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Jupiter Ascending by Michael Giacchino (Review)

posted Feb 13, 2015, 1:18 PM by Kaya Savas

When was the last time you heard a score or saw a blockbuster film that was completely original? That means it was not adapted from a novel, not a remake, not a sequel and not a reboot. This is what I admire the most about the Wachowskis. They are filmmakers intent on telling a story on their terms, and I’m glad Warner Brothers has stuck by their side. Also sticking by their side is composer Michael Giacchino who chased the job for Speed Racer because of his fondness for the material. Thankfully something clicked and Michael has returned to score Jupiter Ascending. So, Michael had a completely blank canvass here to do something unique and truly special. Did he deliver? My goodness, did he. Jupiter Ascending showcases every audible strength and technique Giacchino possesses as a composer and a storyteller. This is grade-A Giacchino; a magnum opus of his career that demonstrates that he will go down as one of the greatest to ever work in the medium.

Before you dive into this score you should know how it was done. Giacchino wrote and fully recorded an 80min symphony of music simply based off the script and conceptual descriptions. The Wachowskis didn’t want to use any temp score, so they asked Michael to essentially compose the score before they shot a single frame. That is amazing, and truly calls back to the way Leone and Morricone worked. Anyways, about 50% of that symphony was used in the final picture, and naturally Michael had to fill in the gaps in a more traditional way after the film was cut. So the soundtrack presents 4 movements at the beginning, these are pieces from that pre-conceived score. The rest was fitted to picture.

This score is so massive that it’s hard to know where to begin, but a good place to start is the main theme. Giacchino is a composer who always gives us themes, and the main theme here is simple yet grand. It echoes something huge and carries with it some hefty emotional weight. The album opens with 4 movements, which are truly stunning. To get into the meat of the score and appreciate just how well Giacchino crafts dramatic structure, you need to sit down and listen to this thing from start to finish. The 2-discs contain nearly 1hr45min of music, and it is a ride that you cannot miss. The story opens with a bang and it’s a pretty intense opening till we get to take a breath with “The Titus Clipper”, a beautiful character-defining track that holds the beginning of something majestic. As the score moves along we are carried along every beat of the story. We feel every emotional pull, every foreboding dissonance, and our hearts are pulsing through every action set piece. Giacchino enlists giant choruses, pulsing strings and his signature melodic structures to constantly pump this adventure full of adrenaline. The main theme is used just the right amount throughout, and should please anybody who thought Giacchino overused the main theme in Star Trek. Everything about Jupiter Ascending works in the grandest way possible. This is pure imagination fueled by pure imagination. The score is simply amazing and flawless. We get an old fashioned adventure story told in a grand fashion. Sit back, relax and let this brilliant work carry you.

Jupiter Ascending bombed at the box office and was trashed by critics. Again, it feels like our minds have been poisoned only to accept sequels or franchises and kill anything original. I found the film to be simply amazing and stunning. This is a movie with giant adventure set pieces, grand romance, and amazing action told by true auteurs. If you can shutout the mainstream opinion I think you will find so much to enjoy about this big, bold and lush space opera. Giacchino’s score is perfect, it complements the film in every way it can and carries you through it structurally and emotionally. The fact that Giacchino recorded 80min of music before shooting began is simply inspiring. Two amazing visual storytellers combined with an amazing musical storyteller results in imagination unconstrained. Dive right in as soon as possible.

For any listeners based in the U.S., Varese Sarabande was able to secure a disc release for this score which was initially planned as digital only here in the states.