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Let's get to it, shall we? Does this top John Carter (my favorite Giacchino score)? Not by a long shot. That score remains in another league of sci-fi scores, rubbing elbows with some of the greats. Does this top Star Trek (2009)? Yes, because it takes the best of that ultimately good but not knock your socks off score and evolves them into something more mature and musically a little more interesting. On top of that the quality increase over 2009 is aided by a much more full bodied mix courtesy of Joel Iwataki. For the first time in a long time, Michael's army of percussion instruments actually sound alive. Two evil villains work in tandem against the Into Darkness soundtrack, keeping it from reaching the realm of greater sci-fi scores. One is its ridiculously short presentation, the other the break-neck pace of the film, together forming a nightmare dynamic duo that destroys any hope of musical cohesion. And by that I mean hold on to your hats and nuts, this is the Michael Giacchino Star Trek Variety 3/4 Hour. There is no beginning, middle, or end. And that's my biggest disappointment with the music. There is no clear musical narrative. That may be a problem with the short presentation, but the fast action pace of the film also means even with a longer presentation we are unlikely to see a proper beginning-middle-end musical narrative. So if you're looking for a slow-build up and setting the musical scene (which even the original film had), you will be sorely disappointed. Instead what you do get is a mature, darker, and more challenging score with lovely ideas splattered across tracks that [in their disjointedness] span a rather curious array of sounds and styles. Furthermore, you can tell Michael Giacchino heard a great deal of complaining about the lack of "Star Trek" sound in the previous score. Consequently, Into Darkness sounds distinctly more Star Trek than 2009, but in the heat of the action it still largely retains the "excited action squirrel" sound (it's the best visual way of describing it to me) Michael has developed for himself by assigning his choppingly tremolo strings to the higher instruments as usual. The excited action squirrel sound is getting slightly tiresome as it robs some of the action of much needed gravitas. Additionally, a couple of major new themes are included. Harrison's Theme is strong, memorable, although a little flat. Giacchino is still a weak composer when it comes to tension and release. Even in the concert version of the theme (not included on album), he struggles to build and release musical tension. So it works to the detriment of the theme. But the theme's overall presentation with interesting synthetic textures and instruments combats some of the flatness, if not all. The London Calling Theme is lovely and conveys a nice combination of sadness, pain, and anger. Wish we'd hear more of it weaved through the album. The old (and some new) themes get taken into some fresh, exciting, and better territories. "Sub Prime Directive" is a perfect example of how noble and powerful Giacchino's Star Trek theme can sound. "Kronos Wartet" has an interesting start, but it ultimately descends into lifeless atmosphere before turning into a asthmatic version of Harrison's action motif. "San Fran Hustle" is a fantastic track taking a plethora of themes and motifs into some really exciting and fun territory. From the Star Trek theme to Spock's Theme (wow!) to the most propulsive take on Harrison's Theme to the "Matter I Barely Know Her" string motif to the Amok Time fight music. "The San Fran Hustle" is arguably the best action track Giacchino has written so far. It doesn't have too much "excited action squirrel" and it has some proper tension and release. Another neat little track is "Kirk Enterprises". This is the most quintessentially Star Trek track on this album. Listen closely around 2:09 to be transported in time to Jerry Goldsmith's Motion Picture. All in all, it's a very good score. It's more mature, more challenging, and more Star Trek. While it isn't as good as Giacchino's best, to be fair he is back from a long hiatus, the album is abysmally short, and he is writing to a very fast film. Hearing Into Darkness and his maturation I'm excited to hear what he has coming up in this "post-hiatus" chapter of his career. Blume's Temporary Score (until seeing the movie/Deluxe Album): 83% Other Soundtracks Mentioned: ST09 Score: 70% John Carter Score: 93% And finally, my Blume-Experience-Scientific track by track ratings: