Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Movie Music Musings - Giacchino's 2015

For film score fans 2015 is turning out to be a great year. Lots of fun and exciting music coming out for the the summer season, and plenty of good dramatic scores to look forward to this awards season. I've heard some people lamenting that the films this year aren't too hot, but that is one of the things about being a film score fan - sometimes the crappiest movies have the best music to them (and you can look at my Mining for Goldsmith series to see that in action).

One of my favorite current composers is Michael Giacchino. In 2013 I wrote a whole blog about his work and why I loved it. So when I found out he was going to tackle not two movies, not three, but FOUR big exciting summer films, I was stoked. Giacchino excels in bringing energy and excitement to his film music. 

One of the biggest hits of this summer was Jurassic World, and Giacchino provided the perfect score. He took the template John Williams created back in 1993 and used it as a starting point. Giacchino does uses a few quotes of William's themes, but beyond that he builds his own themes. These are very much Giacchino in style, but they use the same orchestral colors and feel that Williams used. The result is a great fit for the sequel, a shift from the original sound, but still very much part of the same series. Film music fans also got a treat when hints from The Lost World and even a video game for the franchise that Giacchino scored when he was first starting out get little audio cameos. One of the best tracks is As the Jurassic World Turns, featuring Giacchino's wonderful new themes, and ending with a fun quote of John Williams music from the original film.

Michael Giacchino has worked with director Brad Bird and Pixar for a number of years. So it was really no surprise that he would be working again with both this year. Brad Bird helmed the poorly reviewed Tomorrowland, a film that seemed to have quite a bit of potential, but appears to have an ending that makes the journey feel hollow. One thing that didn't feel hollow was the music. Gicchino captures the spirit of wonder, adventure and fun in this score. It is optimistic and really reminds me of The Rocketeer in places. This score is a bit repetitive. However, Giacchino really does some interesting things with his simple theme. Check out this track, The Pin-Ultimate Experience to hear some uplifting adventure music.

Teaming up with the folks at Pixar won Michael Giacchino an academy award of Up. So expectations were pretty high for his music to Inside Out. For this film Giacchino went to his jazzier side, something he did really well with for The Incredibles, Speed Racer and portions of his Mission:Impossible scores. His main theme is really cute and memorable. But he crafts several key themes, creates some bouncy traveling music and even some thrills an spills along the way. It doesn't have the gravitas of the three other scores, but it really is non-stop fun and so energetic. It just might be my favorite of the four. So many great tracks on this album, but I'm gonna share The Joy of Credits. This is a wonderful end credits suite that takes you on a trip through all the themes from the film.

But if you are craving some huge adventure scoring, gigantic moments of choir and some huge orchestral bombast, then the score to Jupiter Ascending is the one to seek out. This is a massive score accompanying one of the worst reviewed films of the year. But Giacchino's music is film score gold. It has wonderful themes, moments of beauty, chaos, power. The action sequences are some of the best action writing he's ever penned. His villain theme is wicked and snaky, but gets some overwhelming power behind it in places. Giacchino was asked to write some suites for the film before he even saw it. Given a basic concept for the film he went to work and created four movements that are really the heart of the score. My favorite is 3rd Movement a tremendous building cue that just brings the house down. This huge score actually required a 2 CD release, and for many is one of the best film scores of 2015.

So yeah, Michael Giacchino has had a banner year. And fans of his music have been enjoying it too. I think he's going to take a little break, but I can't wait to see (and hear) what he cooks up for 2016.


  1. Jupiter Ascending was a bad movie by any reasonable standard but I have to say it looked and sounded great. I even enjoyed the badness -- once. I wouldn’t want to watch it again, but I wouldn’t hesitate to listen again. With all those grand scifi adventure scores to his credit, I wonder if Giacchino is ever tempted to score something like a teen comedy, just to see if he still can do it.

    1. You know he did do a teen comedy back in 2011, a Disney flick called "Monte Carlo". He also works with director Jonathan Levine who works tends to work on comedies and dramadies.

      His music for "Inside Out" was really light and fun though. I really like when he gets a chance to dive into his jazzy side. He's kinda like the composer Christopher Young. Young is famous for his gothic horror scores, but he can also deliver on wonderful jazzy music too. You've got "Drag Me to Hell" on one side and "The Rum Diaries" on the other. :)

  2. Hard to believe that about Jupiter Ascending's soundtrack. I've put that movie on the NF queue so many times and then taken if off again. I guess I should go ahead and watch it.

    Giacchino is a composer that name-wise was unknown to me, although I've seen some of these films like the Pixar stuff, Land of the Lost, Speed Racer, newer Star Trek, and Ghost Protocol. I guess I just don't pay attention the composers when the ending titles run. The last song I had to track down when I heard it on a soundtrack was on the movie, St. Vincent. The opening song, and it was used again in the film was by Jeff Tweedy, Wilco's frontman.

    1. Well if a composer is doing a good job supporting the movie, then it probably a good thing you don't really notice their work. It is the rare composer who actually makes it to the forefront of an audiences knowledge. John Williams is certainly one, and Hans Zimmer is probably the other big one.