Tag Archives: Tom Holkenborg

Soundtrack Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

We’re over halfway through 2019 and Alita: Battle Angel still remains one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and it’s soundtrack is firmly in my top 5 for the year as well. If you didn’t have the chance to see the film in theaters, Alita: Battle Angel hits Blu-Ray/DVD on July 23rd, and I highly recommend picking it up. However, the soundtrack has been available for quite some time and that’s what I’m going to be reviewing for you today.

The soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel was composed by Tom Holkenborg (otherwise known as Junkie XL), and as I said before, it is by far one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard this year. Regarding the soundtrack, Holkenborg had this to say:

“…it was very important to feel the heart of the film. Movies like this about a dystopian future with monsters, robots, action figures might fall too quickly into something very electronic in nature or very noisy. And it was very important because of the music we stay with Alita the main character throughout the movie. It was very important that it was a pretty, soaring melody that could be easily bent into something emotional, but also into something positive and heroic. She is a person who is constantly wondering what is out there, and that is very important in the music and the instrumentation. And because she is a CGI character with motion capture from [Rosa Salazar], it was very important that it feel very organic. That’s why for her I went for very organic instrumentation, a flute or a clarinet or strings or a Glockenspiel. It needed to feel organic and natural.”

(full credit to Nerdist.com for this interview with Tom Holkenborg)


The soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel does indeed feel very organic and natural, which surprised me when I listened to the soundtrack without any distractions from the film (which can cover over many musical details). It really doesn’t sound like the music for a film set centuries in the future, in a world populated by cyborgs, but I agree that this is a good thing. After all, at her core, Alita is a human (remember her brain is very much real), and the music should reflect her humanity in a world where this quality is in increasingly short supply.

The soundtrack is full of traditional action beats, as you might expect, but the actual spectrum of emotions covered by the music is quite large. There’s triumph and challenge in “Raising the Sword” (the music that ends the film before the credits start), despair in “In the Clouds,” and mystery in “Double Identity,” just to name a few examples.

Holkenborg crafts the music in a way that keeps you engaged and grounded in the story. I agree with what he says in the interview; it would have been far too easy to create a generic sci-fi electronic score for Alita: Battle Angel. While it would have been the expected thing to do, I also think it would have ruined the film as a whole.

I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel, it’s a beautiful piece of work, and it can keep you occupied until the film hits Blu-Ray/DVD next month. Hopefully we’ll get to hear Holkenborg work on the score to a sequel film, since he’s established some character themes that I would like to see expanded.

Let me know what you think about Alita: Battle Angel and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Film Soundtracks A-W

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Soundtrack Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

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Tomb Raider is a 2018 action-adventure film directed by Roar Uthaug and is based on the 2013 video game of the same name. This film officially reboots the Tomb Raider film series and stars Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Man from UNCLE) as Lara Croft while she journeys to the last-known location of her father, a mysterious island in the “devil’s sea.”

The score for Tomb Raider was composed by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, who is a Grammy® nominated and multi-platinum producer, musician, and composer whose versatility puts him on the cutting edge of contemporary music, as well at the vanguard of exciting new film composers. His film scoring credits include Mad Max Fury Road, Deadpool, Black Mass, Divergent, Brimstone and The Dark Tower. Tom says about the soundtrack: “We spend a lot of time on the ‘island‘ in the movie. It is otherworldly and wild, and I wanted to get people out of their comfort zones with some eerie crescendo moments. I spent months having custom pacific drums built, which I played myself to create insane adrenaline inducing rhythms. I also distorted our orchestral recordings, which yielded some unsettling qualities within the score.

The soundtrack is typical action-adventure fare, though this isn’t a bad thing as it makes for good listening. “Return to Croft Manor” is a traditional, orchestral introduction to the soundtrack with a repeating theme that overlaps and recurs throughout. The early pieces in the score are refined and somewhat elegant, rather fitting with the film’s opening set in London. Once the story moves to the island of Yamatai however, the music becomes very wild and unruly indeed.

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“The Devil’s Sea” perfectly encapsulates the nightmarish behavior of the waters surrounding Yamatai. The music twists, turns, and practically writhes in contortions of agony that keep you on the edge of your seat. This is by far my favorite piece in the soundtrack.

“What Lies Underneath Yamatai” has traces of mystery in it, but largely consists of synthesized tones (accented by strings) that rise and fall in the same way you’ve heard in a dozen action films when the hero/heroine gets close to their objective.

In conclusion, the soundtrack doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table, but it is good listening, which is never a bad thing.
What do you think of the soundtrack for Tomb Raider? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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