- Composed by Michael Giacchino
- Walt Disney Records / 2015 / 74m
George Clooney plays a once wide-eyed boy full of hope, now died-in-the-wool cynic in Tomorrowland, Disney’s science fiction movie apparently intended to evoke the old Walt Disney optimism from the era of his utopian dreams of the perfect tomorrow, the 1964 New York City World’s Fair, his original Epcot ideas, etc. It’s directed by Brad Bird, one of those rare filmmakers who appeared unable to put a foot wrong in the eyes of many; unfortunately early reviews of this have not been so kind, with many critical of the film’s inability to resolve the various mysteries it presents (two words: Damon Lindelof) at the same time as praising its visual scope.
Michael Giacchino had scored Bird’s three previous movies and it was no surprise to find the busy composer returning for this one. He’s already got one wide-eyed Spielbergian homage under his belt having worked on Super 8 with J.J Abrams and delivering one of his best film scores in the process; and his previous scores for Bird are great. So all the signs were there that this could be a special one and that’s what Giacchino has delivered, one of his warmest scores, the bold theme and action music style of Star Trek mixed with the whimsy and sense of wonder of Super 8.
The album opens with a very brief cue, “A Story About the Future”, which sums the score up – a gentle piano solo building up to a burst of the brassy, exhilarating main theme, one of the composer’s most memorable. Twinkly magic is then the order of the day in “A Prologue”, a second theme introduced immediately, this one long-lined and nostalgic in this guise but later in the score played much darker. The third track brings the third theme (though it has to be said they’re all closely related melodically and harmonically), “You’ve Piqued My Pin-trist” being the most magical of all, gentle wonder gradually giving way to all out majesty and awe with the main theme finally being revealed in full in the cue’s second half.
Finally “Boat Wait, There’s More!” briefly brings the last of the score’s main themes and this one seems familiar thanks to a striking if superficial similarity to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade‘s Grail theme. It’s only there in passing (there’s no mistaking Giacchino’s distinctive style all over it) and I’m sure was a coincidence but it’s a bit of work to stop thinking about the similarity, especially during its lengthy outing in “What an Eiffel!” where you get six minutes of variations on it.
Much of the score is built around that core of themes. Giacchino’s music tends to have a very malleable quality to it and he is able to insert fragments of themes here, there and everywhere and do so much with them. The next track on the album after those I’ve mentioned, “Edge of Tomorrowland”, sees bits of different themes played against each other in a rambunctious, rollicking action cue. “Pin-ultimate Experience” is a sensational cue, the main theme given its fullest workout and it’s absolutely thrilling, the composer getting close to an “Adventure on Earth” or “Rocketeer to the Rescue” moment; no, it’s not as good as them, but they are two of the finest pieces of film music ever written so being mentioned in the same sentence is a sign that you’ve done something pretty damn right. Warm, endearing and above all just so sweet and lovely, it’s a highlight of the composer’s career so far.
There’s some great action music on the album – “All House Assault” is a thrilling piece, one of the album’s darkest, absolutely thunderous at times. I love the sinister air that permeates through “Sphere and Loathing”, cartoonish perhaps but very well done. Contrast that with the earnest seriousness of “As the World Burns” which immediately follows. “The Battle of Bridgeway” is breathless, florid and so exciting. The final three tracks, covering about 15 minutes between them, are something else and bring things to a perfect conclusion. “Electric Dreams” goes back to the heartfelt wonder and whimsy of the score’s earlier moments. Then there’s the lovely “Pins of a Feather”, with further long-lined exploration of the thematic material building to a rousing close before an end credits suite reprising all the main themes (it’s great that Giacchino still does that – and frankly almost unbelievable that it’s become the exception rather than the rule).
My favourite film score by Giacchino so far has been Ratatouille, which is so lighthearted and fun and yet done with total professionalism and demonstrating incredible craft. Tomorrowland is right up there with it, undoubtedly more saccharine but that’s kept in check just enough that it is never a problem for me. I think the best music he’s done remains in the world of video games and – in the best moments of Lost – television, but he’s building a seriously impressive body of work in film too and this is as good as anything he’s written for the medium, bolstered by such a tangible air of magic. It’s a long album but never seems so, with constant energy and enthusiasm proving infectious. 2015 could well be a banner year for the composer, the terrific Jupiter Ascending having landed at the start of the year and a new Pixar movie and Jurassic World still to come.
Rating: **** 1/2