51 Shades of Geek

Planet Of The Apes (newly expanded edition)

Planet Of The Apes (newly expanded edition)The modern world of big-screen reboots and remakes presents a minefield to the music department: how do you create music for a story that’s been done before, without doing the same music that’s been done before? (At least one movie remake, the modern remount of Hitchcock’s Psycho, opted to reuse the original music, albeit a new recording of it.) Matters are made worse when the soundtrack of the original version was a groundbreaking, genre-shaking opus that was practically its own character in the film – such as Jerry Goldsmith’s brutally percussive score from 1968’s Planet Of The Apes. In that respect, the 2001 reboot of Apes had a double burden – the original movie and its music were indelibly ingrained into the minds of genre fans. Top that.

Tim Burton tried to, and as he so often does, he brought frequent musical collaborator Danny Elfman along for the ride. Both had an unenviable task ahead of them. Arguably, the music succeeded better than the movie for which it was designed, and La-La Land has re-released the soundtrack to the 2001 Apes remake in an extravagant form, stretching the movie’s almost wall-to-wall music across three discs covering both the original soundtrack album as released in ’01 (which had a pretty healthy selection of music on it to begin with) as well as the complete score as heard in the film (the material on the single-CD soundtrack release differed significantly from the actual film score in many places).

As I was listening to the movie score, the thought struck me that Elfman – despite his seemingly permanent place on Hollywood’s music A-list – hasn’t scored too many sprawling space sagas. Planet Of The Apes isn’t really a sprawling space saga – its “space” scenes are confined to the movie’s opening minutes – but the music for those scenes is an interesting taste of how Elfman would handle the territory that is so often associated with Williams, Goldsmith, Horner and others more frequently regarded as “sci-fi composers.”

When the action comes jarringly down to Earth, the race is on for the film’s hero to outrun the apes, and for Elfman to do things differently from Jerry Goldsmith. As attached as I am to the original 1968 movie and its soundtrack, I found Elfman’s treatment of similar scenes to be more than satisfactory – in fact, they’re hugely enjoyable purely as a listening experience (they didn’t hurt the movie either, though arguably there were things other than the music that did hurt it). In some regards, it’s not entirely dissimilar from Goldsmith’s score because it doesn’t need to be – it’s not a case of anyone’s ideas being ripped off, it’s a case of both composers bowing to the tribally-rhythmic obvious.

The original single-disc soundtrack has been given fresh coat of remastered paint, and sounds great if you’re still attached to the original tracks and running order. (I still admit to enjoying Paul Oakenfold’s movie-dialogue-heavy “Rule The World Remix” as a guilty pleasure; Oakenfold probably does too, since it helped to raise his Hollywood profile, which now includes his own film scores.) Rounding things out are a selection of “source” cues Elfman concocted for scenes which needed “in universe” background music.

Planet Of The Apes was meant to launch a new generation of 20th Century Fox’s venerable Apes franchise for the 21st century, and its hugely-hyped launch seemed to all but guarantee that. Somewhere between the movie just not being as shocking or interesting as the 1968 original, and the inevitable anti-reboot backlash, it managed to fall between the cracks despite the hype. Elfman’s soundtrack remains possibly the most valid element of the movie – much like the re-release of the music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (also reissued by La-La Land), it was ripe for reassessment despite being 4 out of 4only a decade old. I felt a little let down by the music from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, so maybe this re-release could serve to remind the director and producers of the next Apes reboot-sequel-prequel-thingie that Elfman’s still out there – and he definitely knows how to go ape.

Order this CD

    Disc 1: Film Score Part 1

  1. Main Titles (film version) (3:53)
  2. Deep Space Launch / Space Station / Power Outage (2:36)
  3. Thumbs Up / Trouble (5:57)
  4. Pod Escape / New World / The Hunt (4:13)
  5. Ape City (2:13)
  6. A Look / Unloading /Thade’s Inspection / Ari Watches / The Branding (3:44)
  7. Ari Buys a Pet (1:24)
  8. Leo Wants Out / Dental Exam (2:12)
  9. Thade’s Desire (1:35)
  10. The Dirty Deed (1:54)
  11. The Escape (3:39)
  12. Trust / Escape (3:32)
  13. In the Forest /Into the Pond / The Messenger (2:29)
  14. Unused / Thade Gets His Way / Ari Connects (3:49)
  15. The Story (3:00)
  16. Scarecrow Stinger / The Camp / Raid (5:20)
  17. Thade Goes Ape (2:42)
  18. Calima (7:22)
  19. The Army Approaches (3:03)
  20. Thade’s Tent (2:10)
  21. Discovery (5:07)
  22. Preparing for Battle (3:51)
    Disc 2: Film Score Part 2

  1. The Charge (4:44)
  2. The Final Confrontation Landing / Showdown (8:34)
  3. The Aftermath / Thade’s Suite (7:31)
  4. Ape Suite #
  5. 4:59)
  6. Ape Suite #
  7. 2:36)
  8. Rule The Planet Remix (4:09)
  9. Thumbs Up / Trouble (alternate mix) (5:57)
  10. New World / The Hunt (alternate mix) (3:20)
  11. Dental Exam (alternate mix) (1:21)
  12. The Dirty Deed (alternate mix) (1:54)
  13. The Story (alternate mix) (2:59)
  14. Preparing for Battle (alternate) (3:35)
  15. The Final Confrontation (alternate mix) (7:14)
  16. The Aftermath / Thade’s Suite (unedited) (7:32)
  17. Camp Raid (percussion only) (4:08)
  18. Rule The Planet (overlay) (3:01)
  19. Source Music Montage (Band Source, Trendy Source, Jazzy Source, Calliope Source, Rave Source) (2:54)
  20. Dinner Source (1:40)
    Disc 3: Original Soundtrack Album

  1. Main Titles (3:49)
  2. Ape Suite #1 (3:52)
  3. Deep Space Launch (4:35)
  4. The Hunt (4:58)
  5. Branding The Herd (0:48)
  6. The Dirty Deed (2:27)
  7. Escape From Ape City / The Legend (5:57)
  8. Ape Suite #2 (2:42)
  9. Old Flames (2:10)
  10. Thade Goes Ape (2:37)
  11. Preparing For Battle (3:26)
  12. The Battle Begins (5:17)
  13. The Return (7:18)
  14. Main Title Deconstruction (4:22)
  15. Rule The Planet Remix (remixed by Paul Oakenfold) (4:03)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: 2012
Disc one total running time: 75:57
Disc two total running time: 78:24
Disc three total running time: 58:21

Battle Beyond The Stars / Humanoids From The Deep

Battle Beyond The Stars / Humanoids From The DeepThough the movies themselves have faded into that special pocket of semi-obscure hell reserved for stuff produced by Roger Corman, Battle Beyond The Stars and Humanoids From The Deep hold a special place in the hearts of soundtrack fans as the big-screen debut of a promising new young talent, James Horner. Hired with a mandate to try to duplicate the sound of – ironically – Jerry Goldsmith’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture score, Battle is basically the calling card that brought Horner into the Trek fold proper. I know I’ve jumped all over Horner in the past where originality is concerned, but let’s give credit where it’s due and give the guy a break: for this first movie scoring project, he was told to mimic Goldsmith. Say it with me again: Goldsmith. No pressure, eh? And then, on the strength of Battle, Horner was hired by Nicholas Meyer and asked to emulate himself. It’s no wonder Horner used and reused this basic material throughout the 1980s.

The nautical woodwind motifs that Horner refined in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan can be heard here in a slightly more primitive form, and his rapid-fire bursts of heroic brass can be heard here too, though with a rhythm that’s almost jazzy. What you will hear a lot of is the Blaster Beam, that unearthly electric stringed instrument that Goldsmith put on the musical map with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Its appearance here doesn’t sound quite as graceful as it did in that first movie, but with marching orders to copy Goldsmith’s style, Horner makes abundant use of it. In that respect, if you’re a fan of that rarely-used instrument, this soundtrack is a treat.

To be completely fair, while there is indeed blatant copying of such Goldsmith cues as “Spock Walk”, there’s enough originality within this score’s context that one can hear where Horner would have been labeled an up-and-coming young composer to keep an ear out for. Unfortunately, in later years, Horner would seem to have taken the instruction “Make it sound kind of like the music from…” a little too literally, and a few times too many.

Humanoids, though commissioned, composed and recorded at around the same time (and it actually hit the theaters before Battle), sounds altogether more assured and mature, with Horner developing some if his more “scary” motifs in their earliest form – much of Trek II‘s Mutara Nebula music can be traced back to this score. For his first major horror scoring assignment, Horner isn’t shy about borrowing from the masters, with plenty of Hermann-esque “stabbing” strings on display.

Put together, Battle Beyond The Stars and Humanoids From The Deep are a debut that, even despite the rough edges, would’ve done any Hollywood 3 out of 4newcomer proud. And even if I’m not Horner’s biggest fan in the world, I’m even less of a Corman fan – his greatest contributions have really been in the area of bringing top-notch talent into Hollywood that eventually turns out better material than he himself could ever manage – and these may be among the very finest scores ever to grace a Roger Corman movie (or two).

Order this CD

    Battle Beyond The Stars

  1. Main Title (2:00)
  2. Malmori Read Guard (3:52)
  3. The Battle Begins (4:33)
  4. Nanella And Shad (1:27)
  5. Cowboy And The Jackers (3:36)
  6. Nanella’s Capture (1:29)
  7. The Maze Battle (3:11)
  8. Shad’s Pursuit (3:23)
  9. Cowboy’s Attack (1:46)
  10. Love Theme (3:52)
  11. The Hunter (1:40)
  12. Gelt’s Death (1:30)
  13. Nanella (1:32)
  14. Heading For Sador (1:00)
  15. Destruction Of Hammerhead (2:36)
  16. Epilogue And End Title (5:02)

    Humanoids From The Deep

  17. Main Title (2:27)
  18. The Buck (3:45)
  19. Unwelcome Visitor (2:03)
  20. Night Swim (1:48)
  21. Jerry & Peggy (0:57)
  22. Trip Upriver (1:59)
  23. The Humanoids Attack (2:54)
  24. Jerry’s Death (2:04)
  25. Search For Clues (1:55)
  26. Strange Catch (1:07)
  27. The Grotto (3:22)
  28. Night Prowlers (2:08)
  29. Final Confrontation (3:05)
  30. Aftermath & New Birth (2:22)
  31. End Titles (2:10)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 76:35

Timeline – music by Jerry Goldsmith

If there’s one eternal truth that every composer of film or TV music faces sooner or later, it’s the rejection slip. Everyone gets one eventually. And even a composer of Jerry Goldsmith’s stature gets them, such as the one Goldsmith received when he turned in this score to the already-troubled time travel flick Timeline. However, as much as I love Goldsmith’s work in general, listening to this CD of his rejected score, released by Varese Sarabande, I came to one conclusion: there’s a reason Brian Tyler wound up scoring this movie.

For whatever reason, Goldsmith’s take on Timeline winds up sounding like, well, reheated Goldsmith. Now granted, even well-worn works by this particular composer make for good listening, but there are whole passages that sound almost exactly like music from Star Trek: First Contact. Given that this was one of Goldsmith’s final scores, I almost expected to hear stuff that was more like Star Trek: Nemesis, and thought that maybe I’d find a few things that he salvaged from this unused work for that movie. Nope. There are big stretches that sound a lot like, in particular, First Contact‘s “The Dish” cue, particularly the percussive, guttural battle music. (Ironically, I now realize that even when working on First Contact, Goldsmith used a particular kind of action music that dates back to the Logan’s Run score.)

The element that’s unique to Timeline is a strange approach to a brass theme, a clarion call that occasionally dips just far enough out of the dominant key that it seems to be at odds with everything else behind it. It sticks out just enough to be distracting early on, and one can only imagine the reaction of the movie’s director or studio head upon hearing that.

2 out of 4Sadly, I can’t say this is one of Goldsmith’s finer works; as a limited release, it’s clearly intended for Goldsmith collectors and completists only, though even that crowd may find themselves wondering what one of their favorite composers was thinking when working on this one. Then again, at the risk of overlaying my own opinion onto the proceedings, the source material – the movie itself – doesn’t appear to have been terribly inspiring either. This soundtrack-that-never-was is a curiosity for the late maestro’s faithful followers.

Order this CD

  1. The Dig (4:10)
  2. Cornflakes (2:05)
  3. No Pain (3:10)
  4. To Castlegard (1:27)
  5. Find Marek (1:55)
  6. The Rooftop (4:21)
  7. A Hole In The Wall (2:27)
  8. Move On (6:58)
  9. Be Careful (1:28)
  10. Ambushed (1:12)
  11. Setting Up (2:12)
  12. Greek Fire / Light The Arrows (2:32)
  13. Prepare For Battle / Victory (11:12)
  14. To My Friends (1:40)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 46:49