Composer Michael Giacchino has one of the most recognizable names in film scoring today. He’s a go-to guy for big, thematic scores in movies of all sorts. Pixar movies, vampire horror, supersmart ape dystopias — you name it. Giacchino is also one of the names fans use when they think about the sad eventuality of John Williams no longer being able to compose for Star Wars. It makes sense. Williams is no spring chicken. Colin Trevorrow, director of the upcoming Episode IX, worked with Giacchino on Jurassic World. But the score for that film, despite its use of Williams’s classic themes, just wasn’t all that “Williams-y”. Imagine my surprise when the score for Star Trek Beyond captured the essence that was so absent in Jurassic World. Here are five tracks from the Star Trek Beyond score that best represent that Williams vibe.
“Thank Your Lucky Star Date”
Right from the start, Star Trek Beyond shows a commitment to broadening its musical horizons. This track starts off with a very familiar arrangement of Giacchino‘s theme for the Kelvin timeline but quickly changes gear into something more contemplative. The theme transitions to piano, offering a minimal variation that establishes the quieter tone of the first act.
“Night on the Yorktown”
In the three Kelvin timeline films, nothing captures the heart of Star Trek like Yorktown. When the Enterprise crew arrives at this Federation space station, Star Trek’s utopian optimism is there to greet them. The score complements the scene perfectly: it’s a magical place, full of convenience and wonder. These elements are sorely missed in 2009’s Star Trek and its sequel, and it warms my heart to see them back. Giacchino’s music for Yorktown is appropriately grand. His use of a huge chorus, bringing many voices together, expresses the unity of the Federation.
“A Swarm Reception”
You want a John Williams-inspired action cue? Here you go. The first thirty seconds of this cue could’ve come from a lost Jaws movie. Harsh stabs of trumpet evoke moments from The Force Awakens and Revenge of the Sith. This powerful bit of scoring serves as a much more memorable introduction to the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) than the actual attack sequence in the film, which got a bit muddled with visual chaos.
One of the significant trends in contemporary film scoring is overusing ostinato — long repetitions of a single motif — in action. Hans Zimmer, for instance, is big on ostinato. Sometimes he does it well (Interstellar). Sometimes he doesn’t (Batman v Superman). John Williams, however, never relies on ostinato too heavily for fast-paced sequences. His scores shift and change to wrap themselves around the action on screen, changing tempo and meter frequently. This track, however, is a master class on how to do big action scoring that uses some ostinato but also adheres to the action on screen. Bravo!
“Cater-Krall in Zero G”
In the film’s climactic sequence, Giacchino uses a mournful solo trumpet for Krall, whose tragic past resonates throughout the movie’s third act. That trumpet is a distinctly military sound, with a sad finality. It befits Krall’s militaristic nature to get played off by a solo trumpet, almost like “Taps”. His theme, heard throughout the score in more bombastic variations, becomes funereal. It’s a musical moment unlike any other in the film — a real standout.
With Star Trek‘s Kelvin timeline finally on solid ground, it’s fitting that composer Michael Giacchino, whose main Trek theme is one of the best in contemporary film music, delivered another solid score. Its obvious Williams influence is something new for Star Trek, but instead of just aping John Williams, Star Trek Beyond‘s score finds an identity of its own. I think it’s a healthy sign that Giacchino may, in a few years, boldly go where J.J. Abrams has gone before.