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Pacific Rim: Uprising by Lorne Balfe (Review)

posted Mar 9, 2018, 1:45 PM by Kaya Savas

Sometimes movies are just meant to provide an escape, and Pacific Rim was that escape. The Guillermo Del Toro film was an over the top celebration of the Kaiju film genre. We’ve seen a resurgence of Kaiju films most notably with the newest incarnation of Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island and of course Pacific Rim which was actually released a whole year before the new Godzilla. For that film we got an extremely entertaining score from Ramin Djawadi. This time around, we get some Balfe goodness as Lorne takes over and continues the melodic action extravaganza. Pacific Rim: Uprising sees the feature directing debut of Steven S. DeKnight who has a list of credits serving as an executive producer and writer on several TV series.

This score is just pure clean action writing with a bit of a retro vibe. The reason why I love Lorne so much is that he did another over the top action film called Geostorm, and that had a wholly different sound than this. Sure there’s definitely more substance and style to a Pacific Rim movie than the mostly empty Geostorm, but it does show that action scores can have personalities too and it's not all just "modern bombast". By embracing some retro synths and having those over some great thematic and melodic structures, we get some really entertaining action tracks.

The central motif is this sort of otherworldly theme that you hear right at the start of track 1. To say it feels “alien” wouldn’t do it enough justice as it feels a bit more unique than just “alien-sounding”. Anyway, Lorne pollinates the score with that motif, and it’s not your typical big bold action movie theme so it gives everything a fresh feel. Ramin’s original theme gets a cameo with the “Go Big Or Go Extinct (Remix)” track, so when you feel like Iron Man is making an appearance, it’s just Ramin’s theme from the original saying “hi”. There’s actually some other really interesting elements to the score as we get into the 2nd and 3rd acts. The track “Obsidian Fury” even has a few moments that reminded me of John Powell. But overall, Lorne is really putting so many textures into this score to make it feel dynamic, colorful and propulsive. The 7-minute track titled “Shatterdome Attacked” is just impressive writing from start to finish, it keeps everything moving and never feels redundant or boring. The conclusion finally gives us some well-deserved heroism once the day is saved.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is a refreshing take on action escapism. Lorne Balfe challenges himself to find new textures and colors to give us something that is extremely entertaining but never feels old or dated. Lorne’s use of retro synth sounds, mixed with orchestra, and structured around rhythmic percussion are the heart of the score. The central motif goes against the grain and isn’t a big heroic anthem, which gives the film a unique feel even though we’ve seen giant sci-fi creatures battle it out onscreen many times before. Also, Lorne didn’t create a big theme that he could fall back on and rely on to craft that gravitas, all that comes from the well-structured action writing throughout. While character development isn’t the reason you come to see Pacific Rim: Uprising, Lorne managed to weave in some human emotion into the story as well. The end result is something that actually feels like both a breath of fresh air and an evolution in Lorne’s action writing, which is unexpected from a sequel to Pacific Rim. Lorne's versatile action writing certainly bodes well for any future action assignments.