Star Trek Into Darkness - Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Review


Star Trek Into Darkness - Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack Review

Those score-fans hoping that Michael Giacchino might have boldly gone where he hadn't gone before with his music for Star Trek Into Darkness are going to be disappointed to find that he has only taken a couple of tentative steps out of the comforting Federation umbrella that he erected for himself first time around. Whilst certainly competent and very dramatic in places, the score is a huge rehash of precisely what has gone before. Just like the film, in fact.

A shortened album presentation, as we have here, is rarely ever going to be much consolation in the absence of a full score as far as fans are concerned. You are missing out on potentially exciting material regardless of how well the resulting arrangement has been put together ... and most modern releases, in this vogue, are carelessly flung together with no appreciation for flow or mood. Composers like Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams were adept at putting together such abbreviated concoctions that were able to combine main themes and motifs and enjoyable "suites" and create fabulous standalone variations into one hugely satisfying compendium of "highlights", almost like a concert interpretation. They were both experts at the craft, viewing the shorter, more condensed album as a separate entity from the score entirely and often reworking the original material into a variation upon what was heard dramatically and emotionally in the film. The first soundtrack release of Michael Giacchino’s score for the 2009 reboot of Star Trek was a good example of this sort of specially arranged album. One of the best composers that we have these days, Giacchino arranged a fabulous interpretation of the score that, in some ways, flowed much better than the full, 2-disc presentation that was released later (and preceded by a furious amount of fan demand), with some edits and cue-changes really adding impetus.

With this in mind, I approached this general, full-scale release of the shortened presentation from Varese Sarabande, in the hopes that it would retain a similarly dynamic and exciting momentum. However, losing possibly as much as thirty minutes of score does, inevitably, leave a gaping hole., even if most of the crucial cues are catered-for.

All that stuff I just said about composers being able to create special album presentations that work in their own right – well, this 47-minute release may not be the best example. Whilst tremendous fun, I don’t think it holds together with quite the same level of intensity, thematic flow or cohesion as the first Trek reboot’s album. Yes, the main themes are all glistening front and centre. And, yes, some of the newer material has plenty of exposure. But the overall listening experience is a poor relation to the previous “small” score, in that it is lacking thematic coverage, linear momentum and that essential standalone satisfaction.

But, don’t worry, there is still a lot to commend and to savour. As we shall see.

We are going track-by-track, folks, as usual ... and discussing how the score fits the film. So lots of narrative detail from JJ Abrams’ movie will be covered.

Giacchino writes busy music. Really densely packed, energetic, ever-bustling, ever-rushing, complexly orchestrated music. Big, bold and busy. You sometimes get the impression that he has two or three orchestras on the go at the same time. All in running shoes. He lines ’em up, and he sets ’em off galloping towards some musical horizon as though all the hounds of hell are snapping at their heels. In recent years, he has become the master at such kinetic, full-blooded scoring, taking the baton from Goldsmith and Williams and even if he cannot properly compete with good old Jerry G., I believe that he consistently betters the Williams that we have heard over the last fourteen years or so, War of the Worlds being the best he has been able to come up with amongst a slurry of over-praised, over-earnest lush-mush.

With easily hummable themes, distinctly emotive variations of which are intelligently interwoven throughout and strong, helter-skelter rhythms that bound along with boisterous warmth and good-natured excitement – Ratatouille, Up and Speed Racer – or amped-up on super-charged adrenal overdoses of pulsating macho heroism – M:I-3 and 4, John Carter and the first Star Trek - Michael Giacchino generally composes the equivalent of a runaway rollercoaster.

The brilliance, speed and impulse power of which is certainly heard at the beginning of his score for Into Darkness. You'd best hold on to your Tribbles!

Violating the Federation’s Prime Directive in pretty much every way conceivable, Kirk (Chris Pine) and McCoy (Karl Urban) race headlong through the vibrant red forest of a primitive alien world and take a plunge over a cliff, whilst Spock (Zachary Quinto) drops down into the bubbling heart of an angry volcano with space-age tech to quell its ancient rage. And, after saving the locals from disaster and plucking one another to safety, launch the Enterprise up out of its hidey-hole beneath the sea for one of many, many money shots in the film. It’s a proactive and hugely pell-mell beginning to a story that doesn’t let up for almost another two hours. And Michael Giacchino is precisely the sort of guy who can keep up.

We start with the main theme, slow and regal, more resonant and bass-thrumming than usual in Logos/Pranking the Natives. Distant chimes, gongs and a harp add a far-off celestial splendour, anchoring its sense of nobility, and the “questing” motif of adventure. Bass drums tremble to a deep sustain, shivering strings forming the herald of anticipation. And then ... we roar into a giddy, immaculately syncopated chase theme as Kirk and McCoy, regardless of their disguise, find themselves hotly pursued by the locals through that scarlet forest. Tom-toms rally about in a fast-paced and distinctly funky 60’s vibe, snare drums and excited will-o-wisps from violins careen against chirpy woodwinds, capturing the sort of uber-cool dynamics that Giacchino was able to bring to The Incredibles and his M-I scores. A heavy cloud develops out of the portentous main theme, but the ceaseless drive of drums, ethnic percussion and surging strings keeps things propulsive.

The breakneck, life and death struggle continues in Spock Drops, Kirk Jumps with the backing of a choir, bleating horns and a martial beat from snares. There is something of a smirk-inducing pace to the barrelling-along nature of the rhythm, almost reminiscent of the garrulous chase theme from Ratatouille at one point. Giacchino is able to inject a sense of fun into even the most dramatic of events. John Carter had this in spades. And this is excellent at providing a large-scale orchestral smack round the chops, yet maintaining that rambunctious Saturday Matinee feel. The track culminates, appropriately enough, with a thunderous, edge-of-seat countdown motif not unlike the sort of thing that James Horner has made almost his signature. Think Bishop’s Countdown from Aliens, only hastened-up a bit. This pulsating tsunami will be boundlessly repeated in even more heart-pounding manner towards the end of the score.

Sub Prime Directive tosses a harp-laced rendition of Courage fanfare into the middle of a statuesque variation of the new Trek theme. Even though we’ve heard all this before, even down to the huge, pounding drums that crash the sequence to a rousing climax, it is an addictively jingoistic motif that surges with pride. I may not agree with the amount of times that we hear it over the course of the two Abrams movies, but there is no denying that it is a fantastic modern genre anthem ... and let’s face it, we have so few of them to fire the blood these days. Although I’m keeping everything crossed and praying to the gods that I’m wrong, I can’t help feeling that Hans Zimmer will let us down with the lack of a memorable new Superman theme for Man of Steel.

Although I believe it gets overplayed, this is still destined to become a classic dose of passionate valour.

For the film’s main villain, Giacchino has written a splendid theme that is versatile enough to sustain several permutations, interweaving with various other thematic elements as the narrative dictates. Like the old school maestros that he beautifully emulates, Giacchino is considerably skilled at creating such sinuous, multi-faceted melodies. For instance, when first heard, you assume the theme is for someone else, but it is deceptive and masquerading terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is pulling the strings, and the theme, thus, takes on different airs and forms to aid in his deadly subterfuge.

To start with, a wistful strain of lush piano-led melancholy brings a completely new dimension to the re-energised Trek sound in London Calling. This interpretation is for the deal with the Devil that Starfleet officer Thomas Harewood (Noel Clarke) makes in order to save his terminally ill daughter, and it strikes a core of emotional vulnerability that is frail, lonely and suffused entirely with tragedy. Saving her will cost him his own life, as well as the lives of many other Federation personnel in an act of terrorism by blackmail. Whereas Giacchino broke hearts with his fabulously moving, yet profoundly heroic material for Kirk’s father making the ultimate sacrifice in the first film, by ramming the USS Kelvin into Romulan Nero’s huge vessel to buy time for his crew to make their escape, he goes for a different, more subtle approach here. Gone is the sweep and grandeur of full symphonic throat-lumpage, replaced by tender, forlorn notes that tap out a litany of quiet despair. It is a beautiful theme that seems out of place against the immensity of galactic Sturm und Drang that occupies the majority of the score, yet it reveals a sense of emotional complexity that drifts in-tandem with Cumberbatch’s magnetic performance. Tense strings shiver, their caress around the piano a delicate lament. The music implies the stepping out of the shadows for one character, but the unremitting journey deep into darkness for another as the terrible bargain is struck and Harewood brings about disaster, and a fearful chain of events. Here, if anywhere, is prime evidence of the needs of the One outweighing the needs of the Many, with a father’s desperate decision to sacrifice many to save his own daughter. If the film wanted to imply this inversion of Trek-lore, by the way, I feel it is a sentiment that went mostly unnoticed.

Missing out the action of Harrison’s attack on Starfleet Headquarters, Meld-Merized focuses upon the death of Kirk’s mentor Christopher (“I believe in you.”) Pike and the final sensations and emotions that Spock is able to glean from his fading mind. It is a strangely unmoving and unsentimental piece – long, low tones sigh against the unspoken shock of both Kirk and Spock, never quite attaining a foothold on the plateau of grief that such a loss, with its strong personal ramifications for Jim, should reach. Then again, Giacchino is saving the emotional thunderclaps for later on. Towards its conclusion, the track blends into another element of Harrison’s theme as we see just how far the renegade has been able to remove himself from the scene of the crime. There is a subdued declaration from brass as percussion and strings hammer out a deadly code of cunning malice s he surveys his distant bolt-hole.

Although a fair bit of material has been skipped-over to get to this point, one of the score’s biggest set-pieces comes next. Tracing Harrison’s location to Kronos, the Klingon home-world, Kirk takes the Enterprise on a commando raid to stealthily extract him without causing a galactic war. However, their landing craft is spotted by a Klingon vessel and they are driven to ground to face punishment for trespassing.

Here’s something that has surprised me quite a bit. Giacchino’s Klingon theme, heard in The Kronos Wartet (a rather unsubtle play on the name of the famous ensemble, The Kronos Quartet), with its sharply belched choral interjections spiking the nerves with weird, unintelligible blurts of Klingon gibberish, sounds exactly like Roque Banos’ furiously exhilarating track – The Final Scene – from his outstanding Evil Dead score. So much so, in fact, that it cannot help but detract from one, or even both. This is either a massive coincidence, or somebody has copied somebody else. In the film, Kirk, Spock, Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and a couple of red-jerseys have a major run-in with the nasally enhanced, facially pierced (and somewhat disappointingly visualised) Klingon squad in a squalid, disused quadrant on Kronos , and the music is mostly lost and drowned-out by the gunfire and the explosions. The chanting element is almost completely drowned out during the air-battle with the pursuing Klingon ship. Hearing it now, divorced from the visuals and the engulfing pyrotechnics and, quite importantly, after Banos has delivered such wild fury for the otherwise neutered Deadites, the theme is rather diminished by this similarity. Although there is a pounding insistency to the cue, the actual Klingon motif, if this is what we are really hearing (and I greatly suspect that it is) is really rather poor. I have no doubt that Giacchino can elaborate upon this theme and bestow it with much more emotively distinct decoration if he is given the opportunity. But, as it stands, this fails to ignite a sense of the alien and the uncanny, or evoke any semblance of a tribal warrior caste. It is an action cue, of course ... and because of the suspenseful nature of the sequence, this takes precedence. But then, score-fans need only recall the classic theme that Jerry Goldsmith created for the race in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That, too, was an action sequence of sorts, but in Goldsmith’s hands it was bedecked with mystery, exoticism, terror and awe – all bounded together with one of the catchiest motifs that the franchise has to offer. James Horner allowed this motif to evolve still further when he was tasked with finding a musical voice for the Klingons, and the result was, once again, mesmerising, unusual and full of alien power, albeit curled around a cheeky little whiff of panto-villainy.

Giacchino, whom I greatly admire, doesn’t capture any of this, I’m afraid. The whole thing is reduced to a screeching, relentless tumble of violent licks and beats.

This choral chanting could have been a great move. Hans Zimmer (the love/hate relationship continues) delivered a tremendous wallop of bludgeoningly simplistic yet highly effective chanting for the bruising Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Roque Banos’ Evil Dead hullabaloo works brilliantly because of its occult fascination, its nigh-on unstoppable pace and its devilish fury, the shrieking voices adding a uniquely bloodcurdling dimension. Sadly, it just doesn’t work here ... and to me, personally, the motif sounds farcical. Frankly, I expected far more from someone of Giacchino’s standard.

And yet the actual music around this rather embarrassing chanting is really good however, which puts me in a bit of a quandary. Whilst I love the violence of the cue – there’s an anvil getting battered, a scratchy bass guitar growling away, metal percussion tingling and chiming, a prepared piano echoing with sonorous reverb, and all manner of percussion pounding against a surging welter of strings and brass – this first phase of a track with several cues, with the mixed voices involved, sounds too cluttered, and overwhelmed by activity. The voices, in their cringing gusto, lack a sinister aura that may have worked far better under the circumstances. I can see in my mind’s eye the choir belting out these forceful Klingon cadences ... and it just makes me wince.

But, once the Federation people are downed and surrounded and Uhura attempts to broker peace with them, the track then goes on into a section of groaning strings and glamour from suspended cymbals, developing into a tense, primitive sound of dredged-up animosity. The cue then surges, rising with the accompaniment of drums, now finding a far more effective tribal pattern, glittering timpani and echoing bass. The second and third stages of the track become altogether more menacing and accomplished once the chanting has ceased. In the film, however, it seems that the opening choir ‘n’ grunt piece is actually repeated during the furious running battle that inevitably ensues when negotiations break down. It is hard to be sure because, once again, the music is all but piled-upon by sound FX. Thankfully, the track does not repeat the chanting here. Violins, cymbals and brass punch out the finale of the cue as Harrison suddenly appears and decimates the Klingon snatch-squad and, ultimately surrenders to Starfleet.

After missing out a brief but emphatic phrase of Harrison’s theme as he is marched through the Enterprise under guard, Brigadoom becomes an interesting track of several dark unpeeling layers. Incarcerated behind one of those now clichéd see-through walls in a cell on the ship, the captured fugitive reveals sparks of insight to Kirk, after McCoy obtains a rather “interesting” blood sample from him. The music describing this encounter is icy, cold and skin-prickling. It is possibly a vibraphone that is gleaming with the watery lilt of a finger running around the rim of wine-glass. The oscillating glimmer has an ironic reflection of Horner’s theme for Spock, but the cue then lattices this with dark, worried sheaths from the strings as Kirk realises that his prisoner very possibly has the upper hand. This cue is broken up in the film into two, because the rest of it plays over a later moment when Harrison comes clean about his true identity (you know who he is!) and speaks of his betrayal at the hands of Starfleet. Naturally, it all flows well together here on disc, adding spectral tension, and a dark-hearted nobility with slowly scored metallic percussion and dread-tinged dissonance. The liquid echo of the vibraphone brilliantly evokes the tear of pain that courses down Khan’s face.

Brigadoom culminates majestically as the colossal USS Vengeance appears before the diminutive Enterprise. A brassy fanfare denotes the Federation status of the vessel, but its heraldic maritime fervour is held in check ... as things seem "damned irregular". Flutterings from the harp are suggestive of awe and wonder. The climax of the cue is tense – a standoff – but there is a subdued, camouflaged semi-rendition of the Enterprise theme at the end, effectively dwarfed by the intimidating size and darkness of the bigger ship.

Lots of material is missing from the exchanges between Kirk and Carol (Alice Eve) and Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) over the viewscreen, and the scenes of the Vengeance subsequently chasing down the Enterprise. Possibly just tense underscore, so many listeners won’t be too concerned about them not being here.

Crippled by the superior ship, Kirk is allied reluctantly with Harrison/Khan, and the pair have to make a perilous space-plummet from the stricken Enterprise to the imperious Vengeance in Ship to Ship to hook up with Scotty (Simon Pegg), who appears to have interstellar SAS skills at infiltration and sabotage. Hyper-tense strings, jittery woods, pounding drums, looping harp flurries, gothic chimes and super-sizzling cymbal sustains that just go on and on, create one of the most white-knuckling set-pieces in the score. This is a superb cue that is pure heart-in-mouth stuff! The accompanying scene in the film, sadly, is derivative of the chute-jump from the first film and, as such, loses much suspense. Giacchino, though, does everything he can to set the pulse to Warp Factor 10.

More furious action takes place in Earthbound and Down. The pace is steady and unyielding, angular clashes on anvil and insistent percussion drive forward. Screaming strings give the impression of G-force acceleration as the Enterprise plummets towards the surface of the Earth, penetrating the atmosphere and breaking the cloud-cover. Batteries of drums are beaten, the cue genuinely pitching from side to side as though buffeted by a violent descent. Strings lurch and scream as Kirk and Scotty negotiate corridors and gangways that suddenly confuse up with down, and leave them hanging on for dear life. The harp goes into overdrive. Suddenly, Chekov’s (Anton Yelchin) hand makes a timely grab over the railing to haul up the dangling duo to a welcome reprise of the main Enterprise theme, momentarily exultant. A darker, grungier rendition then follows, before being flung towards a harp-swirling maelstrom and a dramatic crescendo that sounds very akin to one that Maurice Jarre performed during The Big Chase in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I’m not certain, but this track sounds slightly shorter than the sequence heard in the film. Then again, material could have been tracked-in from elsewhere.

If you enjoy being catapulted to the threshold of euphoria, then the heavenly orchestration of Warp Core Values will take some beating. Kirk takes it upon himself to tamper with the warp drive and get the ship’s power back online, knowing that the task will surely kill him with exposure to the radiation in the chamber. Aye, Cap’n, we’ve seen it all before and we know what’s gonna happen! After a rolling siren-like intro, Giacchino brings in Kirk Senior’s theme in slow, inexorable earnest. Then, with the backing of an angelic choir – a marked difference to the Klingon bleating from earlier – this moves into the Enterprise theme, again slow and heartfelt as opposed to the chest-beating anthem of the Enterprising Young Men clarion-call. As Kirk swings those double-kicks that William Shatner made famous in use against his enemies in an effort to dislodge the warp-drive housing and reactive the power, the theme gets slower and more reverent, climbing higher like some ecclesiastical hymn. Its spiritual power is unmistakable. It is incredibly affecting, its finale a cathartic expression of sacrifice and ascendance. Whatever you think about the film’s replaying of Wrath’s eventuality, the music provides ample heart and soul, and sears itself across the landscape of the story.

Kirk Senior’s elegiac theme gets a wonderfully moving rendition in Buying The Space Farm in an eloquently poetic linking of two fates, the father’s and the son’s. It was enormously heartbreaking the first time around as Chris Hemsworth made such an impact in the earlier film’s mini-movie prologue, and this smaller, more porcelain-fragile variation is sweetly agonising and blissfully poignant. The roles reversed from the staggering tragic conclusion of Wrath of Khan, another see-through barrier stands between two men who have been forced to face up to their responsibilities, their duty and code of loyalty, and their friendship. In the film, this is a massive stretch and wholly unnecessary – a woeful component in a screenplay that does, I’m afraid, seem all the more wretched to me every time I think about it – but Giacchino has the conviction to see it through with absolute sincerity. Without his bittersweet lament, and the fine performances from Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, this scene would be a complete travesty.

The standout track of the score has just got to be The San Fran Hustle. An enraged Spock has beamed down to the wreckage of the Vengeance and is in foot pursuit of Khan. If you listen, you’ll discover that Giacchino has marvellously transformed his gentle and ethereal theme for the Vulcan into a punishing action cue. Furious staccato from horns combines with steel-shredding scythes and hammered dulcimer. These edgy metallic swishes sound like a mighty sword being drawn, with a trace of the Vibranium rebound from Captain America’s shield. Cymbals recoil. Driving rhythms for brass and drums accelerate, accentuated by swirls from woods and violin carving. Giacchino loves his percussion and his drums. His chase music is full of them. No-one can forget his testosterone-fuelled cue for Ethan Hunt running through Shanghai in M-I:3. His musical riot squad wastes no time here, joining Spock in a pugilistic rampage that will, ultimately, mimic the scene of his youthful self battering a bully on Vulcan. It is one of those cues that you will find hard to simply sit through. It’s playing as I write and the poor keyboard is taking some grief, I can tell you! Keep charging out to slam a few into the punchbag – it’s that galvanising. Yet Giacchino is a craftsman who can blend themes, mood and pace in the blink of an eye. Thus, pivoting between the fury of Spock’s pursuit and airborne brawling with Khan atop industrial garbage-sluices and the dilemma of McCoy’s trials and Tribble-ations back aboard the Enterprise with that “bloody” miracle cure for Kirk (!), the track has an ebb and flow in the midst of such strenuous flight.

There has been a lot of harp-play in this score – which is an element that I adore – but there are sections during this whiplash sequence when the instrument is just there, being teased to no real purpose, or effect. It’s a nice enough flourish, of course, adding a hint of finesse to the action – which certainly covers some ground (and air) of the future ‘Frisco – but I can’t help thinking that Giacchino has simply written it in just because he could. I know I’m nitpicking, but this is a composer who has repeatedly amazed me over the last few years with his dizzyingly agile writing and orchestration, so when little niggles like this creep in they sort of stand out a mile to my ears. However, this remains one awesome track of blistering intensity and unremitting adrenaline. Of the two big epic action cues – the other being The Kronos Wartet – this is the most strenuously addictive, and is guaranteed to leave you breathless.

By the time we get to Kirk Enterprises (I have to say the track titles for this score aren’t quite as clever or as canny as Giacchino normally employs), we need a breather. Thus, we have the Enterprise theme, again, in elegiac mode, slowly gathering strength and resonance as does Kirk, coming back from the dead, the two entities and their motifs combining into a rhapsodising flourish of the Courage fanfare as the little matter of a five-year mission to explore strange new worlds gets underway.

The iTunes Bonus Track is entitled Growl and is the source cue that we hear when Scotty and his cauliflower-headed alien sidekick are consoling themselves in a bar. It should appear directly after the track Brigadoom. This annoying techno dance track from Conway features lyrics allegedly penned partly by JJ Abrams – at least they weren’t from Damon Lindelof, eh? – and is probably best left out of any playlist. It is not that it is badly produced - it simply does not fit the tone of the score in any way, shape or form. I do, however, applaud the fact that it has been made available for completists. And, damn it all, once you’ve heard it you won’t be able to get it out of your head!

“This must be the place”... aarrghhhhh ... turn it off!!!!!!

The omission of the haunting track Ode To John Harrison is regrettable, but this will be reinstated in the full, expanded release, of course. However, flavours of this cue are liberally dispersed around various tracks already.

A cop-out is the signing-off track, Star Trek Main Theme. This is simply the anthem from the first film and now highly established as the new fanfare. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. On the contrary, I think it is excellent. But why utilise it here when the actual end credits in the movie take us on a fabulous tour of the new themes that Giacchino had created, with their emotional weight and psychology all addressed in one engaging suite? It would have served as a more vital and satisfying conclusion than a track that we already have. Okay, there are some slight modifications. The theme begins with a playful woodblock tapping, and the orchestration places emphasis slightly differently upon cymbal clashes, choral backing and the impetus of the bass. But, essentially, this is nothing new.

It is perhaps symptomatic of modern film scores, and the composer’s notes for franchises in particular. But when we listen back to the wealth of Star Trek scores that came before, practically the only repetitive motif was the original Alexander Courage fanfare that each and every composer paid homage to. Only James Horner really retained the same thematic narrative from one film to another, with Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock (both scores reviewed already), but since they were carrying on with the one story arc, this is perfectly acceptable. Abrams’ two movies are entirely separate entities and I can’t help but think that each chapter we get from now on, providing Giacchino is still on board, is going to sound, in two parts at least, identical to the previous ones. At the moment, the main themes are still smart and exhilarating. But they will go stale very quickly if the adventures are not allowed to take on their own distinctive musical identity.

To further illustrate my point, listen to Williams’ phenomenal scores for Jaws and Jaws 2 and, most especially, for the original Star Wars trilogy and the first three Indiana Jones yarns. The main fanfares were justifiably carried-over, but every score went down a different path and created a fresh new presence that was immediately identifiable with each particular film. Or try the James Bond scores. One motif unites them all, but every single score is different. So far, we have not had that from Giacchino’s Trek. Admittedly, we are only two films in, but nothing significantly new or different has been crafted with this evolution, other than a little bit of piano-led chamber music and some risible, red-faced Klingon chanting.

In the full score, balanced out by far more material that is new, the familiar themes would not be so crushing. As it stands, this is a short(ish) album that has possibly too much time taken up with musical cues that we have heard before, and a lot of us already have to hand. Yet, there is no denying the drive with which Giacchino typically launches his aural assault, and the whole experience is generally still a good, and frequently exciting one. But fans know that the complete score, or at least as near as dammit, will materialise eventually. For now, this adds some more Trek for your ears, irrespective of how pointy they might be.

Track Listing:

1. Logos/Pranking The Natives (3:01)

2. Spock Drops, Kirk Jumps (1:43)

3. Sub Prime Directive (2:23)

4. London Calling (2:09)

5. Meld-merized (2:40)

6. The Kronos Wartet (5:25)

7. Brigadoom (3:41)

8. Ship To Ship (2:50)

9. Earthbound And Down (2:37)

10. Warp Core Values (2:56)

11. Buying The Space Farm (3:17)

12. The San Fran Hustle (5:00)

13. Kirk Enterprises (3:00)

14. Star Trek Main Theme (3:25)

15. Growl (2.56) - Bonus Track (performed by Conway, written by JJ Abrams, Charles Scott, Anne Preven and Cassia Conway)

Like the film, Giacchino’s score for the second phase of Abrams’ Trekkian reboot does not reach the levels of excitement and invention that we experienced back in 2009. The themes and motifs from the first instalment are all present and correct, and they are hugely welcome, of course. But the new material and the overall drive and texture of this truncated album release - and we need to remember that this is only an abbreviated version – is smothered in familiarity.

Although I can still safely say that this is another winning score overall, I can't help but have reservations about some of it, and its presentation here. This said, the music on offer contains most of the new themes and certainly covers a fair chunk of the film’s action. My first reaction to the new Klingon theme when I heard it alongside the movie was favourable. But upon experiencing it divorced from the visuals reveals it to be basically a generic mishmash of Goldsmith and Horner’s classic interpretations, just without any of the tribal inventiveness or alien personality that made the themes those two maestros created so eerily primal and memorable. Pitching in a choir belching in Klingon definitely doesn’t help either, I'm afraid. But I suppose it is one of those things that you will either love, or loathe. Sadly, I fall quite cataclysmically into the latter camp.

Another area of concern is that repetition of already established themes eventually grates, so this is a release with a lot of ups and downs. The ups are positively exhilarating and even euphoric, and the downs are probably easy for most to overlook. So, at the end of the day, it would be impossible not to recommend this initial release. But the fact remains that fully paid-up devotees will have to double-dip when the time comes and the complete score is released.

Giacchino is the modern master of action scoring, and even if Into Darkness doesn’t wow in quite the way that many would have expected it to, it certainly doesn’t do anything to change that. If you love hearing a large orchestra positively romping at Warp Factor 10, then you will have a ball with this. It is rip-roaring cosmic hullabaloo – writ huge and furious.







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