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Mad Max: Fury Road by Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL

posted May 7, 2015, 1:30 PM by Kaya Savas   [ updated May 11, 2015, 4:08 PM ]

Mad Max: Fury Road sees one of the more under-appreciated auteur filmmakers returning back to the franchise that he started 36 years ago. In a rare occurence, we actually have an added entry to a franchise instead of a reboot, and original director George Miller is at the helm. Mad Max is one of the most iconic film series as it launched a whole genre of post-apocalyptic films, and how we view the genre stylistically. On the musical side we have a legacy left by the late Brian May and Maurice Jarre, who helped bring the world of Mad Max to life. For Fury Road, the film had its fair share of roadblocks trying to come to life in today’s studio franchise era of filmmaking. At one point John Powell was circling the project right after Miller had finished Happy Feet, but the project ended up being delayed. And what seems to be a fortunate circumstance, dutch composer Tom Holkenborg was quickly on the rise in his career and was catching the attention of everyone with his bold style and narrative voice. He caught George Miller’s eye and ear, and Warner Brothers arranged for the two to meet. Clearly they clicked, because what we have here is a tremendous, thunderous, stylistically bold, aesthetically engaging, emotionally engrossing and operatic achievement of action scoring. Holkenborg keeps Max alive and brings him to a whole new audience in maddening and thundering brilliance.

It’s hard to imagine that George Miller initially wanted no score for Fury Road, and it makes sense in concept. I mean the film is essentially one big car chase, and some of the best car chases work through sound design (see Jack Reacher chase scene, The Phantom Menace pod race scene). But the deluxe album hits us with over 2 hours of music, and goddamn what a ride this is. Firstly, Holkenborg keeps Brian May’s spirit alive. This isn’t a sequel score but you can feel the DNA of May’s original score floating through it even if slightly in the first act. What this score does is embrace theatricality, and then infuses that into the narrative flow. The score is big, of course. But it’s never chaotic. I mean, at times it’s maddeningly beautiful in its structure. Holkenborg clearly took a few notes from working with Hans Zimmer in that the thematic anchors and melodic motifs are simple. Simple is truly beautiful. Now, where the weight of the score comes in is through what Holkenborg layers onto it all.

The core of the music in terms of structural builds and narrative are built sturdy and sound. There are sequences of ferocity that climax into intense emotional swells. There are pure gritty rock-based moments, and it’s all propelled by some of the most thundering percussion you’ll ever hear in a score. But here’s the deal, it’s all done so elegantly and Holkenborg uses his fluttering central theme throughout (the descending motif you hear in the trailers). That descending theme is so simple and so perfect because it literally is a spiraling decent into madness and chaos. The score takes the words “Mad” and “Fury” from the film’s title and essentially builds the score around it. Because that’s what the score is, it’s "mad fury". It grips you from start to end and it’s a damn fantastic ride. With tons of tracks ranging from 6-12min, you will be feeling every emotional and dramatic beat. The score’s construction is such where you can really admire the way an action score works. Oh, and best of all is that it’s all from Holkenborg’s unique voice as a composer so it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Holkenborg has crafted a ferociously beautiful action score for Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s sytlistically and aesthetically bold, and executed with perfection. Through thundering percussion, gripping thematic structure, gritty electronic meat and even quiet orchestral elegance the score is successful in every one of its ambitions. The score can be described as being furiously mad, but don’t fear that will be madness in the form of chaos. There is nothing chaotic about the score, and I was so impressed by how the action and narrative flow were structured that chaos would be the last word I would ever use to describe the score. This is pure immersive action storytelling that will entertain and resonate the way action scores of the 90’s used to do. It also cements Tom Holkenborg as one of the premiere talents and auteurs working today. George Miller and Tom Holkenborg bring the post-apocalyptic action opera back in style. Dive in immediately for an action masterpiece.

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