When it comes to film soundtracks, Michael Giacchino reigns as the king of the box office this summer. His scores grace two of the season’s biggest blockbusters, the dino-action sequel “Jurassic World” and the Disney-Pixar animated feature “Inside Out.”
A best original score Oscar winner for another Disney-Pixar project, “Up” (2009), and a nominee for “Ratatouille” (2007), Giacchino has had a long creative relationship with filmmaker J.J. Abrams, the director of the 2009 reboot of “Star Trek,” which will be screened Aug. 16 at Ravinia, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the complete score.
After working with Abrams on the TV series “Alias,” Giacchino was asked to score Abrams’ take on the “Star Trek” film franchise. A few years earlier, Giacchino had been down a similar road for “Mission: Impossible III” (2006). Before beginning work on that soundtrack, he met with Lalo Schifrin, the legendary composer of the original “M:I” theme.
“For ‘Mission: Impossible,’ that was the first time I was handed something that I loved and was being asked to do something with it,” Giacchino recalled in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Asking to meet Lalo was probably the best thing I could have done because all he said to me was have fun with it. So I did. I went and had a blast.”
Though the “M:I” assignment was daunting, the pressure moved to warp speed for the “Star Trek” project. “It was somewhat frightening,” Giacchino admitted in a 2009 interview with nj.com. “I like ‘Star Trek,’ I love the movies and the soundtracks that came from them. First, I was sitting there, writing what you think space music is supposed to sound like. And I would listen to it with [director] J.J. Abrams and the producers, and it just didn’t feel right. It was music for what had come before. So we kind of talked and decided, hey, this is not a film about the grandeur of space. This is a film about two guys, and how they become friends, and that’s what we need to concentrate on, and let go of everything else. This is a reboot, not a continuation. That’s why I only used hints of the Alexander Courage theme [for the original TV series] until the end.
Giacchino realized that his decision would trigger a Vulcan nerve-pitch reaction from die-hard Trekkies. “I knew that would make a lot of people — serious soundtrack fans, and real ‘Star Trek’ fans — unhappy,” he said. “But you know what, the film is not just for them, it’s for everybody. In the end, I feel I did the right thing for the film.”
So not surprisingly, Giacchino will return to score “Star Trek Beyond,” Abrams’ latest sequel in the rebooted series. “So thrilled to be working with Justin Lin and the rest of the Enterprise crew on ‘Star Trek Beyond’!” Giacchino said via Twitter. “Let’s boldly go!”
So thrilled to be working with Justin Lin and the rest of the Enterprise crew on Star Trek Beyond! Let’s boldly go!
— Michael Giacchino (@m_giacchino) July 12, 2015
In a recent interview with Cincinnati radio station WVXU-FM, Giacchino talked about his busy year in the studio; along with scoring the summer’s top two films, he also composed the music for the 2015 releases “Jupiter Ascending” and “Tomorrowland.” “I normally would like spreading them out a little more,” he said. “We literally worked within a breath of what we wanted to be. It’s the busiest I’ve been in one time period.”
Like many film composers, Giacchino owes a large artistic debt to the soundtrack titans of Hollywood. “I grew up listening to composers who are larger than life — John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Max Steiner,” he said. “They create a soundscape you could listen to and then re-create [in your mind] in the era before home video. I listened to film scores, classical music. Music was an incredible part of my upbringing.
“In the end, it’s all about the story and characters. Whether animated or live action, the medium might be different but the actual job I have to do remains the same. That’s the case if it’s a rat or a starship commander.”