By now, you all should have seen J.J. Abrams' re-imagining and re-invigoration of Star Trek. The film was fantastic, no here’s the low-down on the score by Michael Giacchino.
At first I was disappointed that J.J. Abrams and Michael Giacchino didn’t use the “official” Star Trek theme, scored by Jerry Goldsmith, as the main theme to the movie. But, as I listened to it more, I came to appreciate it more for various reasons.
First, this movie is clearly meant to be a break from what has become the “traditional” Star Trek canon. It is a new start and so a new theme makes sense. The theme is also a little more primitive (not the best word) or basic (still not the best word). It’s not as orchestrated and precise as the Goldsmith theme, but gives a sense of something a little more guttural, emotional and adventurous, something that’s by the seat of your (well, Kirk’s) pants. However, it still has an epic quality akin to warping through space.
Diving a little deeper, Gene Roddenberry described his original vision of Star Trek as a wagon train in space. A push into the final frontier of space, just as we once pushed into the final frontier of the West. Roddenberry referred to Star Trek as a sort of space western (seems neither George Lucas or Joss Whedon were as original as people may think--Roddenberry was really decades ahead of them).
Anyway, if you listen you’ll hear a definite western motif interspersed between the more intense thematic elements. Also, the opening track, Star Trek, pays huge homage to Jerry Goldsmith with the electronic tonal “chimes”, a sound concept created by Goldsmith for the Star Trek: The Movie score (for the Klingons, originally), and a concept he pushed throughout his career. Goldsmith was a true innovator in composing scores and using new technology and electronics to augment the orchestra well before it was as easy as the click of a mouse. He truly helped lay the groundwork for all of today’s “modern” score composers, from Hans Zimmer to Danny Elfman and anyone else we’d call “cutting edge”.
Needless to say, Giacchino had big shoes to fill, so it's fitting that he decided to take the score in a completely different direction. Unfortunately, the previously mentioned opening track, which pays homage to Goldsmith's theme is also tied to Nero’s ship in the opening sequence and so the theme and instrumentation doesn’t last long before it's interrupted by freaky horns and your nightmares begin.
Track 5, Enterprising Young Men, is the new Star Trek theme. Be sure to listen to the last track, End Credits, all the way through--actually, start with the track right before it, To Boldly Go. It starts off a bit cheesy with the original series theme, but even that is modified a bit toward something cool, and then let go altogether to be replaced by Giacchino’s new theme. Right at the three-minute mark it becomes very sweeping and vast, a bit reminiscent of Goldsmith’s First Contact theme.
The more I listen to the score, the more little homage’s to Goldsmith and the Star Trek canon I pick up, as well as the originality of Giacchino.
Have fun listening!