Also a surprise was Ramin Djawadi’s score for the film. In interview, del Toro explained how he first became aware of Ramin Djawadi through his addiction to popular Fox series Prison Break, which the composer scored from 2005-2009. What struck him was how Djawadi’s music was so integral to his enjoyment of the show’s remarkable energy. "His scores have a grandeur and also have an incredible sort of human soul" del Toro stated while working with Djawadi on Pacific Rim. Not everyone in the film music community would expressly agree with del Toro. Since his score for Iron Man put him on the radar, Djawadi has received mixed criticism and praise for his aggressively synthesized/electronic sensibilities and reliance on the Remote Control Productions toolbox for most projects. Personally, I have always enjoyed Ramin Djawadi’s work with a kind of guilty pleasure mindset; his scores often work functionally in the film and usually produce two to three tracks worth listening to on their own, even when he avoids exploring the most thematically developed of routes. "Driving with the Top Down", the standout cue from his otherwise average score for Iron Man, was a good bit of RC fun and Clash of the Titans provided a few cues that wouldn't tempt traditionalists but entertained me well enough as "tepid" as they might have been. Despite these leaps into film, though, television seems to be Djawadi’s forte. His music for HBO’s mega-hit Game of Thrones has gotten better with every season and has garnered significant critical praise. Thus, it’s hard to deny that Djawadi has at least made his own niche in the industry. With regard to his style, I suppose it all comes down to whether you consider Hans Zimmer’s masculine power anthems and synthetic ostinatos a viable direction for your choice blockbuster sound.
Such a consideration, luckily for us, didn't faze director Guillermo del Toro when he sought out Ramin Djawadi to score his monster-mash epic, providing the composer with a chance to write what may be the best score of his still young career. Djawadi applies to Pacific Rim all of the bells and whistles we've come to expect from a score by a Remote Control Productions veteran. What’s different here is that Djawadi weaves these elements together into an overall package that exudes an effortless sense of style and fun, something mostly lacking in his previous efforts. At the heart of this score is Pacific Rim’s main theme, an insanely catchy rock-orchestral anthem. Heard in full in "Pacific Rim", the theme is composed of a fabric that makes up much of the rest of the score: powerful orchestra, rock influences, and well-integrated electronic elements. It’s got a slightly campy, retro feel to it that puts it right at home in the comic-bookish world of the film, but it’s still modern and forceful enough to be taken seriously by critics. What’s more, this is by no means an underdeveloped, simplistic theme like a few of Djawadi's previous efforts. "Pacific Rim" is a well constructed, nearly 5-minute track that plays during Raleigh and Yancy Becket’s suit up at the beginning of the film and serves as the basis in one way or another for almost everything that comes after it. This development and incorporation of the main theme into almost every aspect of the score is something that Djawadi has, up until now, only truly tackled perfectly on Game of Thrones.
The main theme, for instance, recurs for a full, triumphant, and heavily electronic return in "Go Big or Go Extinct", showcasing Djawadi’s smart intuition to save full reprisals of it for only the coolest of scenes. A Jaeger wielding a Hong Kong cargo ship like a baseball bat is certainly one of those scenes, so Djawadi follows suit with "No Pulse".
The score’s rousing B-theme, heard at 3:11 in "Pacific Rim", serves as the basis for "Gipsy Danger", the theme for the film’s focal Jaeger and the program as a whole. In this track, as in "Pacific Rim", you’ll notice the frequent use of the Inception "horn of doom", the testosterone boosting "bwwooooomm" that Hans Zimmer has become infamous for. It blends into the orchestral fabric well enough to forgive the inclusion, its punctuation of certain notes adding to the score's larger than life, self-aware camp. The B-theme of "Pacific Rim" also informs the track "To Fight Monsters, We Created Monsters", which accompanies the film’s opening montage, and "Physical Compatibility", among others. It is even seamlessly spliced with pieces of the main theme in "Jaeger Tech" and "Deep Beneath the Pacific". While the main theme relies on coolness and exhilaration, tapping into the innate awesomeness of the concept, the B-theme lends gravity and a rousing sense of hope to the story.
Djawadi also varies both the main theme and the B-theme from their normally driving tempos to one of a slower, more majestic build to represent humanity. This is a beautifully warm and stirring theme, employing gradually building strings and brass to tingle your spine in "Canceling the Apocalypse" before it later gets your blood pumping in "We Are the Resistance". Also present here is Tom Morello and George Doerning’s electric guitar work (the former of whom provided his talents to Djawadi's Iron Man) underlying the orchestra in a more reserved manner than their catchy riffs in "Pacific Rim".
Other material includes a haunting character theme for Mako Mori, Raleigh Beckett’s enigmatic co-pilot. By use of a fragile, solo female voice (ala Gladiator) in "Mako", Djawadi reminds us of just how much Mako’s childhood encounter with the Kaiju plays into her adult character. The theme appears again tenderly in "Better than New" for an intimate moment between Mako and Raleigh. The Mako material also doubles, interestingly enough, as the film’s general theme for loss, appearing in "We Need a New Weapon" as Raleigh stumbles out of Gipsy Danger after his own traumatic episode. Additionally, a bouncy theme for Dr. Newton Geiszler is a nice touch on subdued electronics in "Call Me Newt" and "Kaiju Groupie" and Hannibal Chau’s suitably ethnic, seedy theme in "Hannibal Chau" is another nice character piece. All in all, Djawadi does a surprisingly good job with providing these relatively minor characters with their own musical identities, each theme painting a clear, accurate picture of their personality.
Finally, there’s the material for the monstrous Kaiju. Fittingly simplistic and brute, the powerful brass and slamming percussion thrashes up and down the notes with tremendous force, matching the sheer gargantuan menace of these other-dimensional beasts. The Kaiju theme is a nice throwback to the legendary scores of Akira Ifukube for the Godzilla franchise, particularly the iteration of the monster’s theme heard in "Main Title/Hong Kong Destruction!" from Godzilla vs. Destroyah. Though Djawadi accomplishes it with less personality than Ifukube, he nevertheless provides a suitably threatening identity for Pacific Rim's baddies, heard in "Just a Memory", "2500 Tons of Awesome", "Category 5", and "The Breach", among others. Nothing I'll be humming like the Godzilla march but it gets the job done.
With Guillermo del Toro’s wonderfully imaginative and visually stunning playground of monsters and machines as inspiration, Ramin Djawadi has constructed what may be the best score of his career. While hampered by a horribly out of order album release (the last track on the album, for instance, include's the film's main title music) and some not altogether convincing material for the Russian Jaeger pilots (see 1:34 in "Shatterdome"), Djawadi’s Pacific Rim delivers greatly on fun and flat-out coolness. It may get some flack from the harshest of critics but its catchy main theme and overall spirit should make the score an enjoyable addition to any playlist of 2013’s best guilty pleasures.