Friday, July 29, 2016

Movie Music Musing: Trekking with Giacchino

When J.J. Abrams was engaged on to help reboot Star Trek in 2009, he brought his composer of choice Michael Giacchino. I was thrilled by this because I think Giacchino is one of best film composers working today. His energy and enthusiasm come right through in his music. His is great at hitting the emotional beats of a story and keeping things moving with exciting action music that utilizes themes and doesn’t rely on the modern technique of making loud audio wallpaper.

Giacchino is also great at adapting existing themes into new and interesting variations. He did this with his scores to Speed Racer and Land of the Lost, so I knew he would be certain to take Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek theme and give us something grand.

With the release of Star Trek Beyond Giacchino has joined the ranks of Jerry Goldsmith as being the only composer to score three consecutive Star Trek films. What is even more impressive is that his music for all three films has been consistently great. He’s created memorable themes, given us interesting and effective variations of those themes and not just supported the movies, but given them their own unique identity with music. I hope Giacchino stays on board as the composer for this series of films, but if he moves on, we have three excellent scores to enjoy.

So without further ado here are some of my favorite tracks from the three films.

Giacchino’s main Star Trek theme gets one of its best moments to shine in this track from the 2009 film. It is played when Kirk and Bones get their first glimpse of the Enterprise orbiting Earth. The track is called Enterprising Young Men showing Giacchino’s penchant for punny track titles.

For the film Star Trek into Darkness Giacchino gave us three new themes to enjoy. But one of the best is his character theme for Harrison/Khan. In the film we get to hear it in many different versions, but Giacchino got a chance to record a concert suite version of the theme, and here it is. I love how Ode To Harrison starts off quiet and sinister, but builds in a meticulous way until it becomes this powerful force of nature. Really fits the character.

When Star Trek Beyond rolled around Giacchino got a chance to write a lovely reflective theme for the crew during their time on the starbase Yorktown. This theme is quite different from what we’ve heard in the previous movies, but Giacchino makes sure it fits in his musical version of the Star Trek universe. The track Night on the Yorktown is already getting buzz for being a contender for track of the year in film score fan circles.

Later in 2016 Giacchino will score the Marvel film Doctor Strange so I’m looking forward to hearing what he comes up with for that (and if it will have a little nod to Harrison’s theme). But I’m glad he got a chance to score Star Trek Beyond and continue to build the audio world of this film franchise and take it boldly into an undiscovered country.

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  1. Yes, I'm looking forward to the Dr. Strange movie too, though I already have mixed feelings about making his mentor a woman rather than the comic version of an aged Asian teacher.

    I have the old made-for-TV version of Dr. Strange on DVD (you can find it on YT or you could), and I still think it was made fairly well. They captured many of the images from the comics correctly: his inner sanctum, his mentor, and other things. So we'll see. At least Cumberbatch is reliable.

    A bit of heavy metal in the soundtrack, but different (if this is the true soundtrack) from the typical Marvel fanfare of soundtracks, and actually works for a horror/fantasy. That looks like a seven-string guitar he's playing, which is a bit unusual:

    1. I don't know very much about this character at all. But it does look intriguing. I had no idea they did a made-for-TV version of this character.

  2. Yeah, here's a link to the '78 made-for-TV Dr. Strange movie, it's pretty good for what it is: