Saturday, March 14, 2015

‘Jupiter Ascending’, a powerhouse soundtrack

Despite some narrative and pacing issues, “Jupiter Ascending” is an entertaining space opera anchored by the luminous presence of Mila Kunis and some of the most stunning production design seen any science fiction movie since “The Fifth Element”, a film “Jupiter” shares much in common with, save for the kooky humor of that 1997 film,

This movie is what I used to call “good junk”. But there is one aspect of the film that far surpasses anything we see or experience onscreen—Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack. The composer of the landmark music for television’s iconic series “Lost”, has created a magnificent, monumental epic of bold, melodic, romantic, exciting orchestral music that sets a new bar for the accomplished young maestro. From 2012’s “John Carter” to last year’s best score, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Giacchino has shown he is the heir apparent to John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and pre-“Titanic” James Horner. With “Jupiter Ascending”, he lives up to the hype.

Giacchino fans can thank the film music gods because despite the troubled film being so utterly despised and flopping at the box office, the “Jupiter Ascending” score has been given the full blown Howard Shore/”Hobbit” style superb 2 CD release containing almost all of this sensational score. Even better, Giacchino has become of the most soundtrack fan savvy composers, presenting his music in a structured, chronological order with longer cues to give the best stand-alone listening experience.

The composer astutely opens the soundtrack with four fully developed cues titled, “Jupiter Ascending – 1st Movement”, “Jupiter Ascending – 2nd Movement”, etc.

“Jupiter Ascending – 1st Movement” opens with a thunderous choral statement of the score’s haunting mystery motif before developing into a full statement of the movie’s main theme—a gorgeous, soul-stirring melody performed with choir and orchestra in a way that brings to mind both Alan Silvestri’s “The Abyss” and Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”

“Jupiter Ascending – 2nd Movement” is a heart-breaking cue packed with sentiment as the composer introduces his love theme. This fantastic theme gets a full orchestral workout in the next cue as the score begins to heat up with its first sample of full blown action and suspense music.

Perhaps the best track on the album (in an album jam-packed with nonstop greatness) is track 10 on CD2, “The Commitment”. There is a wonderful statement of the film’s love theme, an emotion-drenched tune in the mode of the composer’s work on “Super 8” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Then, with a Williams-like skill of superb craftsmanship, Giacchino propels the score toward its furious finale with a pulse-pounding “Star Trek” style action music in and a bold, rousing restatement of the main theme.

Michael Giacchino’s ability to write accessible, emotionally affecting music is astounding and his level of craftsmanship gets better with each album. The richness, sonic color, and narrative trust of this score put in that upper echelon of film music. This is much more than a soundtrack. This is a stand-alone symphony brimming with emotion, excitement, and a sense of wonder.

Bottom line: Loaded with rich melodic material and bold, exciting action music, “Jupiter Ascending” is a musical masterwork and one of the best scores of the decade.

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