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Soundtrack Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

September 1, 2011

By Erin V.

Last month, I reviewed Rupert Wyatt’s new film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I really liked.  Watching the original 1968 film again before this ‘prequel’ of sorts, was interesting.  Although the original film is very dated and cheesy at times, the one thing that still stands out today, is its score.  The music written for that film, by Jerry Goldsmith, was both revolutionary and at once a classic, with a sound so different from other scores of the time.

This new film needed new music – to fit both with the time, story, and style that is presented here.  Succeeding cinematically as the rest of the film did, Patrick Doyle’s score for Rise of the Planet of the Apes is at once emotional and action driven.  Right from the outset, the combined use of old and new world sounds provides a juxtaposition that sets the mood for Caesar’s world – a collision of nature and science.  Earlier on, Caesar’s theme is laden with questions, but by track 6, we really feel the sense of destiny Caesar comes to claim throughout the film.  In some ways, Caesar’s theme is as gentle, caring, and driven as he is.  There is a reason for what he does, and never feeling forced, the music follows this effortlessly.

You could section the film and this soundtrack into two sections.  That of the first 8 tracks where Caesar is at home with his family of Will (James Franco) and Charles (John Lithgow), and the latter half when Caesar finds himself locked up in a primate facility and must find his own way without their help.  The ethnic percussion instruments first fully present after the latter half of track 8 – along with musical sounds reminiscent of ape sounds – really and truly blends Caesar’s wild side for the first time.

Track 11 is a powerhouse of orchestra and vocals.  The second half of the soundtrack builds on itself throughout, and is quite interesting to listen to as it helps to tell the story of the film.  Track 18, aptly titled Caesar Says No scores a pivotal point in the film both in the story and the full rebirth of the character.  In some ways, the trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes was more from the human POV – e.g., chaotic clashes between human and ape, but the score plays more to the apes side of things.  Misunderstood in a way, but definitely controlled and driven – clearly stating that Caesar is the main character, the protagonist, and creating the feeling that we can’t help be on his side rooting for him.  Because what he wants is universal.  Just the freedom to ‘go home’… nothing more.

Action music can easily become monotonous, but Doyle’s use of melody playing against the regular rhythms helps to make this work stand out.  Creating clarity within chaos.  Track 20 really illustrates this.  I love the use of various instruments from Africa to help shape this work.  The climax music all plays on themes and sounds established earlier on.  Track 21 climbs through the themes, paving the way for the last three tracks.  The second last track slows down and beautifully and emotionally plays the themes that were used just a track before in an action sense.  The strings are very omnipresent here.  I also love the last track, Caesar’s Home – the last 50 seconds plays back the themes from tracks 5 & 6, which brings the film fully round with a feeling of bittersweet success and completion.

Patrick Doyle is a composer who’s name is hopefully becoming increasingly more well known in the public eye.  This year alone scoring two big blockbusters (Thor, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes), I look forward to hearing what he brings to Pixar’s Brave next year.


The Rise of the Planet of the Apes soundtrack was released by Varèse Sarabande into stores August 16th, 2011.

The score soundtrack has 24 tracks and runs for 1 hour, 1 minute, 5 seconds.  The original score is composed by Patrick Doyle.

You can read out reviews of Rise of the Planet of the Apes here.

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