Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A prophecy unfulfilled, Williams returns for Star Wars VII, but is this good?

Following the release of the score to Star Wars, Episode II: Attack Of The Clones in 2002 a like-minded score enthusiast friend asked me what would happen if John Williams had to be replaced for Episode III due to his unfortunate death or ill health [after all Williams was 70 at the time] and who could do his job? Despite it being unfathomable to such a die-hard fan like myself who has even made Star Wars the basis for his spiritual beliefs for anyone else to score Star Wars, I always have had my eye on the future and without any hesitation at all I offered a single name in response to his question: Michael Giacchino.

My friend laughed at me. To be fair, his reaction was not unjustified; at the time Giacchino wasn't even a 'name' among the film score community. Much like Jeremy Soule, Inon Zur and Bill Brown he was only known to video-game score enthusiasts as he was responsible for most of the scores for the Medal Of Honor franchise as well as the first scores for Call Of Duty. As great as all that music was for video games, there must have been over 200 top names in a movie-producer's Rolodex between David Arnold and Hans Zimmer all of whom would be far more experienced to score a motion picture than any video-game music composer, therefore my choice was branded as "idiotic".

But a lot has happened since then and now in just over 10 years Giacchino was put just a single step away from actually scoring Star Wars VII, turning an formerly idiotic answer into what seems now like a prophecy of biblical proportions.

Micheal Giacchino has now actually become one of the most prolific composers in modern cinema. He used scores for animated comedies like Ratatouille as a stepping stone to score live action pictures like the abysmal Speed Racer. He is praised for his work on The Incredibles and critics agree that his score is the only redeemable element of the otherwise woeful Land of the Lost.

Giacchino won the coveted Academy Award for Best Original Score for Up in 2010 as well as numerous Grammys, Golden Globes and has received additional nominations for Grammy's and Emmy's. As impressive as all these credentials are, they alone are not enough to put him even close to Star Wars VII, for that we must look elsewhere.

First of all Giacchino has a long history with new Star Wars/Lucasfilm overlords Disney. Originally he worked at their publicity department in NYC, and then LA. From there, he went over to Disney Interactive as an assistant producer. Years after later working for Dreamworks he scored Disney's Sky High, The Muppet's Wizard of Oz and more recently the megaflop John Carter as well as several Pixar films. In 2005 Giacchino collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering in creating two new soundtracks for the updated versions of Space Mountain at Disneyland, Space Mountain: Mission 2 at Disneyland Paris, and Space Mountain at Hong Kong Disneyland. His music can also be heard in Star Tours: The Adventure Continues during the "travel log videos" shown in the cue line for the attraction.

As strong as the bond between Disney and Giacchino is, it alone wasn't enough to warrant them granting him probably one of the most profound projects in cinematic history. Even the fact that Giacchino composted magnificent scores to two LucasArts published video-games, Secret Weapons Over Normandy and Mercenaries wouldn't come into play. The final piece of this puzzle is in fact the visionary director J.J. Abrams!

It's an easily researched fact that some directors and producers favour certain composers. They may be friends with them, or the composers may have a special understanding with the directors that almost breathes musical life into the director's creative vision and create perfection through collaboration. When Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were partners, David Arnold always had a job. Since 1999 M. Night Shyamalan uses only James Newton Howard. When Martin Scorcese wants an original score he has turned only to Howard Shore since about 1999. And most remarkably only four out of all the movies ever directed by Steven Spielberg were not scored by John Williams.

In the same vein as this director/composer collaboration, Abrams has used Giacchino in almost everything he's produced on Television since their first collaboration on Alias in 2001. Giacchino's only Television work to date has been for Abrams and includes music and themes for long running series Lost and Fringe. Most notably, Giacchino has scored all of the movies Abrams has ever directed and almost all of what he has produced, providing a brand fresh new soundscape for the rebooted Star Trek franchise as well as redefining Mission: Impossible's score in his own musical idiom.

When Abrams bagged the Star Wars VII gig, it put Giacchino in a position where it became an 'educated presumption' that he would in fact score the new Star Wars trilogy and fulfill perhaps my greatest prophecy. The only fly in this ointment was the fact that Giacchino himself didn't want to do it. In an interview in May he said in response to hypothetically being offered Star Wars:

"I would say, 'I don't want to do it'... From day one, I have said I hope John [Williams] does it. Selfishly, I want to hear more 'Star Wars' music and I want to hear what he would do with it. He's been an incredible teacher over the years to me, he's a friend and he's one of the best composers on Earth. I want him to do it. That's the way it should go."

Giacchino will get his wish. At the weekend, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told a Star Wars convention in Germany that John Williams would return to score Star Wars: Episode VII. Williams said in an interview with StarWars.com that he was "happy to be continuing to be part of the whole fun" of the franchise. He hinted he would likely use some of the music from previous films. "I haven't seen the script, so the story is still unknown to me, but I can't image there will not be some references to the existing stories that would make appropriate use of some of the earlier themes," he said.

While I'm certainly not unhappy with the news, I am hoping that there has not been a missed opportunity to do something new. I don't like change but I'm not blind to the passage of time and so I'm somewhat apprehensive. Williams is now 81 years old and has sadly only produced turgid crap in the past decade [outside Revenge of the Sith obviously]. His music has become almost indistinguishable from one project to the next - Lincoln, War Horse, War of the Worlds, Munich are prime examples of a once great old man losing his touch. Even the score to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seemed jaded in comparison to previous installments.

To be honest, I'd understand and support Williams decision to rest on his impressive unequalled laurels and thank him for the the years of joy he brought us with his wonderful compositions for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Jaws and even fucking Harry Pothead! Instead he's probably signed a contract that will have him working for Disney until Star Wars IX in 2019 at which point the man will be... sweet Lucas he'll be 87!!! Perhaps my Giacchino prophecy is just "delayed" as opposed to "unfulfilled".


Former Grunt said...

While I agree that Giacchiono would do a good job with Star Wars, I don't think too many "changes" would be good for Star Wars considering that it's in a new direction now altogether. Let's see how the first one does and then decide.

Also I think it insane to refer to a simple opinionated answer to a question 10 years ago as a prophecy, more a lucky guess. Even then though the writing was on the wall. Senior Spielbergo chose Giacchino out of all the musicians he could to score the Lost World video games [now that games could have real music as oposed to midis] and Medal Of Honor [basically the video game of Saving Private Ryan] which he produced.

It's as if he was telling the world: I can't have Williams score video games but I have the next best thing.

Lieutenant General Creedon said...

No it's a prophecy as I was imagining it in my mind's eye at the time. I could actually see Giacchino compose new Star Wars music and conduct the orchestra himself. I also saw the silver embossed cover of the CD release to the score, it had the logo and Giacchino's name clearly.

It will be so, not yet but in time...

Former Grunt said...

Far be it from me to argue with your Jedi precognition. Is it possible that there's a private CD release of Giacchino's music from Star Tours? That's a Star Wars ride...

Quentin said...

This is awesome!