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Josh Gives a Listen to Michael Giacchino’s Complete Score to Star Trek (2009)!

Not long after the release of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (which I reviewed here), Varese Sarabande released Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009).

I have been a big fan of Michael Giacchino for years now.  I love his TV work (for Lost, Alias, etc.), and I think his score for The Incredibles is one of the most perfect film scores ever crafted.  So I was very excited by the news, back in 2009, that he’d be scoring J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek relaunch. I have mixed feelings about the finished film, and I can’t say that I was totally in love with the score either.  Still, when news of this CD release reached me, I was excited by the prospect of experiencing Mr. Giacchino’s score on its own.

Sadly, as I listened to this double-CD set, I felt as luke-warm about the score as I had when first experiencing it with the finished film.  Mr. Giacchino is a terrific composer, there is no doubt, and he’s certainly created a fast-paced, energetic score.  But it all feels a little bland to me.  There aren’t a lot of distinct, dramatic themes for the viewer/listener to hold on to (as there were, for example, in James Horner’s phenomenal scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III).

Mr. Giacchino did create a dynamic new main Star Trek/Kirk theme.  This music (which plays over the opening titles, and which builds to strong crescendos as the film progresses and young James Kirk begins to become the man he is destined to be) is pretty great – it’s eminently memorable, and provides a strong back-bone for much of the film’s action sequences.  Mr. Giacchino also created a lovely, quiet new Spock/Vulcan theme.  It’s hard to out-do Mr. Horner’s iconic Spock/Vulcan music, but I quite enjoyed Mr. Giacchino’s take on this material.

Other than those two themes, though, I found most of the rest of the score to be – while pleasant to listen to – rather generic.  I was particularly disappointed by the lack of the famous Alexander Courage Star Trek theme from the score.  Mr. Giacchino makes us wait all the way to the end credits until we get to hear any of those familiar themes.  True, when that moment comes, we get a wonderfully rocking re-orchestration of the full classic Star Trek TV theme (presented on this CD set on disc two, tracks 15 “To Boldly Go” and 16 “End Credits”).  But there were so many moments during the film – such as Kirk and McCoy’s first glimpse of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and Kirk’s first moment sitting in the Captain’s chair on the Enterprise bridge – that I felt cried out for a few bars of the classic Trek theme.

Sadly, I found the rest of the CD package to be just as underwhelming.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled by some of the great soundtrack releases I’ve picked up recently, but I was bummed by the lack of any liner-notes.  I would have loved to have been able to read some additional information about the different tracks of the score – when Mr. Giacchino’s thinking was, what instruments were used, etc.  I also must comment that I don’t know who titled the tracks – was it Mr. Giacchino himself? – but whoever it was has the worst, most corny sense of humor ever.  Practically every track has a painfully punny title – such as “Hack to the Future,” “A Whole in my Hearth,” “Chutes and Matter,” “The Flask at Hand,” and on and on.  Blech!

Heh.  Now I’m just piling on, huh?  It’s true that when I come to Trek, I have very high standards.  And let’s be clear, Mr. Giacchino has created a fine score, and it is great to have it presented in its entirety on CD.  But it’s not the classic score that I had been hoping for, and it’s not a great Star Trek score.

Perhaps there will be better luck with the upcoming Trek sequel?

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