War for the Planet of the Apes (Michael Giacchino)

Sony Classical

War for the Planet of the Apes Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2017)

Get it:  If you enjoy a generally melancholic Giacchino score that sometimes emphasizes quietness with moments of sweeping drama that builds on his previous score in the series

Don’t get it:  If you want something epic, heroic, or something that “feels good” in its lightness

 

Michael Giacchino delivered a quite satisfactory score with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  It was great for setting the tone of the film and, as far as that goes, it would be hard to complain.  But for this, the next installment of the series, the composer took it far beyond what he already established into a fantastic new realm.  The Great Ape Processional”  was arguably one of the biggest highlights of his Dawn score.  If that is one of the appealing aspects from that soundtrack to you, no doubt you’ll be quite pleased with what’s offered here (check out “Paradise Found” especially).  Those beautiful piano moments are included in War (possibly even improved), as well as the nearly anxiety-inducing (in a good way) parts from the other cues.  Then, before you know what really hit you, you’re back into the more tender moments filled with strings.  

There are many ways to describe this soundtrack:  beautiful, threatening, tender, dramatic, melancholic, and so many more.  At times its a bit magical.  But perhaps the best word to encompass it is captivating.  It’s not captivating in its inherent magnificence, but rather in its reverent stillness.  That, with so many flowing dramatic pieces mixed in, makes for quite the captivating experience. 

This has the whole package.  Giacchino has established himself already as one of the best composers at capturing and conveying emotions, and this score is no exception.  There are plenty of soundtracks today that forget to take their listeners on a journey through music, but make no mistake that War for the Planet of the Apes is one heck of a journey.

Bottom line:  if you listen to this on an autumn, rainy day, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing experience.  Frankly, even if you listen to it on a hot summer day, you still have the same guarantee.  This score captured the best elements of Dawn and took it three steps farther.  Because of this, it’s a welcoming experience to those who are already familiar with the previous scores and those who are not.  Therefore, in any case, there’s no excuse to not give it a listen.

The soundtrack for War for the Planet of the Apes can be ordered here.

 

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (Michael Giacchino)

Sony Music

Spider-Man: Homecoming Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2017)

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Get it:  If you are already a fan of either Michael Giacchino or Spider-Man as a character

Don’t get it:  If you’re looking for a really brooding, deeply drama-based, or otherwise darker toned superhero score

The Spider-Man franchise has a well-established history of great orchestral soundtracks.  Having film scores composed by Danny Elfman, Christopher Young, James Horner, and Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino makes an excellent addition to the list.  This is true not just in theory, though, but the score itself is fitting to the character as well as the MCU.

As can be expected from Giacchino, there are plenty of fun moments in the music.  One of the harder things for composers to capture is a unique sense of fun to convey to the audience and establish that as a tone.  Undoubtedly, Giacchino is one of the best for this, and he doesn’t fall short for this score.  However, don’t think that the fun of the music is the only element.  In this way, it is somewhat reminiscent of his work on both Mission: Impossible as well as The Incredibles.  At the same time, you can also hear the composer’s growth and musical maturity since those works, as there are a couple moments that also sound inspired from his work on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It is excellent for establishing action sequences that are appropriate to the character —  a teenage superhero as represented in Captain America: Civil War

One of the reasons that this is such a great idea is that, once the tone changes for the Vulture music, the shift is undeniably noticeable.  Once again, this does a great job of helping the audience shift their feelings and attitudes toward what is happening in-film — exactly as scores are supposed to do.

Spider-Man’s theme is done very, very well.  Not only is it empowering, as any superhero theme probably should be, but it honestly sounds like it is about to lead into and epic blend with the Avengers.  Of course this makes sense in context of the film’s universe, but musically, it is accomplished far better than most would have been able to do it.  Finally, the suite is a perfect embodiment of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.  And that’s all there is to say about that.

Overall, this is definitely an excellent score for anyone who would consider themselves fans of Michael Giacchino (and not just because of the track titles).  Other works coming soon from Giacchino include War for the Planet of the Apes and The Book of Henry.  Also, I wanted to tell fans of previously established MCU themes that you may want to listen closely to a couple seconds in here somewhere.

This soundtrack will be available on July 7, and you can preorder it here and here.

Jurassic World (Michael Giacchino)

Jurassic World Soundtrack Cover

Jurassic World Soundtrack Cover

Jurassic World Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2015)

Get it:  If you like the previous Jurassic Park soundtracks, especially the one to the first film, as well as Giacchino’s style

Don’t get it:  If you’re hoping for a typical action score that uses constant beats to keep you on the edge of your seat

22 years ago, the world’s imagination was completely captured by Steven Spielberg’s latest marvel, Jurassic World.  Per expectations, John Williams brought the story to life in ways thought impossible as he had with previous films Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, and so much more.  Part of the magnificence of that score was the combination of intensity on one track with awe inspiring beauty on the other.  Over two decades later, another man is tasked with a challenge.  Michael Giacchino had to not only create a new sound and feel for the new ‘Jurassic World’ park, but he also had to pay respect to the already established themes that we love.  How did he do?  Splendidly.

The soundtrack to Jurassic World by Michael Giacchino, released by Backlot Music, excels at not only creating something freshly awe inspiring, but paying homage to the original as well.  Those instantly recognizable themes do not overtake the new, however, since they are used very sparingly.  This is a great tool since not only does it make the audience/listener crave the themes even more, but it also creates space for the new music.  Hopes were high for the use of Williams themes given the relationship between Williams and Giacchino.  He does something that Don Davis fell a little short of; grasping the full majesty of the music.  Giacchino understands that you cannot simply throw brass at the notes and it will work.  Instead, he carefully dictates the background instruments to provide a strong base for the brass to enter full power.  Early on, one track is reserved solely for the original Jurassic Park theme, reverently titled, “Welcome to Jurassic World.”  It captures the grandeur of the original track while remaining ever-so-slightly different.  Unsurprisingly, Giacchino also uses the piano for the theme in a moment which is a perfect fit for the film and the context of the franchise.

The new music is nothing to skim over.  A major difference between the films is in Jurassic Park, the awe of the dinosaurs themselves is enough.  In Jurassic World, however, that isn’t quite the case anymore.  Instead, the park has been up-and-running for about ten years.  This time, it’s more about a fun vacation.  The music, namely in “As the Jurassic World Turns,” expresses the comfort and excitement that accompany a vacation.  The intensity is there as well, but in more of a classic manner.  The score doesn’t rely on beats to stop your heart via vibration.  Instead, it’s the lack of that which makes it intense.  The lower-profile music pulls you in as you try to hear it.  Not that it is too quiet, though.  Having said that, there are some moments that reflect the style of the opening of the first film.  Finally, there is sweepingly beautiful music also.  It’s not just about brass or just about strings at any moment.  There’s a choir, a tambourine, a piano, and more.  This soundtrack is not only a triumph for Michael Giacchino and the Jurassic Park franchise, but moviegoers and music lovers everywhere.  Being the number one opening weekend ever, this score has a wide audience – and it did not back down.

Here is a piece of the soundtrack called “As the Jurassic World Turns”:

Click here (CD) or here (Digital) to shop for the soundtrack

Star Trek: Into Darkness (Michael Giacchino)

Star Trek: Into Darkness Soundtrack Cover (2013)

Star Trek: Into Darkness Soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (2013)

Get it: If you are looking for a dramatic soundtrack that relies on themes and not generic sounds

Don’t get it:  If you want a soundtrack that leans toward light adventurous music

If you saw that this score was composed by Michael Giacchino and expected something along the lines of The Incredibles, think again.  He has gone deeper in this soundtrack than many of his other previous scores.  The very first track puts forward a strong beginning that immerses the listener in action.

Throughout, there is a fairly consistent and good use of the entirety of the orchestra instead of relying on one section alone to carry the score as many modern composers do.  The alternation between these sections creates a very heavily dramatic soundtrack.  The use of Giacchino’s main theme, with the build-up to it, is quite majestic.  In this soundtrack, parts reflect a whirlwind – almost frenzy – of confusion.  At other times, there are distinct parts where panic is mixed with focus, a match for the characters of the film.  The piano element and the manner in which it is used adds something missing from other films in the sci-fi/action film genre.  If the listener picks an emotion, odds are that somewhere, at some point, you will find it expressed in the music.

This is not generic action music by any means, but rather it is a very unique, though still intense, action music that has various themes throughout that tag it as a part of the Star Trek  universe.  The occasional hat-tip to Alexander Courage and Gene Roddenberry’s original theme is expertly done.  It may even get the listener very excited for Giacchino’s upcoming work on Jurassic World.  The way that he blends the original theme with the overall soundtrack is excellent.  One might even call the OST deceptively complex.

The themes from the first film, Star Trek (2009), are even stronger here and have even more of an impact.  It is fascinating how Giacchino makes some of the instruments cry while others scream and still others seem to support the rest with their strength.  Toward the end, specifically in “Kirk Enterprises”, there is a wonderful sense of renewal, almost as if the storm has passed.

Overall, an excellent soundtrack that does not disappoint anyone who enjoyed the soundtrack from the first 2009 one.  One word of warning, however.  This soundtrack does not contain the end credits to the film.  If that is not a deal-breaker for you, (which it alone shouldn’t be) then you’re good to go.

Click here to listen to a clip

Click here to shop for the soundtrack