Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Bad film, great score

It is the unfortunate truth that there are many fantastic scores out there for really lousy movies. In fact, the great Jerry Goldsmith's career has been filled with these. Who knows where he got the inspiration to create such effective and engaging music for such turkeys as The Swarm, Supergirl or The Final Conflict, but they are examples of when the score shines brighter than the films they are attached to. I would consider The Final Conflict to be as important a work musically as his score for Patton or Chinatown. There is no connection between the quality of the film and the quality of the score in his case; even in the latter portion of his career, when I felt that much of his work started to flag, he would consistently produce solid scores for good, decent and lousy films. The reason why he scored so many bad films is easy enough to understand; he was a workaholic, and, let's face it, most films are pretty bad.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a landmark science-fiction score, one among many that Goldsmith has created over the years (a list that includes Planet of the Apes, Coma, Capricorn One, Outland and Total Recall), and while the title march is perhaps best-known because of its use as the title music for Star Trek: The Next Generation, it is an endless bounty of fascinating compositions and soundscapes. Goldsmith would go on to score four of the filmed sequels, The Final Frontier, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. Some of the material in the latter three scores is a bit tired, although there are many moments that shine (the albums are not very good representations of the best of the scores), but ultimately the scores delivered the goods, especially Nemesis, even if they were slightly used.

Vulcan farts smell like copper.

But Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was composed in 1989, and is a special case. The very next year, Goldsmith's dissatisfaction with how his music had to compete with the sound effects in Total Recall would cause him to develop a much more streamlined approach to scoring, and his following Star Treks would be composed in this manner. Look, there's no way around it. This is one lousy movie, but true to form, Goldsmith's score is nothing less than splendid.

There were two returning themes. Goldsmith took the more martial elements out of the title march and gave it a more nautical sound. The '89 arrangement has been re-used in the later sequels so much that it is hard to remember how fresh it sounded then despite the fact that it had been played every week on television for two years. The Klingon theme that Goldsmith composed for the first film would return in a much more aggressive arrangement. The original was the template for the Klingon related material that James Horner did for Star Trek III and Dennis McCarthy and Ron Jones were creating for the Next Generation series.

There were three new themes (!). The first heard in the film is an Americana piece that represents Kirk, Spock and McCoy's friendship (this appears in "The Mountain" on the album). The second heard is a mysterious piece for Sybok (this does not appear on the album), and the third is a lyrical melody for Sybok's quest (heard in several tracks on the album). The film has several action setpieces as well, each of which is great fun, and most of which are on the CD. The album is better if programmed in film order (1, 5, 3, 8, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9; I always skip the Hiroshima song). There are quite a few excellent cues that didn't make it to the record. I'm at a loss to describe what they are because it has been a very long time since I've seen this film and am in absolutely no rush to do so again. I also dimly recall that "Let's Get Out of Here" was significantly re-edited in the film. It's a CD I like to listen to, but every once and a while I think that it would benefit from an expansion. That will never happen; the trials and tribulations Sony had with their expanded edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was constantly being delayed by Paramount, and Paramount's reticence to license anything anymore pretty much puts the kibosh on this as a possibility — that plus the fact that it is probably the least popular Star Trek film (and when you can say that about a film series that includes Generations, Insurrection and Nemesis, you've really got a problem).

Two of the local theaters are doing midnight showings of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tomorrow night. I'm really interested to hear the rest of Pat Doyle's score. What is on the album is really good, but I think that it concentrated more on the major setpieces rather than the more intimate moments, which is the kind of thing that Doyle does really well. I also must admit, while I was happy that he didn't try to emulate Williams' style, his arrangment of "Hedwig's Theme" is fantastic. I hope that there are more instances of this piece in the film than there are on the album (only twice) because it is such a gripping twist on the familiar theme.

The CD has some different track titles than the advance tracks that were online. For the most part, this is a good thing; "Harry Potter's Love" has become "Harry In Winter," for example. On the other hand, the mischievious "Myrtle's Move" is now a much blander "Underwater Secrets." Hm. Oh, and the cue title "Cedric" was apparently shortened to avoid giving away spoilers, but it's full title is written right there on the back of the CD.
Tags: film music
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