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Steve Jablonsky Starts from Scratch with "Transformers: Age of Extinction"

Composer Steve Jablonsky
Composer Steve Jablonsky
Courtesy of Steve Jablonsky

From a fan’s perspective, the “Transformers” franchise almost lost its AllSpark after the third installment. Prolific action director Michael Bay returned for “Transformers: Age of Extinction” with some new ideas, though. In the wake of “Dark of the Moon,” Sam Witwicky and the other humans were replaced by a new cast.

That proved to be a wise move because "Age of Extinction" recently became the first movie to cross the billion-dollar mark in 2014, according to CinemaBlend.

“The instruction from Michael Bay was pretty clear: ‘This is a new cast. Yeah, it’s a continuation from Movie 3; it’s a continuation of the story, but everyone is different, all the actors are different,’” composer Steve Jablonsky recalled when reached by phone for an interview.

Jablonsky, who composed music for all four "Transformers" movies, said Bay encouraged the cast and crew to treat “Age of Extinction” like something brand-new.

“Three movies is a lot to use the same themes. So I was happy to have him say that to me,” he explained. “I pushed all my old themes aside and started from scratch, just new themes and new sounds, even. I like to create a new sound library for each film so I am not grabbing old material too often. That was a fun way to start.”

Enter Cade Yeager

Mark Wahlberg joins the franchise as Cade Yeager, a tinkerer who inadvertently brings Optimus Prime back to his farm. At first, a cash-strapped Yeager sees money to be made, but he works to help the Autobots.

“The music for Cade starts really simple: guitars and piano. Actually for his theme—or his early in the movie theme—I worked with the band Imagine Dragons, and we did this really simple kind of [music], almost a ballad. It’s a real simple guitar line,” Jablonsky said. “The first time you hear it in the film is the first time you see Cade driving the truck up to his farm. It’s a nice image: Michael Bay’s images are always great, so it was kind of a music video moment.”

Once Cade is set up this way, Jablonsky continued, when he is thrown into extraordinary circumstances, they could really make a change with the music.

“He becomes more heroic: more electric guitars and horns. Although I try to be careful with too much orchestra,” the composer explained. “He’s not your traditional hero character. We try to keep some guitars in there and dirty it up with distortion, make them more bad-ass as he becomes more bad-ass throughout the film.”

Joshua Joyce cashing in on the Autobots

Stanley Tucci plays Joshua Joyce, a tycoon whose company has discovered Transformium, the substance the Transformers are made of. Joyce’s office complex has such clean colors and lines that it looks like something from Steve Jobs’ imagination.

“There’s even a hint of Steve Jobs when you see [Joshua’s] office. There are pictures of himself on the way, and they are Steve Jobs-esque photos. So it’s definitely modeled after a Steve Jobs type of person,” Jablonsky said.

The composer said that Joyce was interesting to write for because he starts out as a power-hungry guy.

“He’s siding with these nefarious characters, and you really don’t know where he stands,” he explained. “Because he’s this kingpin of technology, his music, when we first see him in his company KSI, it’s more electronics and a little bit of orchestra. But it’s mostly synthesized patterns and things. Like when he’s introducing the Transformium, it’s very electronic there. We wanted to make it very precise and match what was on the screen.”