Planet of the Apes.

Planet_of_apes_LLLCD1193Back in the 1960s the original PLANET OF THE APES burst onto cinema screens and begun one of cinema’s most successful series of movies. As a young boy I remember taking an unofficial afternoon off from school to go and see the first in the cycle and was immediately struck and intrigued by this original and exciting movie. What also attracted me even more was the haunting musical score by Jerry Goldsmith. I think it was probably this movie and its score that made me realize just how important music was in film, especially the hunt scene with the use of a rams horn on the soundtrack which heralded the arrival of apes on horseback with rifles chasing and riding down mute humans in a world which had been turned upside down by nuclear war. I followed the series but for me none of the sequels really hit the mark or made that much of an impression upon me in the film or score departments. Yes, the scores were good and the movies for the most part were entertaining, but I felt after BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES the series kind of lost it’s way a little. So when I heard about plans to revive the series or even begin a new cycle of Ape films I was, shall we say, a little apprehensive. I felt a little better when I heard it was director Tim Burton who would helm the new version, and also even more settled when it was announced that Danny Elfman would score the movie. Burton injected darkness into the story. In fact, although based around the same or similar storyline to that of the original version, this new movie was tougher, more hard hitting, darker, more menacing and in many ways more plausible or real. The musical score is one of Elfman’s most accomplished and polished works. He created an entire landscape of  diverse percussive sounds and effects and fuses these elements to create the foundation for his innovative, quirky and ominous soundtrack. The composer straight away sets the scene and paints a threatening and frightening picture with his darkly rich and foreboding opening theme, “The Main Titles (Film Version)” track 1 (disc 1). This pounding and relentless music which accompanies  the impressive title sequence begins out in space but soon segues into a close up of ape armour, clothing, headgear and weapons etc.
The music works incredibly well in the opening sequence and creates a perfect and befitting atmosphere. Percussion is the foundation as I have already said but Elfman builds on this and adds malevolent sounding brass and low strings, combining these with electronic effects and an overall sound which can only now be associated with this composer as in brass rising and falling and being punctuated by percussion and driving strings.  The theme builds and intensifies growing in urgency and tension; the composer masterfully creating a perfect accompaniment to the images and establishing a powerful and imposing musical foothold on the proceedings.
Having always loved Goldsmiths’s “Hunt” music in the original I was curious as to what director Burton would do and, more importantly, what Elfman would conjure up for the hunt scene in the new version, if indeed there was a hunt sequence. I am glad to say there was and Burton acquitted himself well and so did Elfman. Track 4 (disc 1) “Pod Escape/New World/The Hunt”, is an urgent and frenzied composition from the offset. Central character Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) attempts to break out of his escape pod after it has crash landed in a dense jungle and is sinking in a pond. Elfman provides this sequence with suitably frantic music, high brass and equally furious strings commence proceedings, but these are short-lived and a lull seems to fall on the composition but this quiet interlude is also short lived and soon we hear the underlying apes theme emerging from the depths of the cue; brass then builds and gains momentum, ferocity and tempo. Manic sounding percussive components rule the day and establish a fearful and threatening background, underlining and punctuating the blaring and forceful sounding brass – Elfman setting in place an unstoppable force of instrumentation which seems to force its way forward, giving no quarter to anyone or anything. Track 22 (disc 1) “Preparing for Battle” is a composition full to overflowing with tension and is real edge-of-the-seat material – the sequence appears close to the movies conclusion and Thade (the ape leader portrayed marvellously by actor Tim Roth) has massed his army ready to attack the humans, his aim being to wipe them out completely. He sends the first wave of simian warriors into battle and they launch a terrifying charge at their foe accompanied by Elfman’s equally fearful, terrorizing and powerful music. The attack is quelled by Davidson as he unleashes the full blast of a space crafts blaster upon the advancing apes, killing many and stunning others.
Elfman utilizes growling brass and martial sounding percussion interweaved with strings to add a sense of urgency. He builds the tension well with his amalgamation of percussive sounds and effects which dominate the cue and are bolstered by brass and gain energy to become a frenzied, chaotic sounding combination of elements, but work effectively within the context of the movie and create an atmosphere of nervousness and dread. This release from La La Land Records is for me a dream come true, for it contains the entire film score on two discs which include a number of alternate cues and bonus tracks plus a handful of source music cues. Also included on a third disc is the 2001 soundtrack album. The set has a total running time of 212 minutes, 42 seconds. It is beautifully presented and packaged with great art work and graphics plus wonderful liner notes from Jeff Bond.

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