Review: Star Trek Into Darkness Sound Track

While Star Trek films have had 8 different directors (Wise, Meyer, Nimoy, Shatner, Carson, Frakes, Baird, and Abrams), the composer club is slightly more exclusive with six (Goldsmith, Horner, Rosenman, Eidelman, McCarthy, and Giacchino). It is arguable that amongst all the behind the scenes artists, the composer has the most power to influence the emotional energy of a film, perhaps even more than the director or cinematographer. The music influences what the audience feels, and when it is done right, it enhances the actor’s performances, the director’s vision, and the cinematographer’s created mood. When the music fails to resonate, it harms a film through distraction or obvious manipulation. Michael Giacchino’s music for Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the former soundtracks, helping to enhance the story and giving STID additional emotional life. Hit the jump for our full review of the Star Trek Into Darkness sound track.

Giacchino’s soundtrack begins with a rousing piece after his logo music that, like the film, feels as it opens in the middle of an ongoing adventure. Track 1: “Logos/Pranking the Natives” cleverly reminds the listener of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, especially “Winter” around the two minute mark. Whether by design or accident, the Vivaldi vibe works because the characters are in essence traveling through various seasons and weather conditions during their romp on Nibiru. The second and third track are also dedicated to the culminating adventure of escaping the tribe and rescuing Spock. Track 3: “Sub Prime Directive” includes a syncopated and heroic version of the Enterprise theme from the first film. The inclusion of Alexander Courage’s original theme is welcomed and appropriate here.

Speaking of the Enterprise theme that Giacchino uses, it is also the theme for Kirk. Giacchino’s use of the same theme for both ship and captain demonstrates his appreciation and respect for the heart of these characters. Indeed, it is arguable that in the film itself, the fate of the Enterprise and Kirk are linked together. When Kirk is damaged emotionally by Pike’s death, the Enterprise is damaged by Marcus’ sabotage. When Kirk learns to replace his hubris with sacrifice, his spirit is resurrected (as he will be later physically), which in turn, saves and resurrects the Enterprise (literally, from the heavens). The correlative aspects of ship and captain are symbolized by the use of the same theme for both by Giacchino.

There is also a welcomed diversity of styles on the STID soundtrack, perhaps much more so than on Giacchino’s 2009 effort. Track 4: “London Calling” and 11: “Buying the Space Farm” are quiet piano pieces which become emotionally stirring as they progress. These give emotion and sympathy to the characters, including, ironically, Harrison/Khan, whose theme has a lovely quality despite its ominous nature. Contrast that with the almost rock like Klingon chase music of Track 6: “The Kronos Wartet.” The new Klingon theme is a pastiche of previous Klingon music. There are hints of Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic music, and the clanking sounds are pure James Horner from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The inclusion of the Klingon chorus reminds also of Cliff Eidelman’s own winning Klingon music from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Despite these references, Giacchino has created an original piece which pays homage without being parody or repetition. It honors that which came before while moving the Klingon music into the new universe. Most interesting is that Giacchino’s theme includes punctuated string and brass which sound almost like unexpected bat’leth strikes by a Klingon.

Track 12: “The San Fran Hustle” combines many of the leitmotifs used in the film: there is Harrison/Khan’s theme, the Enterprise theme, hints of the Klingon clanging, and even a definite, yet subtle, use of the “Amok Time” battle music (at 1:59 in the track) as Spock chases and fights Khan in the streets of San Francisco. It is a bombastic celebration of all the tracks and character themes.

he soundtrack ends with Track 14: “Star Trek Main Theme” which is the only misstep on the CD release. It is very important in the film that we hear the original Courage theme because it signifies that the 5 year mission has begun. There is only a hint of Courage’s theme included in this truncated end title music included on the CD. The entire end credits music should have been included. To make the CD a satisfying listen on its own, Courage should have been included. Hopefully, we will be getting an expanded or complete 2 CD set soon. That being said, Track 14 is a wonderful, bombastic reiteration of the Enterprise/Kirk theme with a choir and a most energetic percussion usage.

There are many litmus tests for measuring the success of a soundtrack CD. Is it thoughtful and clever? Did the music enhance the film when watching it? On its own, is the CD an enjoyable experience which tells the same story only through music instead of dialog and action? Is it worth listen to again and again? On all of the counts, Giacchino’s STID soundtrack earns a “yes” and earns a place next to the other classic music of one of entertainment’s most enduring and important science fiction franchises.

The Star Trek Into Darkness soundtrack is now available for purchase at many retailers including at Amazon for $11.88.

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