CD Review: Iron Man 2

I enjoyed the first IRON MAN, mainly thanks to Robert Downey, Jr.’s lighthearted portrayal of billionaire Tony Stark. Though the loud and junky trailer for IRON MAN 2 has pretty much squelched my desire to see the sequel, I was happy to see John Debney‘s name attached to the film.

Debney usually scores light-hearted family fare and goofy comedies. Films that have made him a lot of money, but not my cup of tea usually. I’ve yet to be able to define a particular Debney “sound,” but I was hoping he’d bring a bit more orchestral fare to the IRON MAN sequel than Raman Djawadi’s heavy metal-flavored original.

The good news? The sequel does add more acoustic instruments to the mix. The rock elements are still there, as they probably should be for this type of film, but the score is firmly orchestral much of the time.

The album starts out strong with “Ivan’s Metamorphosis,” featuring a dark theme and an ominous male chorus foreshadowing the doom and gloom of Mickey Rourke’s villain. In “I Am Iron Man,” Debney has wisely provided a proper theme for Downey’s Iron Man. It may be missing the instant classic status of a Superman or Batman, but it is a proper melody you can hang your metal suit on. I just wish there was more of it in the score.

Heavy metal takes over tracks like “The Gun Show” and “Sledgehammer.” The acoustic-techno blend is strongest in pulsating action cues like “Monaco” and “Iron Man Battles the Drones,” in which Debney successfully mixes orchestral bombast and screeching metallic sounds.

Occasionally, the music is allowed to relax and breathe a bit. “Dying Hero” and “Tony Discovers Dad’s Secret” give the ears a rest from the pulsating cues that surround them. “Making Pepper CEO” is a lovely string and woodwind cue.

Iron Man 2 soundtrack
“Ivan’s Metamorphosis”
“Making Pepper CEO”

My favorite cues are actually pastiches of earlier music in which Debney exhibits a little musical wit. “Monaco Drive” has a James Bond flavor with its swinging beat and wah-wah trumpet. The sweeping 60’s sitcom strings of “Make Way for Tomorrow Expo” sounds like it could have been piped over loudspeakers at a conference 50 years ago.

My main problem with the score is the warring elements. The mish-mash of disparate styles lacks cohesion, and yet I’m sure that was what was required in the film. I feel like Debney was striving for something more with the score, but was hampered by the powers that be. That being said, he was still able to create a listenable album in which many of the individual cues are enjoyable.

Those of you looking to purchase Debney’s score will have to wait until July 7th. The only soundtrack album available now is a collection of AC/DC songs featured in the film. While I’m sure that will appeal to a broader customer base, waiting a full two months to release the score album amounts to a wasted marketing opportunity. The buzz around the film will be gone, neglecting the possibility of any extra crossover appeal the score may have had to non-film music fans. At the very least, a download-only version should have been made available.

To hear audio clips, visit the IRON MAN 2 website and click on the soundtrack player at the top once you officially enter the site. But before you do, check out the 13 (count ’em, 13!) corporate sponsors linked on the main page. If that’s not an indication of the state of film making in Hollywood today, I don’t know what is.

  1. His score to the Passion of the Christ was really good. I also heard that his score for Cutthroat Island is excellent, but I haven’t heard that one.

    1. I’ve never heard CUTTHROAT ISLAND. PASSION OF THE CHRIST is the only score I’m really familiar with, not surprising given its Oscar nomination.

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