Henry Jackman’s The Predator treat’s us to yet another return to 80s action form (a trend started by Ready Player One), and this coupled with a lot of classic Silvestri elements makes it one of the more interesting scores of this year.
The 1987 action horror film Predator has become something of a cult classic over the years, with certain scenes and indeed some of star Schwarzenegger’s lines such as “Get To The Choppa!” becoming rather iconic. A part of that somewhat favourable reputation is due to Alan Silvestri’s recognisable score for the film, particularly the ominous, dramatic and fantastically well orchestrated main theme (skip to 2:10).
And so, one of the biggest questions that I and I’m sure many others had when it came to the score for 2018 sequel The Predator was whether composer Henry Jackman was going to use that famous theme. Settling in to listen to it for the first time this weekend, my ears were set to pick up any and all hints towards it. And that’s all I was expecting really, just a note or two of classic Silvestri, probably surrounded by an hour of dull, generic modern day action music. It’s what usually happens these days. Nothing special.
Boy was I wrong though. There’s so much more here than just hints at an old icon. Henry Jackman’s The Predator may as well be an actual Alan Silvestri score, since it sounds so much like one. Instead of an hour of yawn-inducing barely score, we’re treated to another throwback to the glorious action soundtrack days of the 1980s, and it’s simply fantastic. After Ready Player One earlier this year, it looks like 2018 is finally bringing back the classics.
The album opens with Arrival, and the composer sets that Silvestri action tone almost immediately. Nearly masterful orchestration begins, with a combination of strings, brass and vocals that shower nothing but love on his incredible action music style as well as bringing back fond memories of his best soundtracks. This continues for a good minute or two before the music then moves into darker and more sinister territory, letting strings take over for a few moments. A loud and jumpscare-inducing brass instrument then kicks its way back onstage, sounding out a few notes of a very scary sounding nature before Arrival then draws to a close. For an introduction track overall it sets the scene wonderfully, and does a great job of letting you know the music is safe in the hands of Henry Jackman, and that this is the Predator score you’ve been waiting for.
Discovery opens with the same sinister mood that closed out the previous cue, and after a few seconds answers the question I had when I started listening. The creepy-sounding drums that marked the presence of the Predator in Silvestri’s score make a welcome and unfortunately short return here, but it’s enough to tell me that we’re not just getting his style. We’re getting the themes too. And if the hints weren’t enough, Project Stargazer then treats us to a gloriously orchestral rendition of that amazing main theme. It lasts just under a minute, but it combined with some ominous sounding brass and strings make for a very eerie yet very classic track, and it only gets better as we venture deeper into the score.
Out Of The Cage starts an action segment that continues through The Loonies and On The Loose all the way through to Rescue. Like usual, I’m going to treat these tracks as one entity as it’s easier to review and frankly better to group them anyway, as they work so well together musically. Out Of The Cage opens with a strings-based rendition of the 1987 main theme followed by a welcome playing of the sub-themes. The track then dives right into some frantic and brass heavy action that sounds as if Alan Silvestri himself composed it. And since he is the king of fast-paced score, you know you’re in for a good time. The other three tracks then continue the delightfully 80s music, making altogether for a pretty fantastic ten minute action setpiece.
The most prominent of the original music on the album presents itself in Team McKenna, where we are introduced to a very upbeat and heroic theme that is presumably meant to represent the humans in the film. Like much of the score this theme is particularly brass heavy, with a loud and epic rendition playing through right at the beginning of the track. Strings then take up the background for a softer and more militaristic follow up, and by the end of the just under two minute runtime the motif has been pretty well fleshed out. It’s not quite as recognisable or hummable as Silvestri’s classic theme, but it works well within the score and counterpoints rather nicely with the sinister music for the Predators themselves.
The final action sequence of the album then begins with The Last Stand, which also happens to be the standout cue. It opens with a heroic and very Silvestri-sounding rendition of the humans’ theme, which is then quickly followed by some very threatening brass and vocals as disaster presumably strikes (the music here also seems to represent the Predators as it clashes with the humans’ theme, which is an interesting choice considering Jackman decided to bring back their classic theme too). Solemn strings then follow, but only for a short time before the bold humans’ theme makes a loud and triumphant return, and the action then continues.
Man vs. Predator then takes the fast pace and keeps running, with some very on-edge strings and brass keeping up the momentum before the action finishes up in Remembrance, a very victorious and once again militaristic piece. The album then closes out with The Predator’s Gift, a short return to Jackman’s dark and creepy music for the creatures coupled with a strings-based rendition of one of Silvestri’s sub-themes for the original film.
Overall, Henry Jackman’s score to The Predator is a wonderful throwback to Alan Silvestri’s original themes and style, with some very faithful adaptations of said themes as well as some very nice imitations of his classic action brass. The only negative thing I will say is that I do feel Jackman uses Silvestri’s themes a little too much, especially since his music for the Predators and particularly the humans is actually quite good and so could have used a little more time on this album. I do think they probably could have carried a little more of the music on their own if Jackman had perhaps toned down the Silvestri just a little. Still, what we do have here is a pretty fantastic soundtrack, and a welcome return to that 1987 score we all know and love.
Standout Cue: 22. The Last Stand