Brad Bird created some of the most enduring modern animated films. He would charm both adults and kids with his dazzling imagination and emotional sensitivity right from his very feature debut - Iron Giant from 1999. As the time went, the director decided to move away from that medium and helmed his first live action film Mission: Impossible –Ghost Protocol. The latest opus, Tomorrowland, is both a continuation of this new chapter in Bird’s career and a return to more innocent world of childlike fantasy. The film tells a story of a secret utopia world created from the dreams of world’s brightest minds. This very Disney concept (certainly alluding to their theme parks business) stars Britt Robertson in a role of Casey, a girl who serves as an audience’s avatar through this rollercoaster. Along with Frank (George Clooney), she changes the course of the world.
As with previous Brad Bird projects, the score is composed by Michael Giacchino. He has an incredibly busy summer this year with three films being released literally weeks apart. Tomorrowland offers him yet another opportunity to compose a big orchestral music for epic fantasy (following both Jupiter Ascending and John Carter). His compositions are broad in scope but never forgetting about characters and emotions (very much in the tradition of James Horner). It certainly has more in common with Pixar animation films (like Up) than it does with those massive tentpole space operas. And, as such, very welcome breezier diversion in the doom and gloom of such projects.
While being generally lighter than its two bigger blockbuster scores, the score is rich in thematic material. Michael Giacchino composed myriad of motifs and themes for characters and places that are developed throughout his score and most of them culminate with the very satisfying ‘End Credits’ suite (something that this composer never fails to supply). Its most prominent idea is introduced right at the very start of this film and score and will certainly be what most listeners can take away from this soundtrack album. It might be really simple but is suitable for various statements, from quiet character-focused moments to bold heraldic brass declamations. Both of those approaches are demonstrated in the opening ‘Story About the Future’ track.
This central brief idea is complimented by several others. Also in the very first track, we can hear a hint of yet another heroic motif that receives it full treatment in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ and ‘What An Eiffel’. Apart from those shorter motifs, Giacchino composed also a longer theme that can be probably associated with Tomorrowland itself. It can be first heard in ‘You’ve Piqued My Pin-Trist’ and is fully stated in the fantastic ‘Pin-Ultimate Experience’. This melody definitely forms the very heart of this score and film and will sit comfortably among composer’s finest tunes.
While characters and emotional elements form the very heart of Tomorrowland, there are also elements alluding to the quirkiness of science and old-school s-f genre. There is yet another rhythmic theme that can be found in ‘A Prologue’, ‘Casey V Zeitgeist’ and ‘As the World Burns’. It is decidedly darker than all the other noble material and adds a slightly different shade to the score. One of the finest pieces on this soundtrack album is ‘Sphere and Loathing’, in which Giacchino showcases his wondrous writing at its best. In this track, the villainous theme in question also makes an appearance.
As can be expected, Tomorrowland is full of exciting setpieces. The action music is not as prominent as with Giacchino’s other big scores but there are several notable fast paces passages presented in this score. The biggest ones would be the climactic duo of ‘The Battle of Bridgeway’ and ‘The Hail Athena Pass’. The main ostinato/theme that propels both cues brings back the memory of his entertaining scherzos from Medal of Honor video game franchise.
Ultimately, the score will certainly entertain the listener through its generous 73-minute album but, at the same time, it won’t offer anything particularly fresh. In many ways, Giacchino’s latest is yet another incarnation of the classic glittering Disney utopia sound we know from several films and television programmes. It might be too saccharine for some, true, but the expert executions results with a truly infectious listening experience nonetheless. Along with Patrick Doyle’s Cinderella, Tomorrowland successfully carries over the old tradition of family genre, without ever trying to update it (subvert it, for that matter). Old cliché still works… well… wonders.
Tomorrowland is out now as a digital download from Walt Disney Records in the United States and will receive a CD release in June