sequel, a prospect savaged to dismay when considering his reduction of composing duties gradually over the years, with noted exceptions in the James Bond franchise. Arnold’s compositions had served as the largely celebrated breakout of his career, and a superior work in not only his discography, but in the history of film scoring as well. The selections taken from the original score are a favoured choice for many first class symphonic orchestras to perform, and 20 years later, the score remains something of a wet dream to collectors of the genre, its appeal and timeless presentations not having diminished one bit. Emmerich turned to composing duo Thomas Wander (previously known as Thomas Wanker), and Harald Kloser for the second entry, a choice met with a collective groan. There was never seemingly any intention to replicate the grand, sophisticated and spectacular music once penned by Arnold, so to listen to this score with a neutral perspective, drop any hopes of the two matching Arnold in output with this sentence. The admirers and enthusiasts of the first score have since decried this score as a result, but this is merely due to their attachment to Arnold’s offering, an unfair criticism stemming from sentimental preferences (if not bias). When you look at the score as its own, there is a decent product under an hour with thematic narration, a staple of any well-written film score. Simply put- those who continue to hold the original in high esteem will find a drop in quality, but the results are apt for the diversion of this film. The primary problem that has faced these two composers is the fact that much of their music was inspired by temp-track placings during rough cuts, hence begging comparisons to superior conceived cues from defining scores. Expect a full run-through of the Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard and even Jerry Goldsmith methodologies, and in any event, when emulated well, these styles can never be a bad thing. Approach this with an unbiased perspective, however, and there will be aspects worth acknowledgement. This is perhaps the best score either of them have written, but that’s a minimal comparison when considering their previous works.
The opening cue, “Travelling Through Space”, offers a colder, bleak soundscape with synthetic effects and dissonance, without any form of melodic interest. Some restrained activity gives way to a warm, new thematic identity in “Great Speech”, to represent the human resistance, though quite stale in experience. It is heard again in “Fear” in shameless optimism, with an array of chord progressions effective in its cyclical progression, using trumpets and rippling snare rhythms, before being washed over by impactful, menacing percussion hits and glissandi. A more anthemic statement with crescendos for impact is featured in “Welcome To The Moon”. The score really kicks off in “Hostile Territory”, with shakuhachi flutes and pounding percussive rhythms , whilst bearing a resemblance all too well to 10,000 BC. For the most part, the orchestration is adequate, with a standard orchestral and synthetic ensemble, rendering it inoffensive, at the least. A curious tingling rhythmic plucking motif from “Great Speech” returns in “How Did They Get The Lights On?”, perhaps as a skewed means to represent the villain. Some triplet strings add interest to a controlled atmosphere in “Inside The African Ship”, with hissing effects in “More Stimulation”, featuring some organic, raw brass and chase rhythms in consistently changing meter, the two composers managing to keep affairs interesting, even slightly including a nod to Arnold’s theme at 1:25. Throated bass regions occupy “The Friendly Spaceship”, with what sounds like an odd inclusion of the electronic Winter Soldier motif from Henry Jackman’s Captain America scores, albeit far less grating here. Timpanis and ostinato strings are active, and at the very least, the overall density and loyalty to the ensemble manage to sustain investment. The most striking feature is its identical chord successions to James Newton Howard, any well-inclined listener of the composer familiarized enough to denote the underlying similarities.
Where the score fails, however, is in its approach to the emotional narrative. Cues such as “The Only Family I Got” is generic, using stock tremolo strings and wandering piano notes to enunciate the characters’ troubles and thoughts. “What Goes Up” finally induces a sense of distinction in its sonic palette, with fleeting synths and precise brass triplets, and accented string-snare hits, with another statement of the new primary theme- the raw energy of this cue is to be appreciated. “It’s Getting Real” brings the main theme back to Armageddon territory, a throwback to the days of Trevor Rabin’s guilty pleasure score, despite the string portions degenerative in their familiar progressions. There is no memorable or heartfelt theme for the characters, its secondary motifs lacking in precision, and the only form of clear-cut melody worth noting to the average listener is the new main theme. It works well in this film, but lacks the superior touch left behind Arnold. The latter cue is horribly reminiscent of the turgid, generic portions in most Phase 1 and Phase 2 Marvel Cinematic Universe Scores, devoid of any genuine inspiration in its rendering and purely functional.“It’s A Trap” showcases the minor semitone alternating tritone home to a dozen Hans Zimmer scores, namely his work for the Batman and Superman franchises respectively. Bizarrely enough, you hear Arnold’s identity for the villains in surprisingly major-key renditions in the aforementioned “What Goes Up”, “It’s Getting Real” and “More Stimulation” cues, the only truly intelligent move by the composers to correctly mirror how the characters are using the technology left behind by the aliens from the first film, having reverse engineered it to help prepare for any further attempt. “The Sphere” uses wavering violin tremolos and tonal ambiguity reminiscent of Newton Howard’s suspense scoring, as a means to represent the secondary alien race, with its whining string lines and brass growls.
“The Queen Is Leaving” opens with dub-step inspired synthetic ripples and distortions (welcome to the 21st century, suckers of yesteryear!), ultimately dissolving in the process. “Whitmore’s Choice” reminds of Brian Tyler‘s dutiful action music, with trombone bass propulsion and tom-toms, and ascending/descending string arpeggios. To call this cue brainless is unfair, based on the most developed orchestrations to be heard in this score firmly planted in this cue. Similar developments are heard in “Bus Chase”, a plethora of piccolos descending and brass hurtling of note. Other than an adequately placed statement of the new main theme in “Independence Day Resurgence Finale”, and a rewarding statement of the Arnold material in “ID4 Reprise”(and for goodness’ sake, why does it sound so laughably similar to John Williams’ Superman theme in its rhythmic constructs? Surely that particular rhythmic march, whilst brilliant in the aforementioned cue, has worn its welcome by now?), the best compliment this score can achieve, is that it accomplishes its task of suiting this needless but perfunctory sequel effort. Whether you wish to digest the two songs closing the album presentation is to listener’s discretion, but they make for a refreshing tonal diversion. To the Arnold enthusiasts, it will be of heartbreak that this score doesn’t live up inevitably to the gold standard by its predecessor, and they will most likely shun this score as demonic fodder in humorously exaggerated proportions. But in all fairness, it isn’t that bad, however much its tried and tested iterations restrict the material from maximum potential.
(all music written by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser)
1) Traveling Through Space (1:26)
2) Great Speech (1:37)
3) Hostile Territory (1:23)
4) How Did They Get the Lights On? (1:13)
5) Inside the African Ship (1:22)
6) More Stimulation (1:50)
7) Fear (2:06)
8) The Friendly Spaceship (3:18)
9) The Only Family I Got (1:01)
10) Welcome to the Moon (1:17)
11) What Goes Up (2:11)
12) It’s Getting Real (3:06)
13) Flying Inside (2:00)
14) It’s a Trap (2:36)
15) Worth Fighting For (1:12)
16) The Sphere (3:37)
17) The Queen is Leaving (1:09)
18) Whitmore’s Choice (1:59)
19) Humanity’s Last Stand (1:10)
20) Bus Chase (3:08)
21) We are Rich (1:05)
22) Independence Day Resurgence Finale (3:14)
23) ID4 Reprise (2:27)
24) “Electric U” (performed by Kid Bloom) (2:50)
25) “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (performed by Annie Trousseau) (2:57)