Music for Klingons, part three: Eidelman + Giacchino

The Klingons have been featured one way or another in every Star Trek movie produced to date — whether as actual characters or as starships on a monitor — but there is only one film in which the Klingons truly took centre stage. And that film happens to be one of the few Star Trek movies that was not scored by Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner, the subjects of the first two parts of this series.

The film in question is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), which served as a bridge of sorts between the original Star Trek TV series (1966-1969) and its follow-up, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). The latter series had shown that the Federation and the Klingons would one day get along, more or less, so this film — the last one to feature the entire cast of the original series, and the first one to feature an actor from the later series (though not any of its characters) — aimed to show exactly how the Cold War between these two powers had ended.

And one of the striking features about the soundtrack for this film, composed by Cliff Eidelman, is how up-front it is about its Klingon elements — to the point where it is the only film in the entire series that does not begin with one of the standard Star Trek themes but, instead, begins with a theme that was written for the Klingons.

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Music for Klingons, part one: Jerry Goldsmith

It’s been a while — over 20 years, arguably — since the last time a big-screen movie composer had to write some new music to represent the Klingons, but the wait will soon be over, if the Star Trek into Darkness soundtrack samples that Michael Giacchino posted to his website last week are any indication.

The track titles on Giacchino’s scores tend to be a little punny, and the newest score is no exception, as one of the tracks from his latest Star Trek score is called ‘The Kronos Wartet’. This is an amusing reference to the four-piece string quartet known as The Kronos Quartet, but it is also a reference to the Klingon home planet Qo’noS, the name of which is apparently spelled “Kronos” in this film.

Before I comment on the sample itself, I’d like to take a step back to look at how the Klingons have been treated musically in previous films, going all the way back to the very first film in the franchise, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, released in 1979.

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James T. Kirk and the mind-body-spirit relationship

“Kirk is a man of passion and emotion and follows his gut.” So says Chris Pine in a new Star Trek into Darkness featurette.

To a certain extent, Pine is correct: Kirk does indeed have these characteristics. But on another level, Pine’s statement reflects one of the subtle but significant changes that the new films have made to the original Star Trek characters.

The way Pine speaks of Kirk’s “passion” and his “gut” reminds me of a point that John Granger made in his book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter.

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Gods from outer space: the good, the bad and the silly

“He’ll be a god to them.” So says Jor-El, the father of Superman, as he sends his son to Earth in the latest trailer for Man of Steel.

In the immediate context, Jor-El seems to be referring primarily to the fact that his son will have powers that the other residents of Earth will not. But his voice-over, later in the trailer, goes on to speak in even more elevated terms of Superman as someone who will give humanity “an ideal to strive towards,” thereby allowing humans to “join [him] in the sun.” Lois Lane adds to the mythology, as it were, by noting that some people think of Superman as a “guardian angel”.

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“We’ve tried to get away from the Trekkiness of it all.”

I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating: For most of their history, the Star Trek movies have tended to be formulaic action-oriented good-guy-vs.-bad-guy flicks, and have not reflected the wide range of stories that characterized the original TV series.

The TV show had its villains and action-oriented episodes too, of course, and sometimes the movies made in that vein have been very good, as was the case with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

But at other times the action has seemed forced and rote, as it did in Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), where it was fairly clear that at least some of the creative personnel wanted to do something different from the last few movies — something lighter, funnier, more romantic, etc. — but, as producer Rick Berman said at the time, “of course” the movie still had a fair bit of running and shooting and so on.

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Three movies you won’t see on an airplane (or starship) this year

Have you started noticing any trends in the movies coming out this spring and summer?

Consider the terrorist attacks (or worse) that hit London in the trailers for G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Star Trek into Darkness. Consider the quasi-military attacks on Washington D.C. in Olympus Has Fallen and the upcoming White House Down.

And now, thanks to a couple of recently released trailers, we have another recurring motif: holes being ripped in the sides of airplanes (or starships), and passengers flying out those holes to their (presumed) deaths.

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