MP3: Chappie (2015)

March 18, 2015 | By


Chappie_CDScore: Very Good

LabelVarese Sarabande

Released:  March 17, 2015

Tracks / Album Length:  16 tracks / (63:06)

Composer: Hans Zimmer, Steve Mazzaro, Andrew Hawczynski

Special Notes:  n/a




According to the P.R. material, director Neill Blomkamp encouraged Hans Zimmer to embrace the synth gear of his early years, using an array of decades-old electronic instruments to create a score that’s warm and analogue-heavy, yet clearly reflecting Zimmer’s present-day writing style that’s part minimalism, contemporary electronica, and industrial grimness.

Thematically and emotionally, Chappie feels like a younger, more melancholic cousin of the Zimmer-produced video game score Crysis II (2011), but there’s a definite difference in rhythms and little details that reveal a perfect blend of old and present day sounds, which really isn’t anything unique, given many new and veteran composers are re-embracing vintage sounds using emulations, samples, and actual classic gear.

What’s enjoyable about Chappie is the variation in moods and gradual progression as film’s eponymous character, a thinking robot, grows and learns how to deal with nefarious human behaviour and biases. A great example where moods shift and warp into something much more menacing is “Firmware Update” that has a gentle theme being quickly suppressed by drones before synth chimes bring back thematic material and a fadeout.

Chappie’s a tightly edited score where cues flow into each other, sometimes preceded by pulses, drones, or gentle keyboards, but material is always affected by contrasts – low chords, a variety of frenetic pulses laid over more pulses, and flanging material that’s either ornamental or pushed to the forefront by Zimmer and co-composers Steve Mazzaro and Andrew Hawczynski. “Welcome to the Real World” similarly progresses from pure rhythmic figures to an impressionistic theme version that’s vulnerable, nervous, and wary.

Zimmer’s vintage sounds will certainly make fans giddy, because while many may not recognize the specific gear, the sonic elements are highly iconic. The arching tones in the aforementioned “Real World” recall Pat Metheny’s mid-eighties electronic sounds, whereas the earlier “Use Your Mind” melds eerie sampled voices inherent to James Newton Howard’s early work. The pulses and fat chords are equally reflective of Zimmer’s mid- to late-eighties scores (notably Pacific Heights), whereas the sharp, airy hits in “The Only Way Out of This” and fat synth chords in “Rudest Bad Boy in JoBurg” recall a bit of Tangerine Dream.

And then there’s Zimmer’s own knack for bombast, which comes with a big boom factor – of all the film composers of his generation, Howard excepted, Zimmer was the most prolific user of massive bass booms. Some of the action cues start hard and fast, indicative of their attachment to sudden scene action, while others have long progressions, moving through different tempi and moods, as in the album’s longest cue, the nearly 8 minute “Never Break a Promise” with its collage of classic orchestral emulations that seem to assemble Zimmer’s entire palette of vintage instruments.

Chappie may not represent a radical departure from Zimmer’s action and video game scores – the albums last cue, “Illest Gangsta on the Block” is a tongue-in-cheek strut using primordial video game blips and beats – but it’s a fine representation of the seamless assembly of past sounds performed, shaped, and edited with perfection into a dynamic little work.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Soundtrack Reviews

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