Planet of the Apes Limited Edition Soundtrack Review (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Review Date: Monday, March 12, 2012
Soundtracks no longer come and go in today’s heavily marketed geek culture. Sure, film scores from the likes of John Williams always got a release. Anything else usually was an after thought or a way to grab a few extra dollars from the public. The rock soundtrack, populated with songs of the day, always took precedent to the film’s actual score. All that changed when the public wanted a relatively new composer’s film score over Prince’s produced rock soundtrack. The film was Tim Burton’s Batman. The composer was Danny Elfman. Ever since then, Danny Elfman has become the new John Williams; highly recognizable, works a certain type of film, and usually sticks to the same director, Burton (a la Williams and Spielberg). Burton and Elfman have a long collaboration together and that is the reason (and being a huge Planet of the Apes fan) I got a copy of their Planet of the Apes Limited Edition Score. The original score came with only one disc, not nearly enough space for the whole piece. The good people at La-La Land Records have completely restored it in a 3 disc set.
It’s impossible to talk about the music of the 2001 re-imagined Planet of the Apes without discussing the movie. I am huge fan of the original films (well not the “Battle For…”) and consider myself an Apes aficionado. I have both Jerry Goldsmith’s original score for the Planet of the Apes (1968) and Leonard Rosenman’s score for Beneath the Planet of the Apes on LP. I am always on the hunt for the Escape and Conquest scores, too. In 2001, I was thrilled that Tim Burton was going to re-imagine Planet of the Apes. Who else could bring it to life? I bought the soundtrack before the film came out; it was, after all, Danny Elfman. It was his usual flare but without images to paint a complete picture the score had little resonance. With the film’s release and the its comparisons to the original, Burton’s Planet of the Apes quickly became an after thought. Elfman’s music became something to be downloaded into the iPod (much later of course) and then skipped over.
If that was my reason so long ago, then why pick up a 3 disc set of a movie I didn’t really care for? La-La Land Records has a long history of restoring such classic film scores as 1941, The Dark Crystal, and the soon to be released Hook. Perhaps the additional music, long forgotten about, will be better than the actual movie? Daft Punk accomplished this in spades with their Tron Legacy score. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Limited Edition Mars Attacks score and again didn’t care for that film.
For Danny Elfman, the Planet of the Apes falls in between two genre heavy films: Spy Kids and Spider-Man. It is the latter of the two that Planet of the Apes generally sounds like. Granted Planet of the Apes came first, but with the success of Spider-Man many fans of Elfman’s work will hear the similarities. The biggest likeness to both scores (Apes and Spider-Man) is the use of the electric guitar. Since Spider-Man is set on Earth and in the modern world, it has a place. For the Apes score, it is as distracting as watching Mark Walhberg act. None of Jerry Goldsmith’s original ingenuity or simplicity is imitated here. Simple woodwind instruments and a goat’s horn painted a unique world. In hindsight, all of Elfman’s Planet of the Apes score is a predecessor to Spider-Man. The strongest use of the electric guitar comes on the track titled “Escape” (heard here). It is a shame, really, as Elfman’s use of the drums paints a mysterious picture that likens it to his Nightbreed score.
“The Final Confrontation” (track 2, disc 2) twists and turns you through the city of Manhattan and not a planet full of apes. It is closer to his Batman score by the end when the “Showdown” happens. Perhaps Elfman was trying something new, found a new theme, or (upon watching the film) overdid it in an attempt to save the movie. I listened to the extended discs multiple times in the hopes of finding a congruent theme or to have a story. The film was still present in my mind yet nothing here (musically) takes me back to the Planet of the Apes.
If you are fan of Danny Elfman, I would recommend picking up this 3 disc set to complete your collection. The extended cut of “Ape Suite #1” (track 4, disc 2) does take you to another place and delivers that unique feeling. It makes the score recognizable for this particular film. However, if you had the original score you already own it (original CD, track 2). I salute the efforts of La-La Land Records for this release. This one, however, might have been better left to studio vaults.
Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.
Mania Grade: C+
Soundtrack: Planet of the Apes Limited Edition
Composer: Danny Elfman
Distributor: La-La Land Records
Original Year of Release: 2012
Includes: 3-Disc Set