Tony Black reviews Michael Giacchino’s score for War for the Planet of the Apes…
After the very recent high adventure of Michael Giacchino’s score for Spider-Man: Homecoming [read our review here], which saw him deliver a blast of thematic joy to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Giacchino switches gears and comes a little back down to earth for his score to War For the Planet of the Apes. Over recent years, Giacchino has been feted for a wealth of scores from major franchises but oddly enough his lyrical strings for 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes got a little lost in the shuffle and in listening to War, you realise for a start just how strong a score Giacchino delivered for Dawn and then how much of an evolution the same themes and leitmotifs present in War are. From an underrated, strong score for the previous film, his composition for War is a step up in every way and, without wanting to sound hyperbolic, establishes itself quickly as one of his greatest pieces of work to date.
Much like the unexpected brooding level of darkness in Matt Reeves’ movie, Giacchino’s score reflects that right from his 10 minute opening ‘Apes Past is Prologue’, which establishes many of the emotional beats and Caesar’s mournful, ominous theme which carries across the entire score, while set to the powerful opening in which the humans and apes are at war. Giacchino uses, as he did in the Dawn score, a heavy use of his almost signature tribal drums to establish the society of the apes and build up tension, not to mention the sense of grandeur and gravitas around Caesar as a leader – ‘The Ecstasy of the Bold’ builds to reveal this in glorious fashion. This same recurring motif appears in various forms across the score, where to an action beat like the blast that is ‘The Bad Ape Bagatelle’ or more softly in ‘Apes Together Strong’.
Along with plenty of violin and soft instrumentation to sell emotional components–often around young mute girl Nova who ends up helping Caesar and his band–Giacchino makes powerful use of a choir underneath the drums and violin in various different ways, whether to sell tragedy or enhance frantic action. It’s a score which plays to the mythic elements of a story which concludes the arc of Caesar, very much a Christ-figure in many ways to ape society, and once we reach the beauty of ‘Paradise Found’, it may well be a score which has managed to brood its way across a dark symphony while also helping you shed a tear at the end. For a composer capable of so many complex shades, Giacchino makes the breadth displayed in War For the Planet of the Apes look remarkably easy when it’s anything but.
If this doesn’t end up in my top three scores of 2017, a year which like the last one has already provided some superb pieces of orchestral film music, then we’ve got some phenomenal scores still to come. Michael Giacchino really hits it out the park here with a score that builds on everything he did well in the previous picture and takes it to another level entirely (in that way it mirrors Matt Reeves’ movie as it happens). In a career already littered with gems, War For the Planet of the Apes is further proof Giacchino might well now be the finest composer working in Hollywood today. Gorgeous, moving work you need to get in your ears.