Star Trek Beyond, many of the key figures behind the previous two films stepped aside -- J.J. Abrams handed off directing duties to Justin Lin, while Simon Pegg and Doug Jung took over writing the script from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. But one key off-screen piece of the reboot franchise remained in place: composer Michael Giacchino.
Although the Star Trek Beyond score is peppered with themes Giacchino created for the two prior Star Trek films, it's also a very different score in many subtle ways. In particular, I wonder if the experience of scoring Jurassic World (and there utilizing the melodies written by John Williams for the original film) rubbed off a little. Of course, Williams has always been an influence for Giacchino. (How could he not be?) But the connections feel more explicit to me in the Star Trek Beyond score than ever before.
Mind you, Michael Giacchino is still his own man. His track titles are still pun-tastic. Tracks like "Krall-y Krall-y Oxen Free" and "Shutdown Happens" feature phrases of his signature style from the TV series Lost -- frightened strings, descending brass groans, and thunderous timpani. He continues to write moving concertos that showcase his emotional melodies, as in "Thank Your Lucky Star Date" and "A Lesson in Vulcan Mineralogy."
But throughout this score are little bursts that sound like pure John Williams. "A Swarm Reception" has an inexorable two-note pulse on low strings that briefly evokes Jaws. The use of trumpet in "Thank Your Lucky Star Date" might make you think of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The whirling flutes of "Crash Decisions," and the woodwind sections in "Par-tay for the Course," are reminiscent of Star Wars.
It's this last connection that's particularly interesting for a movie score enthusiast like myself. The upcoming stand alone Star Wars movie, Rogue One, is going to be the first of the franchise not to have a John Williams score. And though it had been originally announced that Alexandre Desplat would be the man behind the music, he recently had to step aside. His replacement? None other than Michael Giacchino. So perhaps Star Trek Beyond gives us a little taste of what might be in store.
Until then, I can enjoy the many highlights from this score. "The Dance of the Nebula" is an uneasy, bell-like melody on top of sinister orchestral accompaniment. The theme for the new character Jaylah is driven by a primitive sounding percussion that's sometimes a wild frenzy ("Jaylah Damage") and other times a controlled fury ("Mocking Jaylah"). There are all-out action cues (the staccato xylophones of "Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard" and blasting horns of "MotorCycles of Relief"). There are more contemplative tracks (the classic Star Trek use of solo soprano on "In Artifacts as in Life", or the sense of invention in the free time "Franklin, My Dear").
I'd say that overall, this isn't quite as strong a score as Giacchino's two previous Star Trek efforts. Nevertheless, there's plenty to like here, and more than enough to make it a good addition to my collection. I give the Star Trek Beyond soundtrack a B+.