“The essence of
FIRST BLOOD was the story and the enigmatic character at its center
- Goldsmith's theme captured that perfectly back then and, via BRIAN
TYLER, still does, even if that character has become more like
Freddie Kruger than a war hero."
Franchises Don't Die. They Just...Don't Die.
Review by Christopher Coleman
"Nothing is over! Nothing!"
were John J. Rambo's spirited words back to ol' Col. Troutman...way back
in 1982...as Troutman and Rambo stood surrounded in the shot-up police
headquarters in "Jerkwater, USA." Sure seems that Sylvester
Stallone has taken those words to heart as he has, some 25 years later,
finally brought his two iconic movie franchises: Rocky and Rambo, to
a close. Now, when I
first heard that another ROCKY movie was being made, I wept a little bit
inside. ROCKY BALBOA came and went without much of any reaction from me.
Some really seemed to feel the Rocky film had a fitting end and well
executed. But, well, it sort of knocked me out...with boredom. Then I
heard that another RAMBO was being made...and I wept inside...a lot. I was
certain a true train-wreck of a film was on its way. Apparently, just like
some "heroes" we know, some movie franchises just won't die. With
one of the Hollywood's most beloved composers, Jerry Goldsmith, no longer
around to write the score, I wept a little more. I couldn't help but think
of the franchise being further butchered by some sort of hyper-electronic-grungy-guitar fest. However, with the
announcement of BRIAN TYLER as composer, my inner-tears began to dry up.
Now RAMBO the film? Oh I was certainly right..."butchery." Those who are
blood-thirsty-action-aholics are loving this one, but I am not among them.
The majority RAMBO is barely watchable...and not because of its
gore-factor. No. It's more because of its bore-factor...or even
poor-factor. Poor writing, poor acting, poor...you name it. And then comes
the last act. Ah...yes. There is your gore-factor x 100! Sylvester
Stallone has spoken openly about how it would be wrong to have eased up on
the violence because it would be doing a disservice to the reality of what
is going on in Burma err Myanmar. Well, his admittance to taking
human-growth hormone in order to bulk up for this film makes his
statements about "realism" and "truthfulness" drip with the blood of hypocrisy. So, you're
getting the picture that I didn't like this film very much and so maybe
you're starting to think that this feeling has oozed its way over to my
thoughts on the score. Not so fast!
A second ago, I said "poor...you name it." Well, one of the few things I
can't follow the word "poor" with here is "score." The only facet of RAMBO
washed clean of guilt-blood of poor filmmaking is BRIAN TYLER's music.
When it comes to Tyler's score - no tears here. In fact, much love must be given to TYLER for his
faithful work and even a half-a-prop to Sly for having enough sense to
hire him. Let's face it. RAMBO begins and ends with Jerry Goldsmith's
honorable, melancholy theme for the tormented character of John J. Rambo
use of this original theme pays proper homage Goldsmith. Ironically, BRIAN TYLER's name has been connected to JERRY GOLDSMITH's before. Back in 2003,
Tyler actually replaced Goldsmith's score for the ill-fated film,
TIMELINE. The Goldsmith-faithful were none to happy about it either, but
we eventually we got Goldsmith's version released and now perhaps Tyler's treatment of
RAMBO can help rectify any left-over ill-will.
For track 1, we get "Rambo's Theme" starts the soundtrack off, as it should.
Tyler slows the tempo of the piece down considerably when compared tothe
original, perhaps reflecting the advanced years of Rambo or to simple give
it a reflective-feel. In either case it works. Now after FIRST
BLOOD, the following two sequels RAMBO II and RAMBO III, didn't feature
the original theme in its simplest form. Goldsmith's RAMBO II and
III featured a very gritty synthesized edge infused with a hint of the Far
East and then the Middle East, respectively. So in 2008, as we get
to RAMBO (IV), it's a wonderful start to hear the theme as we first knew
it. Listening to this piece bring back memories of the simple story
of John Rambo, a Vietnam Vet treated unjustly, unfairly,
and pushed passed his psychological self-limits, and into survival mode.
What certainly doesn't come to mind are those things which ultimately
define this final chapter: heads being shot off, people exploding on
mines, or enemy soldiers (one's we have been setup to completely hate)
being gutted like a Burmese yellow-fish.
Beyond the classic Goldsmith quotes, BRIAN TYLER let's loose his own
creative talents for RAMBO. Tyler adds a
new theme to the mix and it's a
perfect fit - feeling like a natural extension of the original theme.
Check out how well these two themes flow together in tracks 1, and 19.
Throughout the midst of the score, this new theme actually comes to bear
the emotional weight of the story. In addition to his talent to bang out memorable themes
(see PARTITION, CHILDREN OF DUNE), he's certainly one of the better
crafters of action music. In tracks such as "No Rules of Engagement" (2),
"Hunting Mercenaries" (7) and "Rambo Takes Charge" (16),
Tyler delivers the right music to match the fast-paced escapes,
rescues and slaughters taking place on screen. Tyler builds a brand of
tension that is more atmospheric than it is "in your face" in tracks such
as "Searching for Missionaries" (6) and Crossing into Burma" (8). He even
crosses into Zimmer/Newton-Howard territories (spelled B A T M A N B E G I
N S ) in tracks like the aforementioned "Crossing into Burma" and "When
You are Pushed" (11). We get a little explosions of reversed samples that
have been heavily processed for the dirty, grungy effect...and it works
well in helping to convey ol' Rambo's shift from denial to rage. Tyler
also manages to bring some measure of setting into his score, which go a
long way to establishing the dark, foreboding jungles of Taiwan and Burma.
To accomplish this he employs a variety of percussive instruments: drums, wood
blocks, slapstick, the occasionally some Asian version of wood flute.
The score is more than action and tension.
BRIAN TYLER makes the most of his new theme to deliver those much needed
respites. There are a handful of tracks scattered (or splattered if you're
still feeling really Rambo-y) throughout the score and they truly
help to round out the listening experience. "Aftermath" (5) features a
reflective statement of this new theme as does "The Village" (9). "Battle
Adagio" (18) starts to bring the film and soundtrack to its close and it
is one of the most emotional pieces of the entire score. It's here that
BRIAN TYLER shines the brightest. With his new theme playing heroically
again on strings and brass, we also hear his rumbling percussion, wordless
vocals and unique orchestration in full-bloom and we start to tread on the
rapturous moments that we all know Tyler has hit before.
The final two tracks that end the soundtrack and, thank God, the Rambo
franchise does so with the self-restraint that the film lacked overall.
RAMBO fails on so many levels and BRIAN TYLER's score may be the lone
highlight. Yes. I know that Rambo II and III were far cries from
FIRST BLOOD as well, but neither of them went to the places that RAMBO has. The
essence of FIRST BLOOD was the story and the enigmatic character at its
center - Goldsmith's theme captured that perfectly back then and, via
Brian Tyler, still does, even if that character has become more like
Freddie Kruger than a war hero. Lionsgate Records release contains
the most important cues from the film but arranges them out of sequence to
provide the most evenly balanced listening experience. Those of you
who enjoy Brian Tyler's works and those of you quasi-nostalgic over the
original First Blood, this effort (the score, not the film) may have
something to offer you.
No Rules of
||Searching for Missionaries
||Crossing Into Burma
||When You are Pushed
||The Call to War
||Attack on the Village
||Rambo Takes Charge
||Rambo Main Title
||Rambo End Title
||Total Running Time (approx)