Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Andrew Lockington)

Final Musings: 2012 starts off with a very great swashbuckling adventure score. Whereas the first score was an refreshing entry into the genre that brought back the glory of symphonic adventure scores of the past, Andrew Lockington takes that sound and expands it to offer a more unique and well rounded score. While it has it is not without its fair share of minor faults, you can’t help but think with greater themes, new musical colours and thrilling action material, Lockington seriously delivers to meet the high expectations made of him. Listeners will not finish this score unimpressed.

 It’s clear that today’s films have generally come to focus less on stimulating narratives and more on visual spectacles (as shown clearly by successful blockbusters like Transformers). And in that case, what better place is there to exploit than the fantastical worlds of Verne’s creations? Unfortunately, the modern film adaptations are certain to make Verne turn in his grave. The former film, Journey to the Center of the Earth was only worthy of some note due to its special 3D release. And with an inherently flawed plotline and its shallow characters, the film was clearly an excuse for shoving a bunch of colourful CGI shots in the faces of the mainstream audience. Avoiding the unspoken laws of Hollywood commercial flicks, the summer success of the film would have the studios demand a sequel that would milk out any marginal potential profit the premise still had left. There was little ambition for the film to begin with, having a completely new cast that included Dwane Johnson (aka the Rock) and surprisingly veteran actor Michael Caine, the plotline follows Sean’s (the only recurring character) venture to a mysterious uncharted island while bonding with his new stepfather as a family experience. As expected, the sequel was frowned upon by critics and suffers from an even greater lack of redemptive entertainment value.

While the film may have nothing salvage, lovers of film music did have a great score to look forward to. Returning to the franchise is the relatively newcomer Andrew Lockington. The young Canadian composer started from his humble beginnings as an orchestrator (having worked for the likes of Mychael Danna) and quickly rose to prominence. In a time where generic films like these were treated with bland scores that followed the trends of the composers of Zimmer’s clone army, Media Ventures (or rather Remote Control Productions), Lockington made a surprising burst into the industry with his two excellent scores for 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and The City of Ember. 2008 was a big year for the composer where a great fan base flocked to the fresh and vibrant sound of his music. Interestingly enough, his major foray into the industry was not unlike the monumental success of David Arnold’s own entry.

Andrew Lockington’s score for Journey to the Center of the Earth may not have been the most innovative entry into the genre of fantasy, but it certainly was an exciting score that was great fun.  While the previous entry may have been predictable in parts with its colourful fanfares, the new score really steps up the game. With more intense action and grand moments of awe and glory, this score will really appease the eager fans that have been waiting Lockington’s latest score. The composer gathers several elements both old and new for his new score. The stakes were high for much was expected of him, and he knew it. The same colourful woodwind accents and piano rhythms of the first score return to decorate both the intimate and the energetic portions of this scores (as exemplified by The Attic). The action on the other hand has grown in its impressive magnitude and vigor. Lockington really stirs up some impressive orchestral ruckus in the veins of David Arnold’s most ambitious works (simply listen to Helicopter Crash to get a sense of what is being pointed out). To go on, there are several hyperactive and catchy rhythms used throughout the action material that make excellent highlights for listeners to come running back to. These patterns primarily include tracks such as Finding the Nautilus.

But Lockington knew that wouldn’t be enough. To prepare for this score, he went on journey of his own to Papa New Guinea. He spent time absorbing the culture and the music of the indigenous tribes so that he could effectively infuse the music of island culture into his score. Interestingly enough, the tribal music doesn’t have a large role in the music. There are some intriguing tribal percussive elements present (best shown off in Gold Dust) but overall the drums get lost in the big picture. The most appealing element of the score is the female vocal soloist. Lockington really struck a fantastic balance between the orchestra, the choir and the vocal soloist. Often the vocal element and the choir blend to create a truly intoxicating effect that is strangely invigorating, not unlike that of which was created in Harry Gregson Williams’ entries into the Narnia franchise. A prime example would be while listening to the rising progressions of Who’s Up for an Adventure from 0:47 and at 1:16 where the vocal element truly does a stunning job of portraying the sense of awe. It is precisely this and the featured action material that puts this score above its predecessor.

Andrew Lockington also clearly displays his talent for writing and manipulating themes with this score. His Journey theme from the previous score was met with great acclaim. Despite the fact that it wasn’t quite developed as well as it could have been, it certainly did a fine job of capturing the sense of adventure for the film. Along with its traditional opening in the beginning, this theme is reprised in this score in some fantastic new variations with some truly exciting fanfare progressions upon the finale of the score (just listen to those great trumpet figures!). The main musical identity of this new film is the Mysterious Island theme. This is first introduced early on in The Attic and Island Reveal and it receives its darker action variations in the bombastic cues like Lizard Chase. This melody does a fine job of capturing the ominous nature of the island while reflecting the spirit of adventure. The next major idea is the family theme that is quite prevalent in the score. It is first subtly played out by the strings at 1:21 in Vernian’s Believe and eventually comes to receive some truly awe-inducing choral statements in moments like the opening of Discovering Atlantis. The B phrase is more alluring in its nature than the A-phrase, usually supported by the vocal soloist in moments like the opening of Trident Cliffs. The family theme is admittedly a bit predictable and generic in its progressions but it will blow you away in its moments of grandeur regardless. One moment of special note is when the B phrase takes on an epic variation at the 1 minute mark in Finding the Nautilus or even the haunting vocal solo of the A phrase at the opening of Let’s Power This Thing Up. The last major thematic idea is arguably the most bewitching of them all and that is the wonder theme. This is a series of rising progressions often taken up by the solo vocalist at 0:38 in Who’s Up for an Adventure. When this theme expands, it really soars in a sense that can’t help leave you in ecstasy (listen to 1:17 in Who’s Up for an Adventure and you will realize I tell no lie). Other than that, there are a few small action motifs such as the one found in Lizard Chase (which is reprised in Bee Chase). While the themes are all great in their own right, the more impressive fact is how he incorporates, manipulates and interweaves his themes. The Mysterious Island theme really receives some strong variations, especially in the action material. Take for instance its momentous choral statement at the conclusion of Lizard Chase. He easily takes that same dark natured theme and gives it a sense of heavenly and ethereal levity in cues like The Treehouse. There are also intelligent variations that may completely bypass the notice of listeners, such as the abridgement of the family theme in moments like the opening of Who’s Up for An Adventure (specifically until 0:34). Listeners will also find themselves marveling at how extraordinarily well Lockington combines orchestral colours. The choir is used to greater effect and as mentioned before, it can really touch you when acting as the backdrop the solo vocalist. To go on, the synthetic rhythms are used effectively as well (until its obnoxious persistence in Let’s Power This Thing Up, even creating a strange Cliff Martinez effect at a certain point).

A score like this is just filled with so many highlights that picking simply 5 will be difficult, hence the following five are picked to give a taste of the different aspects of the score.

Muse on These:

The Attic

The rollicking piano rhythms add such a great vibe to this track. With an excellent use of colourful orchestrations and the great sense of pulse, the Mysterious Island theme is conveyed well along with a great conclusion with the Journey theme.

Lizard Chase

The tribal percussion is used to great effect here with some truly heart-gripping action. The very David Arnold-like action motif definitely keeps the pulse racing.

Who’s Up for an Adventure?

This cue impresses with majestic choral statements of the wonder theme, along with great statements of the journey theme (with choral chanting!) and the Mysterious Island Theme. A cue that does a good job of portraying the majesty of this score.

Bee Chase

This cue really has it all. The choral majesty and the fanfare trumpets at 1:30 and the percussive action (you also hear the action motif from Lizard Chase). A fantastic highlight!

Mysterious Island Main Titles

This is a fantastic suite that is comprised of all the major thematic ideas of the score. Hearing the Mysterious Island theme completely expanded along with its fellow musical ideas offers a great listening experience. The catchy rhythms and the fanfares for the journey theme are also not to be missed!

In the end, Lockington most definitely delivers with this score. The album is a great album (if one excuses the two alternate renditions of What a Wonderful World – Who knew? The Rock can sing! – ). But if there were any issues with the score, it may be that listeners may find the score a bit a tiring and noisy in all its ruckus. To go on, the tribal percussion at times may find its presence to be redundant with its consistent tapping. A curious move is how the tribal percussion is mixed so prominently in the forefront and while it works quite effectively in its prime, it also sometimes diminishes the scope of the overall sound in moments like the second half of Who’s Up for an Adventure.Finally, the score can sometimes be predictable, whether it be the family theme, or some of the whimsical moments. Regardless, this score is a big step up from its predecessor. Once again, the composer delivers fantastic swashbuckling score, but this time, with such entertainingly fierce action material, strong melodious themes and chilling moments of awe created by the new musical elements introduced in this score, Lockington clearly takes this score into a fresh new direction that allows it to be considered as a memorable contender for the upcoming year. One thing has been made clear with this score, someone needs to make sure that more Hollywood blockbuster projects are assigned to the ever talented Andrew Lockington.

Rating:  * * * * 1/2


3 Comments on “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Andrew Lockington)”

  1. Andrew Lockington is the next John Williams. Great review, KK. (You should have just given him the five stars that he deserves, though!)
    I’m still waiting for Broxton and CC to review it. I feel like they are intentionally avoiding Lockington because nobody wants to admit how much of a genius he is.. or not… Anyway, thanks for a good read!

    • kalaisan says:

      Thanks Ethan! There was just something missing from this score that prevented me from giving that last half star, still an awesome score though. And despite the great talent of Lockington, he isn’t the next John Williams in my eyes (but neither is Michael Giacchino). Lockington’s style is pretty different and in terms of iconic themes, while he has the ability of creating strong melodies, they are never really expanded to the degree of memorability that Williams’ themes often resonate with. So while I think he’ll become a star of the younger generation of composers, he won’t be quite up there with the greats.

      As for Broxton and CC, my guess is that Broxton might give this the same rating I did and CC might give it a very strong four stars (since he doesn’t believe in half star ratings). Its a fantastic score, but theres just something missing…

  2. Hamish Ander says:

    I think I understand what you’re saying about the use of ideas in the music. Considering this is only Lockington’s third high profile score, I think the amount of improvement he’s covered in the time since Journey is colossal, so hopefully he’ll continue to accel as the years progress. This is a truly fantastic score with great themes and motifs; I take my hat off to him. As for Lockington never being up with the greats, I can see much potential for him to really go far with his musical ideas, and hopefully next time he’ll get a better film to earn his credit. Lockington seems like a very modest sort of guy, and I don’t think that “being up there with the greats” with John Williams is really what he has in mind, rather than simply putting his best effort into what might come his way, and showing everyone his brilliant skills as a composer. Just out of curiosity now, I’m wondering what you think is missing from Lockington’s score – I’m sure your reasons are well justified.
    Thanks for the great review!

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