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Score Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

May 29, 2013

StarTrekIntoDarknessBy Erin V.

Right from the opening track I loved this score.  The layers that composer Michael Giacchino is able to add, seamlessly weaving old and new themes with underlying elements really works.

A prime example of his masterful use of mixing themes is track 3 ‘Sub Prime Directive’ – taking his themes for ’09’s Star Trek, the original TV theme, as well as his new Star Trek Into Darkness theme (a variation on ’09’s theme), and melding them into one.  I love listening to him do this with music because it is done in a way that doesn’t just feel like one thing after another for no reason but rather leitmotifs playing as something new as they reassemble to tell a story.

Probably my favourite track here though is the hauntingly beautiful ‘London Calling’ (track 4).  It is so simple, yet I can’t stop listening to it.  The piano theme is gorgeous.  It is a new theme for this film and the simplicity with which it plays – even as the strings gradually come in to compliment it – surprises me every time I listen to it.  As the piece takes a darker turn 30 secs. from the end, the track finishes in a different place than it started, while solidly introducing a new character’s theme to the score.

Longer pieces like track 6 often develop to a different place from where they started (this piece again ending up where track 4 ultimately did).  I won’t be naming the actual track names from the latter half of the score only because they do elude to the plot, sometimes more obviously than others.  One thing I will note – like other Giacchino scores, the track names are quite fun in the way that they describe the action almost through a riddle-like play on words.  And after watching the film, most can be figured out with a little thought.

Like the 2009 Star Trek, this score is very driven by strings, with other instruments filling out the sounds for different worlds and situations.  But I’d say when I most take note is when the piano calls out a few key notes or takes over a theme.  With big orchestral scores full of strings, brass, and the more ‘cinematic’ instruments, piano when used right really calls my attention.  It could be because I am a pianist myself, but I think it is the contrast that works so well and Giacchino has mastered the use of piano in film scores quite effectively.  I really appreciate the emotion that Giacchino puts into this score (as we usually expect from him) rather than focusing purely on the action elements.  There are several moments where a single instrument slows things down momentarily and I like that.

As always, his themes are woven together and play counterpoint to each other even more so as the film and score go along.  During the climactic points of the film, I like the way that he plays back on the themes from the first film, modified as the characters have changed as well.  There is no doubt about it – Michael Giacchino has created a memorable and wonderful theme for these recent Star Trek movies.  You can hear it – in its slightly new incarnation from the last film – in the last track of the soundtrack.  This final track on the score takes us through many themes with call and answer between the instruments.  As with the last film, the original TV theme by Alexander Courage & Gene Roddenberry comes about briefly as well in this and several other tracks, tying in quite nicely.

I quite enjoyed the score for Star Trek Into Darkness – and as of now consider it one of the best scores of the year.  Technically it works, emotionally it works, and it plays great in the film.  Congrats on another fine score Mr. Giacchino.


The CD for Star Trek Into Darkness was released by Varèse Sarabande on May 21st, 2013.

The score has 14 tracks and runs for 44 minutes, 20 seconds.  The music for Star Trek Into Darkness was composed by Michael Giacchino, and was recorded at the Newman Scoring Stage, 20th Century Fox.

You can read our full theatrical reviews of the film here.

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