Michael Giacchino’s third Star Trek score is a return to the familiar.
Unenviable is the task for any film composer assigned with scoring the latest Star Trek voyage into the Final Frontier. Following Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score and James Horner’s game-changing melodies, it was impressive to see Michael Giacchino uniquely make his mark on the then 43-year old franchise in 2009. Granted, the film composer benefited from the story being set in a new universe, but Giacchino established himself admirably among the pantheon of Star Trek musicians. The question awaiting fans was, what will he do the third time out?
“That’s the spirit, Bones.”
Commencing with his now familiar introduction to all of his Star Trek films, Star Trek Beyond moves quickly from his traditional cue into the heart of the film’s theme, as Kirk questions the monotony of day-to-day “episodic” adventures and more specifically, his own purpose, during the Enterprise’s five-year mission. The poignancy at the end of “Logo and Prosper” is only matched by the soft piano in “Thank Your Lucky Star Date”. This latter cue will serve to emphasize Giacchino’s now-familiar theme of his Star Trek as his Kelvin Timeline music is woven into the very fabric of his Star Trek Beyond score, especially when representing the crew.
Distinctive music like “Labor of Love” and “Enterprising Young Men” from Star Trek and “London Calling” from Star Trek Into Darkness might feel missing, although it could be due to the overall wistful themes assigned to Kirk. Honestly, those pieces only really bookend the movie (a more uplifting sounding “Par-Tay for the Course”), but it is difficult not to be lulled into a more contemplative place when considering the impact of the soundtrack, especially considering how they open and close the film. Previous outings have jumped right into the action, allowing for the earlier softer melodies to leave much more of an impact with the audience.
Giacchino has written both elegant and epic music, including “Night on the Yorktown”, a beautiful melody that reinforces the ideas of life in the Federation that has now clearly been established in these J.J. Abrams films, and “The Dance of the Nebula”. His music for Krall’s swarm might sound familiar, but the final 20-seconds of “Cater-Krall in Zero G” is a haunting piece of music as the film’s antagonist meets his demise. Additionally, although it starts like a film-sounding trope and tonally like something out of John Williams’ Star Wars, “Jaylah Damage” quickly recalls the familiarity Giacchino has established in all of his Star Trek films. That theme continues in “Mocking Jaylah”, during her climactic one-on-one fight with Manas, all the while with a primitive beat that drapes itself over everything.
Omissions will always occur on commercial soundtrack releases and Star Trek Beyond is not immune to these issues, especially leaving out the quietness of Spock opening Ambassador Spock’s personal effects and discovering a certain photo that should bring a smile to the heart of every Star Trek fan. Sadly, even in the film, this moment seemed to be a lost opportunity musically, however it is hard to argue with Giacchino’s choices when it comes to the themes and cues he has written for this new timeline.
While the Star Trek Beyond score can sometimes feel overwhelmed by so many callbacks to his previous theme established in his first Final Frontier outing as well as its more contemplative theme, it should be one that fans will listen to over and over, quickly taking its place next to all of Giacchino’s Star Trek music. Scoring a Star Trek film can seem like a thankless job. However, even the less-received films in the oeuvre have left behind a distinctive mark when it comes to its music. Luckily for Giacchino, both the film and his music should quickly earn its place in the franchise’s 50-year history.