Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Movie Music Musings: The Matrix Trilogy Part 3

Composer Don Davis was told to make the music for Matrix Revolutions bigger than anything he had done before. Davis took this to heart and steered his final score for the trilogy toward an operatic epic scale. The highlights of this score are enormous choral delights, and the action music goes for an overwhelming sound as opposed to the more dense and intricate work of the first film.

The techno influence is also downplayed from its role in Reloaded. Juno Reactor did contribute to three tracks of the score, but this primarily Davis’ show. Much like his original score to The Matrix Davis does use some electronics, but he keeps them in the background, adding to scenes, primarily with Agent Smith and his burbling electronic signature.

While the Matrix motif is heard in the score, it is less prominent here, with most of the big action set pieces of the middle of the score using lots of percussion to blaze away at your ears. It is all very dense stuff, but the scale is much bigger and open than the previous scores. It approaches Lord of the Rings levels of grandeur in places.

The other key piece of Matrix Revelations is a final tragic statement of Neo and Trinity’s love in the track Trinity Definitely (a play on the first track of The Matrix called Trinity Infinity). This cue gives us the best statement of this love theme, but Davis tinges it with sadness, one of the few times in the series where this type of emotion is delved musically.

The real reason to seek out this score is for the music Davis crafted for the final third of the film. Here Neo faces Agent Smith one last time, and these tracks are right up there with John Williams Duel of the Fates from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in the ability to capture an apocalyptic battle of titans. The highlight cue of Matrix Revolutions is Neodammerung a battle cue using Davis trademark matrix style, choir chanting in Sanskrit and pure bombast. Everything comes together in this massive piece and it is a real treat.

Davis then heads into the finale allowing the music to reach a triumphant and melodic conclusion. It is satisfying to hear this after nearly three albums of dissonance and conflict. The final moments of For Neo are a wonderful end to the series.

But Juno Reactor steps in one last time to combine with Davis for the end title track Navras. It is a propulsive and dance worthy reimaging of Neodammerung with clearer statements for the choir and a ton of power behind it. The Matrix Revolutions ends on this high note.

Score fans were treated to a solid album release with the film with a generous CD clocking in at nearly 64 minutes of music. Some of the most aggressive and bombastic Battle of Zion music is missing, but all the key tracks are there. La-La Land delivered a complete version of the score in 2014. It gives a fleshed out vision of the score, as well as some exciting alternate takes that highlight Davis’ amazing orchestral work.

Don Davis’ accomplished work on The Matrix trilogy is something that needs to be revisited by film music fans, and film fans in general. He introduced a new language to film music, and collaborated to create an amazing and effective fusion of electronic dance music styles with orchestra. These scores are unique in their own way, and yet build on one another and create a sonic world and story that evolves over the course of the films. Even if you aren’t a fan of the movies themselves the music will grab you with its unique approach.

For many film music fans, scores of the modern era are in a bit of a stale stasis, with the Zimmer sound dominating all large budget genre and action films. It’s a shame that Davis’ style didn’t take off, and at least provide an alternate vision of what a film score could do. The music to The Matrix is nearly 15 years old at this point, but it sounds so fresh compared to the big budget scores we hear today. It appears that only in video game music has Don Davis’ work inspired. Check out this track from the game Remember Me, and hear some major influence from The Matrix.  


  1. We'll have to see how long it takes before the Matrix itself takes over movie scores the way CGI has coopted traditional fx. Using a "sentiment-analysis algorithm" musician-scientist team Hannah Davis and Saif Mohammad already let computers generate scores to novels with interesting results. Movies can't be far behind. See http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/robot-reads-novels-writes-songs-about-them?dom=PSC&loc=poprail&lnk=8&con=robot-reads-novels-writes-songs-about-them

    1. Wow that is interesting. Studios are always looking for cheaper and more efficient ways to get movies scored. If this machine can duplicate the Hans Zimmer sound, well I think the studios have a new regular composer.

      Then they can hire the Japanese virtual idol Miku to sing the hit songs for the end titles and it will be like we're in "Macross Plus"!