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Soundtrack review: Dawn of the planet of the apes (Michael Giacchino, 2013)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Dawn of the planet of the apes (Michael Giacchino, 2013)


Part of what made the experience of watching “Lost” so fun and exciting and emotional was Michael Giacchino’s music. The themes he wrote for some of the characters and situations gave soul to what was happening on screen. I noticed the music from the third or fourth episode I think, and for the next six years it stayed with me through the journey. I laughed, fretted, cried, got really scared, dreamed, hoped and applauded on that music. Giacchino had time during Lost to develop his own sound: sharp, stringy, tender and I couldn’t wait to hear what he did next.
He moved on to bigger things, he boldly took over Star Trek and delivered two amazing scores for those movies…He scored some cartoon movies, again very solid work but I couldn’t find the feelings that his music from Lost gave me. Something was missing. For me, his new sound, awesome as it was, had lost some of the simplicity and innocence that had worked so well before.
…then I heard the first cue from “Dawn of the planet of the apes”….I heard the score before seeing the movie, and I was instantly transported back on that mysterious island. “Level plaguing field” is one of the most brilliant score openings I’ve heard in a while. It works perfectly, soft and poignant as it is. This movie didn’t need to start with a bang. The opening cue (which plays right before the opening credits, when they show the path of the virus that wiped human kind of the earth) made me feel loneliness, loss, emptiness and sorrow, with just a few notes. The cue is very simple but it echoes in all corners of the heart. I can say that this score had me from hello…the first cue set the tone, and what followed made me imagine the movie before seeing it. Those simple and tender piano notes return to punctuate the moments when reason tries to defeat anger in “Along simian lines”, “Past their primates”, “Monkey see, monkey coup” or the brilliant “Apes of wrath”. The score is not all tenderness and emotion, of course. The trademark Giacchino horror strings are present here in many cues,  like “Look who’s stalking” or “The lost city of chimpanzee”.
My favorite cue from the score is “The great ape processional”. I imagined the simple but love filled life the apes must be living in the movie, I felt the bond between them, I understood their way of life.  This is a cue worthy of being put alongside “Oceanic 815” and “Moving on” (both from “Lost”) in a list of Michael Giacchino tracks that make you want to run, hug your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you.
The score fits the movie like a glove. There’s not a single note wasted, there’s not a single emotion or subtlety from the movie that’s not present in the score. Hearing this made me want to see the movie even more…and even though the trailer had a lot of violence and noise, I trusted that the film was going to send a different message. I was not wrong. “Dawn of the planet of the apes” is one of the most beautiful, deep and human movies I’ve seen in the past couple of years. It is a work of art, from the opening image of Cesar’s eyes to the closing frame which shows the same image. It sends a powerful message, it shows what love can do, it shows what hatred can do, and it left me touched, sad, but hopeful. The good doesn’t win, not just yet…. The movie is bleak:  there’s not a trace of sun or light in any of the scenes. The score is mostly sad, but so powerful…The melancholia is subdued…the joy and love are also quiet, but very intense. Giacchino managed to send the message that underneath all that led, there’s still hope and love that are rising from the mud and rubble. One good man and one good ape try to salvage their families and way of life and bring everyone together. They don’t succeed, not yet at least, but the final two cues “Primates for life” and “Planet of the end credits”, with their beautiful flow and subtle choral motifs, breathe hope and a new beginning.  Just listen to them. Listen to the entire score. It’s worth it. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Cesar and the rest, and I hope they bring Giacchino back for the sequel.
My ratings:
Cue score: 92.4 / 100
Total minutes of excellence:  64/78
Album excellence: 83%
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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