Given the director's progression of composers, it seems only logical that Neill Blomkamp and Hans Zimmer would cross paths somewhere along the way. His films' scores have increasingly neared Zimmer's in style and, though composers Ryan Amon (Elysium), Chris Clark, and Rich Walters were originally announced to compose for Chappie, it is no big surprise that Zimmer ended up with the gig. With additional music by Bullet to the Head's Steve Mazzaro and Andrew Kawczynski, who both collaborated with Zimmer on The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the score is a wholly electronic endeavor, straddling the line between 80's synth throwback and Zimmer's modern blockbuster sound. There are noticeable Vangelis influences, action moments reminiscent of some of Zimmer early 90's scores, and sweeping electronics in the vein of M83. As a whole, Chappie never reaches new thematic heights, nor does it innovate enough to be considered truly experimental, but it's a decent score with some entertaining moments.
Right from the start, in "It's a Dangerous City", Chappie wears its influences on its sleeve. You'll hear Black Rain, The Dark Knight and The Last Samurai in spades, albeit in amped-up, electronic form. Many of the score's motifs seem like close cousins to these works, albeit on Blade Runner synth-brass instead of Zimmer's usual churning strings. Indeed, Zimmer and his cohorts utilize a fully-electronic, occasionally videogame-like palette to represent the world Blomkamp has created for Chappie. "Use Your Mind", "You Lied to Me", "Never Break a Promise", and "The Outside is Temporary" exemplify the best of the score's buzzing and pulsating momentum, with the latter boasting an energetic performance of the score's main theme. "A Machine that Thinks and Feels" features a techno-lullaby rendition of that theme, addressing the childlike nature of the titular robot. For cues like the energetic "Mayhem Downtown", a raucous action set-piece complete with distorted male choir a la Bane , it's as if Zimmer phoned up himself from his early Bruckheimer days to make a contribution. A lot of the meandering Blade Runner-esque material works well, as do some of the composers' more experimental cues (like "We Own This Sky" and the 8-bit/dubstep "Illest Gangsta On the Block"). The rest is not bad per se, it's just not as interesting or different as something like "We Own This Sky", a cue combining Morricone whistling with Vangelis's driving synths.
In the end, Chappie is a bit of a mixed bag: occasionally it seems like Zimmer and his cohorts are really innovating, while at other times it seems like they're dishing out music on autopilot. For cues like "The Outside is Temporary", "Mayhem Downtown", "A Machine that Thinks and Feels", and "We Own This Sky," it's decently engaging stuff, but other tracks simply wander through material we've heard before in far better iterations. There is a decent amount to like about what Zimmer and friends are going for here even if, at times, the heart of this story seems to get lost in the constant pulsating loops. It might grow on you as it grew on me, but don't expect it to reach the heights or depth of something like Interstellar.
A Few Recommended Tracks: "A Machine that Thinks and Feels", "Mayhem Downtown", "The Outside Is Temporary", "Never Break a Promise", "We Own This Sky", "Illest Gangsta On the Block"
Label: Varese Sarabande
Availability: 16-track edition
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