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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Soundtrack Review: #StarTrekBeyond Deluxe Edition

Star Trek Beyond - Music from the Motion Picture: The Deluxe Edition does even less with its expanded listing.

Review by Matt Cummings

If you missed the pleasantly surprising Star Trek Beyond, its arrival in November onto home video offers you a chance to make up for your lack of logic. It's one of the only bright spots in an otherwise pretty awful Summer slate. And while we loved the movie (read our review HERE), we were less than happy with its score, which we originally reviewed after its July 29th release. Now, Composer Michael Giachhino has released a Deluxe Edition, more than doubling the original tracklist. Unfortunately, it does nothing to change our minds, suffering from a pedestrian sound that borrows too much from other Trek movies.

Three-plus years into their five-year mission, the crew of the USS Enterprise boldly explores the final frontier, while their Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) secretly harbors personal doubt. His approaching birthday will see him live longer than his father (who died aboard the USS Kelvin in the 2009 reboot), and thus Kirk is entertaining a promotion and desk job at the Yorktown space station. His science officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) is also wondering if his future lies elsewhere in helping to repopulate New Vulcan. But when The Enterprise is viciously destroyed by the powerful new enemy Krall (Idris Elba), the crew is scattered on a distant planet and must band together with the alien Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) to defeat a threat greater than any they've faced before.

Composer Giacchino, best known for his work on Alias and most recently Jurassic World and stepping in to quickly record Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, gives us 47 total tracks, up from 18 in the original pressing. But what plagued that album - listless transitions and and an over-use of previous themes - is merely amplified here. It's not that Giacchino is the wrong man for this series - as he created the now-well-regarded theme for the 2009 reboot - it's that he's only been good lately at creating music that accompanies rather than leads. This is more apparent as you dig deeper into this 2-disc set, which was released by Varèse Sarabande Records. Giacchino plots a course into dull and uninspiring music, neither separating nor offending. Fans will appreciate the news that it appears Giacchino has included the entire music from the film. If you liked the music, then you'll be even more excited about securing this version.

As I said in my original review, one of the many strengths behind The Original Series was its powerful theme and accompanying music, which to me represents the best television score ever. Here, Giacchino doesn't introduce anything new or particularly interesting, returning to his 2009 theme throughout by over-borrowing from his track Enterprising Young Men. That's ok, so long as other memorable (and new) tracks are being produced alongside it. Instead, we get a lot of noisy elements, made to impact the scene without being able to stand on their own. Loud drums, screeching violins, and a menagerie of noise continue to permeate the experience, which usually tells you a lot about the creative team's thoughts about the role of music in their film. An example here is track 18 Artifacts As in Life, which is merely a series of whole notes that never build to anything except more noise at the end. It's a lot like Mocking Jaylah - which has now been pushed from Track 12 to 7 on Disc 2. These tracks haven't been cleaned up or changed, just added to more meandering set up pieces. These random moments feel haphazardly assembled and never establish a meaningful push to the story.

Disc 2 doesn't get any better. Krall-y Krally Oxen Free and Franklin My Dear are joined by the newer Bright Lights Big Velocity (Part 1 and 2) and Jaylah's Theme. I would have much appreciated the cheap naming conventions Giacchino utilizes had I enjoyed the score itself. Star Trek Beyond doesn't hold a candle to scores like 2016's The Neon Demon because it fails to exist outside of the film itself. You don't tie any track here to any particular scene in the movie, because it just isn't crafted that way. Jerry Goldsmith understood that when he created a completely new theme and music for 1979's The Motion Picture, seamlessly integrating it back into The Original Series theme for future films. A great score will allow you to do this, because its DNA is so strong. That's the measure of whether a score is merely noise (like track 14's Shutdown Happens), or if it has the ability to transcend the film itself.

I felt the same when listening to Giacchino's interpretations for Rogue One and Marvel's Doctor Strange, in the first case merely re-purposing old music and in the latter failing to give The Sorcerer Supreme a powerful and memorable theme. He's certainly capable of opening his imagination to strange, new worlds, but none of that is apparent in the highly pedestrian Star Trek Beyond - Music from the Motion Picture: Deluxe Edition. Its additional tracks do nothing to separate it from the hodge-podge sound which has frankly plagued his scores for awhile now. I know that some hardcore Star Trek fans will feast on this massive offering of the complete score, but that won't be me. Luckily, it doesn't impact my total appreciation for the movie, which ranked in my top 5 of 2016. Skip the soundtrack to purchase the film on Blu-ray - I promise you won't be disappointed with that portion of your experience.

Star Trek Beyond is now available on Blu-ray and digital download. Music From The Motion Picture: The Deluxe Edition is limited to 5,000 LP hard copies.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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