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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Michael Giacchino

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Soundtrack) by Michael Giacchino
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Soundtrack) by Michael Giacchino











Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Soundtrack) by Michael Giacchino

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Composed by Michael Giacchino
Sony Masterworks (2014)

Rating: 8/10

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“It’s this sort of rapturous work that we, the audience, will remain connected to long after the movie ends and will look to stir those same feelings with subsequent listens to the original soundtrack.”

Thrills and Feels
Review by Christopher Coleman


Two years ago the movie-watching-world got a pleasant surprise with RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; however, the bad taste left by Tim Burton’s reimagining of THE PLANET OF THE APES, a decade earlier had not quite left the mouths of some. This somewhat hindered RISE from the box office heights it probably should have hit. That Wahlbergian-foulness was resilient enough to still be found in the detectable quantities come 2014 and the dawning of the sequel to RISE. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES would see two significant changes behind the camera from director Rupert Wyatt to Matt Reeves and from Patrick Doyle to MICHAEL GIACCHINO as the score’s composer. Would such significant changes continue the resurrgence of the franchise or send it back down the apocalyptic hole from whence it came?

Thankfully, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has been both a critical and box office smash, hopefully setting us up for further sequels of similar quality. After a summer of critical failures raking in countless millions and the critically acclaimed under-performing at the box office, it is, on some level, a relief to see that quality story-telling and character development can be equally rewarded. In the case of DAWN, the story in this sequel is brilliantly told and shifts the central characters from the humans to the apes - who were by far the most interesting element of RISE. Caesar, Koba, Maurice, and Rocket are all back and they have built up a peaceful community of apes, thriving but mere miles from some of the humans that survived the ALZ 113 virus that exacted its mortal, global toll. With the humans struggling to maintain their hold on life, and the apes continuing to develop their own, the intersection of the two species was inevitable and the eventual, inherent plagues that seem to stem from intelligent, familial communities such as: hubris, mistrust, miscommunication, bare their ugly head and plunge the two groups into kill-or-be-killed-conflict.

Patrick Doyle’s 2011 score for RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, while adequate enough for the film, provided less emotional lift or personality than some hoped for, especially in comparison to another 2011, Doyle-project, THOR. That said, his triumphant “rise” theme delivered a couple of very emotional moments, especially at the film’s conclusion as the newly emancipated apes literally rise into the nearby forest-trees. If nothing else, this theme alone seemed to provide a solid launch pad for any sequels that might come, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

For DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, composer MICHAEL GIACCHINO takes a very different musical tack. There are no discernable connections to Doyle’s score for RISE and, instead, Giacchino pays homage to the unforgettable work of Jerry Goldsmith on the original PLANET OF THE APES film in 1968; not to mention Leonard Rosenman’s continuation of that approach for the sequel, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. Nostalgia aside, Giacchino’s choice was a clever one, as Goldsmith’s impressionistic approach to his APES score was highly effective in establishing the unsettling, “madhouse” tone of the film.  Giacchino, here, is able to infuse DAWN with a similar intimidating vibe.  Keeping his score a bit more embraceable to the public at large, Giacchino doesn’t go purely experimental for DAWN, but weaves in his warm, and easily identifiable style throughout the score as well. The two together make for a satisfying package of both thrills and “feels,” especially within the context of the film.

The two biggest thematic takeaways are easy to identify. First off, Giacchino gives us a theme that seems to represent the peace and harmony of the Ape community that has been established in years since the conclusion of RISE. This theme could also be considered “Caesar’s Theme” as it is often connected with his person, his ideals, or his family. Those familiar with Giacchino’s work TV and film, will immediately find his trademark warmth in this theme. The theme’s core is shaped by two-notes, most often played lovingly on piano, but other times peacefully plucked or strummed on harp. Still, at other times, the orchestra is allowed to wrench out every ounce of emotion possible from these two notes.  Tracks such as “Level Plaguing Field” (1) and “Past Their Primates” (4) give us this theme in it’s simplest and purest form, while “The Great Ape Processional” (3), “Primates for Life” (17), and “Planet of the End Credits” lift this theme to its emotional zenith.

Examining past collaborations with director Matt Reeves, one discovers that very similar, two-note motifs are used in LET ME IN and in “Roar” from CLOVERFIELD. It’s this sort of rapturous work that we, the audience, will remain connected to long after the movie ends and will look to stir those same feelings with subsequent listens to the original soundtrack.

The second thematic device employed by Giacchino with equal, or even greater, effect is his representation of the treacherous and tormented, chimp, Koba. We get our first taste of Koba’s militaristic theme in the brilliant “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind.” Koba, who could be considered our principal villain, has a theme which features the opposite “shape” to Caesar’s, our hero. While Caesar’s main motif was contained in the simple, two-note, rising-falling shape, Koba’s is falling-rising. It is carried out by six quick notes instead of two and usually bolted out by low strings or brass. We hear a more methodical and menacing variant in “Monkey to the City” (6) and even more intriguing fragments and variations in tracks such as “Along Simian Lines” (8) and “Monkey Sea, Monkey Coup” (10). As a direct result of Koba’s influence, the battle between ape and human begins, and ironically Koba’s theme disappears from the soundtrack. In it’s place are a handful of fantastic action/suspense pieces such as “Gorilla Warfare” (11). Koba’s theme finally resurfaces in full force in the climactic battle with Caesar in “Enough Monkeying Around” (16). Finally, a truly unexpected surprise (and possible spoiler) can be found in the final track of the release, “Ain’t That a Stinger” (19). Could that track combined with the audio-only stinger, found after the credits of the film, be giving us a clue into the Koba’s true fate?

Aside from these thematic souvenirs, there are a number of additional attributes of this score that you will take out of the theater with you … whether you are conscious of it or not. As mentioned earlier, MICHAEL GIACCHINO pays homage to the the impressionistic style introduced by Jerry Goldsmith and continued by Leonard Rosenman in the first two APES films. The eerie and unsettling warped tones, dissonant strings, wordless chorus, mysterious percussion and chromatic instruments take turns and yet combine at times to psychologically ingrain in our psyche the looming threat of war. As the score progresses we get more and more percussion as the potential, and finally manifestation, of war is beaten out in front of us. Still, Giacchino seeds this discontent early on with tracks such as “Look Who’s Talking” (2), where we get some wonderful Ligeti-like chorus, and in “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind” (5), where Giacchino goes beyond merely referencing the title of the 1978 John Williams classic. One last decision of note is the fact that he hired famed percussionist Emil Richards who played metallic bowls on Goldsmith’s 1968 score and does so again here.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has received the attention and praise that it is truly due. The visuals and motion-capture acting have received most of the attention, but audiences should not neglect to recognize MICHAEL GIACCHINO’s contribution to the psychological and emotional impact of this film. Those who have not seen the film or who do not find impressionistic music to their liking might not find enough in this score to consume on its own. Those who do recognize the power of Giacchino’s score will be the ones who benefit most from purchasing and listening to the Sony Classical's original soundtrack on its own.


Rating: 8/10


1. Michael Giacchino - Level Plaguing Field (2:21) ****
2. Michael Giacchino - Look Who's Stalking (2:35)  ****
3. Michael Giacchino - The Great Ape Processional (4:34)  ****
4. Michael Giacchino - Past Their Primates (1:57) ****
5. Michael Giacchino - Close Encounters of the Furred Kind (4:38)  ****
6. Michael Giacchino - Monkey to the City (1:16)  ***
7. Michael Giacchino - The Lost City of Chimpanzee (3:46)  ****
8. Michael Giacchino - Along Simian Lines (5:04) ***
9. Michael Giacchino - Caesar No Evil, Hear No Evil (2:27) ***
10. Michael Giacchino - Monkey See, Monkey Coup (5:12) ***
11. Michael Giacchino - Gorilla Warfare (7:37) ****
12. Michael Giacchino - The Apes of Wrath (4:28) ***
13. Michael Giacchino - Gibbon Take (2:55) ***
14. Michael Giacchino - Aped Crusaders (3:26) ***
15. Michael Giacchino - How Bonobo Can You Go (5:42) ***
16. Michael Giacchino - Enough Monkeying Around (3:35) ****
17. Michael Giacchino - Primates for Life (5:42) ****
18. Michael Giacchino - Planet of the End Credits (8:56)  *****
19. Michael Giacchino - Ain't That a Stinger (1:10)  ***

Total Running Time: 77 minutes (Approximate)


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