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SK 89666

Artwork copyright (c) 2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Hey hey we're the monkeys


One of those films that leaves you just scratching your head and wondering "why?", Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes seems a very odd project on many levels.  For starters, despite not really being all that good, the original film is remembered very fondly indeed, meaning any remake was always going to come in for more criticism than would otherwise be the case; and Burton himself has always seemed far more interested in making quirky, individual films than the standard Hollywood fare like this.  Still, what it did do was provide Danny Elfman with a showcase to strut his stuff and while, like every other aspect of the film, his music was always going to come under attack for not being as good as the original (frankly, virtually no scores written in the 30-odd years since it have been nearly as good) he actually acquitted himself rather well.

It is interesting to consider both the similarities and differences between Elfman's score for the 2001 movie and Jerry Goldsmith's classic score for the 1968 one.  Both composers heavily favour a very percussive sound, for obvious reasons; but while Goldsmith used a bizarre array of "instruments", Elfman's sound comes from more traditional means, along with synthesisers.  It works very well both as a backdrop to the film and on album, providing a rather brutal, oppressive sound which is perfect.  It is somewhat similar in construction (though taken to a further level) to the sound Elfman would develop in his two Spiderman scores a little while later, and the composer even utilises a brass motif through several tracks which clearly presages his Spiderman theme.  However, this is a much darker work overall, with virtually no warmth at all.

"The Hunt" is the standout piece, just as it was for Goldsmith.  A relentless aural assault, it never lets off the ferocious sound and the pacy rhythm makes it all the more thrilling; it's certainly a great track.  Later, the pair of cues "Preparing for Battle" and "The Battle Begins" are also highlights, extremely dark, very exciting pieces which last long in the memory.  As usual, Elfman creates the excitement and holds the score together not through long-lined themes which are usually the hallmark of popular composers today, but through melodies which are deliberately created to be extremely malleable and to be heard frequently in very fragmented form, much in the same way that Goldsmith himself did back in the 1970s; it's a large part of what makes him such an interesting composer.

The second track, "Ape Suite #'1", introduces a motif heard quite subtly in deep basses which will be familiar to many listeners, being the main theme from Bernard Herrmann's rejected score for Torn Curtain.  Its inclusion is fascinating, works very well and I would venture to say it is to be applauded; I doubt there's any deep reason for Elfman using it other than he liked it!  Given the somewhat overwhelming nature of much of the score, the occasional break for some lighter material is essential, and this certainly does come once in a while.  "Old Flames" and "Thade Goes Ape" are good examples, introducing much more subdued work, sometimes with just a vague hint of romance, but always retaining a clever "earthy" tone through use of very low register instruments.  The lengthy "The Return", which comes immediately before the end title, is another example.

Danny Elfman's Planet of the Apes is an excellent score and makes a very solid album.  In many ways it's the very epitome of his modern style of writing, and a wonderful reassurance that there is still creativity and imagination in the world of film music.  Several of the important cues, including "The Hunt" and the two "Ape Suite" tracks, were actually written specifically for the album because Sony Classical needed to lock it down before the score was finalised, and this only adds to the listening experience.  This is a very impressive work - it was never going to be a seminal work like Goldsmith's for the original - but that doesn't mean it's bad; it isn't.  It's a very solid and engaging listen, from a composer who impresses nearly all the time.

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  1. Main Titles (3:49)
  2. Ape Suite #1 (3:52)
  3. Deep Space Launch (4:35)
  4. The Hunt (4:58)
  5. Branding the Herd (:48)
  6. The Dirty Deed (2:27)
  7. Escape from Ape City / The Legend (5:57)
  8. Ape Suite #2 (2:42)
  9. Old Flames (2:10)
  10. Thade Goes Ape (2:37)
  11. Preparing for Battle (3:26)
  12. The Battle Begins (5:17)
  13. The Return (7:18)
  14. Main Title Deconstruction (4:22)
  15. Rule the Planet Remix (4:03)