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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes by Michael Giacchino (Review)

posted Jul 11, 2014, 12:36 PM by Kaya Savas

Michael Giacchino is without a doubt one of the best and most talented storytellers in film. I discovered his music at 11-years old while playing my Playstation with a new WWII shooter that came out called Medal Of Honor. Ever since then I’ve been following his music and watching him grow into the iconic composer he is today. All of his scores are special because his method is to translate his initial emotional reaction to what’s on screen into music. And since his emotional reaction is so spot on, we usually are feeling the exact same thing, which means the music is amplifying our emotional response instead of telling us what to feel. Giacchino is a composer who is able to bring tears and spine tingles more so than any other composer working today. His voice as an auteur is also completely without compromise as he manages to work with directors who are close friends of his. All of Giacchino’s scores are special, but with Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes we get a truly inspired score. One could argue that his recent scores to Star Trek and John Carter worked in broader strokes. Here we have a score that works with much smaller strokes, and builds an emotional narrative comparable to LOST, Let Me In and Super 8

While this film is a sequel to the great Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, it completely tosses out any reference to that film stylistically. It leaves Rupert Wyatt’s direction and Patrick Doyle’s wonderful score alone to really craft a continuation with a different voice. While Giacchino’s style is bleeding from every ounce of this score, I could maybe pickup some little nods stylistically to Jerry Goldmsith’s original Planet Of The Apes score in small areas. Other than that Giacchino doesn’t treat this like a genre score, he doesn’t go out of his way to make it tribal or dystopian, but it does take on a bit of the coldness and isolation of a dystopian world. But amongst the coldness of isolation there is a flickering warmth that is threatened by the onslaught of war, which is captured with great technique here. The score comes from the characters, the struggle and the scope of the picture. Giacchino revives many of the techniques he used for LOST, which I love. The central theme is a hefty 6-note motif that lumbers forward with purpose. The film is about war between humans and apes and can easily reflect conflicts that are happening around the world right now, so there are deep emotional pockets that Giacchino pulls from. The action music isn’t bombastic or for the sake of spectacle. Giacchino structures it in a way of intense builds that carry gravitas and momentum. The percussion adds a lot here, and at times a chilling chorus comes in that adds some chilling air between the thick areas of the score. There are some really meaty tracks here, so you get the full-force of how this score works structurally. Matt Reeves definitely had Giacchino become that central backbone of the film. Giacchino also uses this sort of menacing foreboding danger motif that sounds like an engine revving or a plane propeller spinning faster and faster. He uses it sparingly, but it commands a subtle presence when it shows up. He does manage to use that central 6-note theme to perfection though as it’s neither overused nor underused. While the score strays away from the deeper emotions felt in the first half, it does come full circle for quite a fantastic conclusion. Giacchino wraps up the narrative with near-perfection as we enter the end credits. We are presented with the same trickling piano motif the score opened with, and it proves as a wonderfully emotional bookend to the whole journey. 

This score is Giacchino firing on all cylinders. He incorporates his amazing ability for resonating emotions and thematic gravitas to craft a journey filled with awe, danger and conflict. He can go from the smallest emotional touches to the grandest action arcs all the while crafting tension and suspense that send chills down your spine. The score has all the best qualities of what he demonstrated over six seasons of LOST that mesh with the brilliant grand emotions of Super 8, except here it has its own primal flair. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a beautifully dark orchestral journey that needs to be experienced. It’s a damn brilliant score that represents the best of what Giacchino can offer as a storyteller. Also, his track-name puns are in superb hilarious form here.