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Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Composed by Michael Giacchino
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2013 / 45m

Star Trek Into Darkness is a bit of a paradox, really.  On the one hand, it’s badly-written: the traditional Abrams/Lindelof reliance on coincidence to drive the plot forward; an ill-advised attempt to recreate one of the most beloved scenes from the original cast’s films; indeed, an assumption that (and reliance upon) a fondness for the characters as portrayed for decades by other actors will carry over to the new actors who are playing rebooted versions of them; the almost instantaneous reversal of what is intended to be the big emotional moment towards the end with a ridiculous deux ex machina.  And yet… and yet… I couldn’t help but enjoy it, more so even than its predecessor, which had a similar list of problems and a similar ability to disguise them by throwing quick action and humour at the viewer.

Of course, Michael Giacchino’s back to provide the score.  If his first Star Trek was hardly one of his more sophisticated works, it did feature probably his most memorable theme to date – and while he was unafraid to use it over and over again, it didn’t outstay its welcome as far as I was concerned.  A little more concerning is that it dominates both “Pranking the Natives” and “Sub Prime Directive”, two of the first three cues on this sequel album (sandwiching a nice piece of action, “Spock Drops, Kirk Jumps”) but it doesn’t dominate this album nearly as much as it did the first.  It’s reprised a few times – I wouldn’t really say developed at all – but it’s surrounded by quite a rich array of other music.

Michael Giacchino

Michael Giacchino

Most notable by far is the magnificent “London Calling”, an elegant piano theme building to an explosive climax – one of the most impressive pieces of Giacchino’s career to date (which is certainly not short of impressive pieces).  “Meld-Merized” then twists that same theme into a deliciously dark action one for the film’s villain John Harrison, electronics used to wonderful effect.  The hits keep on coming – “The Kronos Wartet” a memorable, creative action piece which isn’t perhaps as memorable as the Klingon music written by Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner, but that’s nothing to be ashamed about.  Percussion drives the piece forwards, there is aggressive choral chanting, deep, growling brass – fantastic stuff.

“Bridagoom” offers a period of calm, elegant and indeed elegiac string writing proving really rather moving before an ominous, brief reprise of Harrison’s Theme at the end of the cue.  “Ship to Ship” is an impressive piece, combining the main theme (used here as Kirk’s Theme) with Harrison’s for an increasingly frantic piece of action.  “Earthbound and Down” sees no let up in the thrills, swirling low-end brass figures accompanied by piercing high-end strings and pounding percussion – it’s a technique Jerry Goldsmith used time and again, but there’s no mistaking the distinctive sound of Giacchino here.

“Warp Core Values” is a more passionately dramatic piece, up-front and dynamic.  “Buying the Space Farm” is quite a pleasant piano-driven piece of emotional music, but it’s not really as moving as you’d expect, given the scene it accompanies – but it does provide a much-needed break from the almost constant excitement of the rest of the album.  The thrills are back immediately in the last big action set-piece, “The San Fran Hustle”, which again is unmistakable Giacchino, and grandly entertaining (even including a very brief nod to Gerald Fried’s classic fight music from the original series).  “Kirk Enterprises” sees calm restored, with a sweeping performance of Giacchino’s main theme building to a strident blast of the famous Alexander Courage fanfare; and the album concludes with a straightforward arrangement of that main theme again.

One thing Into Darkness doesn’t do, that the finest Star Trek scores all do, is offer that sense of magical wonder, that sense of exploration – indeed, that’s what the thing used to be all about, but now it’s more of an action extravaganza and of course that’s what the music has to reflect.  And it certainly does that.  There is barely a let up in the excitement, and while to be honest the music is barely noticeable at all in the film, it has certainly made an exceptionally entertaining album – this composer’s most flat-out enjoyable since Ratatouille.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Chris Avis (Reply) on Sunday 26 May, 2013 at 18:23

    Thanks for the review, James. I liked Giacchino’s Trek 2009 but find this one a bit lacking. I completely agree that both scores lack that certain something that made the Trek scores of yesterday special. But then again, the reboot movies are geared to be action movies first and Star Trek movies second and Giacchino’s scores follow suit. I suppose I need to let go of holding these scores up to the original series scores as a point of comparison as they work fairly well as action scores.

    I’d give 2009 four stars and Into Darkness three stars. For whatever reason, this album doesn’t flow quite as nicely as the previous entry… it doesn’t feel like the various parts of it quite gel together as well. I also found some of the action tracks to be a bit headache inducing this time around as if the composer is trying to beat the listener over the head with the score… The San Fran Hustle in particular is awfully noisy in that way. The inclusion of the Fried Amok Time quote in that track almost made me wonder if I’d stumbled into some kind of bizarre parody of Trek, especially given the footage it accompanies and the aberrant behavior of a certain lead character in this iteration of the Trek universe. It will be interesting to see if my take on the score changes when the inevitable special edition shows p.


  2. Chris Avis (Reply) on Sunday 26 May, 2013 at 18:27

    I should also add that the recording quality on the album is substantially improved over the previous Trek score.


  3. mastadge (Reply) on Monday 27 May, 2013 at 22:49

    I didn’t think I liked this one much when I first listened to it. It seemed less satisfactory than Trek ’09. But it’s really grown on me. I admit I don’t much care for the Klingon music. In and of itself I guess it’s okay, but it really interrupts the flow of the album, I think. Otherwise, I’m very happy with this, although I would have liked a longer credits suite and the Ode to Harrison concert suite.

    Also really wish Seiter’s Star Trek video game score would get released.

  4. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Wednesday 29 May, 2013 at 07:36

    The funny thing is I hated Star Trek 09 for being a one trick pony, but loved this one a lot. And Joel Iwataki is a hell of a lot better mixer than Dan Wallin.

  5. AJ (Reply) on Tuesday 4 June, 2013 at 15:46

    I got bored pretty much on the first track, perhaps I should have simply skipped to the next track. I’m disappointed with Giacchino, I really want to like his work but I guess I’ll have to let it go. Ratatouille is probably the only work I enjoyed a bit.