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Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan - Soundtrack

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Genre: Soundtrack / Artist: Various / Audio CD released 2003-06-10 at GNP Crescendo Records

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      02.11.2007 18:27
      Very helpful



      Warp Factor 2, will you switch the gear already Sulu!

      The late 1970s and almost the whole of the 1980s were characterised in the film world by a sudden surge of interest in sci-fi films and fantasy adventures that were winged forward by the runaway success of Star Wars. As such there were a few notable films that were successful within the genre, but the larger proportion of them never got off the ground and were either forgotten or became cult favourites of the select few who knew of them. Into this craze came another cult favourite when Star Trek was made into a feature film under the direction of Robert Wise. However, the slow pace and seemingly too intellectual take was not really what enticed people to make it into another hugely successful franchise and the forever stingy Paramount Pictures was quick not to waste another such a huge amount of money on a film that was not going to be a surefire hit (regardless that the original film did perform reasonably well in the box office). In fact, it was not at all sure that another Star Trek film would ever be made until writer/director Nicholas Meyer took on the job of directing the second feature with a considerably smaller budget (then entitled The Undiscovered Country but changed to The Wrath of Khan by studio intervention). But whereas Meyer couldn't indulge with the same amount of SFX and beauty shots than the original film crew in the previous film could, he instead concentrated much more on the characters by taking a number of plot suggestions on board and fashioning a script out of the material. What resulted is one of the most entertaining Star Trek films ever, one that is exciting and filled with memorable action, yet still imbued with a more profound sense of aging and showing that even the old crew is inevitably moving towards the twilight of their lives.

      Meyer's concept for the Star Trek universe was to make everything the bit more militaristic and stately in truly imagining that the Star Fleet with its armada of ships was indeed just like a navy in space, meaning the ships behaved like the lumbering things they were, the uniforms didn't look as if the crew had just conveniently forgotten their pyjamas on and there was a real swashbuckling feeling of old pirate movies with their large scale tactical battles between two equally armed ships and their antagonistic commanders, in this case Kirk and his arch nemesis Khan. This new outlook also extended to the music that was provided by newbie composer James Horner. Horner had by 1982 only scores a scant few movies, most notably providing some of his most youthfully cheap music for Roger Corman's Humanoids from the Deep and Battle Beyond the Stars, the latter providing the blueprint for his following Star Trek music. With Horner being given the opportunity to write something with a decent ensemble and better recording environment, he certainly took the opportunity to write his heart out by creating one of his most energetic and taut scores ever. As per the new feel of the film, Horner took on the direction of writing a largely nautical sounding score with an emphasis on sweepingly sonorous strings that was very different from Jerry Goldsmith's previous brassy fanfare and electronic misterioso sound. The music in The Wrath of Khan is anchored by a set of three themes. The first is the theme for Captain Kirk, and more generally the Enterprise, which is swashbucklingly optimistic and most suggestive of adventure on high seas (or in this case farthest space), heard in many grand presentations throughout as in the main and end titles and particularly in the cue "Enterprise Clears Moorings", a fantastic off-to-space fanfare that has many parallels to the kind of "setting of sails" moments you could hear coming from the likes of Erich Korngold 40 years prior.

      The secondary theme for Kirk's revenger Khan by contrast is more dissonant and wild, being mostly built out of an insistent short five-note fanfare that is clearly modelled after the motto phrase of Rachmaninov's First Symphony and which will become a key theme for Horner when ever he wants to portray danger or evil. The music is from the outset presented with subdued malevolence in the cue "Khan's Pets" before the fantastic action cue of "Surprise Attack" finally presents the theme in its fullest, complete with clanging percussion that would later come to characterise the Klingons as well in Trek III. The sheer unrelenting tone of the music is quite an achievement coming from such a young composer and it is this that creates much of the actual driving power to the music. The third major theme is for Spock and is mostly centered at the latter half of the film, with one euphoric and largely electronic performance coming in the cue "Spock" in the middle of the film. This theme is more thoughtful and philosophical in nature, but which can arise to some truly emotional climaxes as in the "Epilogue" cue just before the end credits, a moment of truly fervent passion and which shall be developed to its fullest in the following film. These three themes provide the main building blocks of the score and rarely deviate from them, with the exception of a few suspense moments that are more atonal and dissonant than harmonically pleasing. The absolute highlight of the score however is the finale music beginning from "Battle in the Mutara Nebula" and concluding with the "Epilogue/End Credits" sequence. The "Battle in the Mutara Nebula" is by far one of the most exciting musical tour de forces in Star Trek history as Kirk's Enterprise and Khan's Reliant battle it out in the haze of the nebula in a good old fashioned style of a sea fight, both trying to outmaneuvre the other. From the beginning preparation-for-battle montage to the suspense of stalking in the nebula and the attacks of the two factions is all scored with the utmost dramatic verve and energy that translates very well to the listener even without the visuals. The suspensefully tense "Genesis Countdown" continues from there, and the final nostalgic and impassioned "Epilogue" cue bring the finale to a very nice conclusion as it leads to the famous "Space, the final frontier..." speech recited by Leonard Nimoy before moving into the fantastic end credits music, complete with an explosive coda.

      The album released by GNP Crescendo in 1990 contains roughly 45 minutes of music, featuring the same amount of score as was on the original 1982 album release. The score itself is very tight at only 60 minutes in length and the album presentation contains all the most important cues from the film while omitting most of the suspenseful underscore that doesn't use any thematic material. I would still have liked a couple of smaller cues to have been included such as the music accompanying Kirk's shuttle trip to the Enterprise, the Genesis music inside the planetoid core, and the final strike on Khan's ship in the nebula, but on the whole those are not hugely important cues to have (certainly nothing on the caliber of omissions on The Search for Spock album). Sound quality is not that full and there is a slight harshness to the recorded sound that makes the 80 member orchestra sound somewhat tinny. But on the upside, the sheer energy of the performance translates extremely well, the almost hectic playing really thrusting the film forward and heightening the intensity of the battle scenes in particular. For me personally, this remains my firm favourite of the Star Trek scores. It is one of the first scores that I really paid attention to, and incidentally it was this score that introduced me to the concept that film music is actually specifically composed for films rather than being reused classical music (see, I was naïve once too). It is definitely not as finely crafted or as subliminally enticing as Goldsmith's original, but the brutality of Horner's effort certainly doesn't shy away from the music of the more experienced composer. And should you be of the disposition that Goldsmith's famous fanfare is too popular and "geeky" for you, then Horner's music may just as well be much more appealing due to its closeness to the swashbuckling genre of high sea adventure rather than sci-fi adventure. All in all, Horner's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is an utter pleasure and still remains as one of the composer's best works. The album is still well in supply and can be purchased for £7,50 on Amazon.uk. A definite recommendation if you can't guess.


      In a huge surprise, in 2009 the speciality soundtrack label Film Score Monthly came out with their big release rumoured for a good while before, unveiling Horner's entire score for Star Trek II complete and remastered from the original master tapes. While the sound still isn't as good as it could ideally be, the remastering has unveiled a large amount of previously unheard of detail and orchestrational subtleties. As big a perk to the cleaned up sound also is the inclusion of several of the shorter tracks never before issued elsewhere, including the oft requested "Kirk in Space Shuttle", "Enterprise Attacks Reliant", "Spock (Dies)" and the "Amazing Grace" cues along with the harsher, atonal music the like of "Inside Regula I" and "Captain Terrell's Death". Other notable extras are also Craig Huxley's rather strange "Genesis Project" written for the Genesis video in the film, and as a bonus the original end title cue (largely the same as the one in the film, but omitting the soaring rendition of Spock's theme, and minus the famous dialogue). While admittedly the additional material isn't that vital to casual listeners as the original album contained the greatest set pieces, the improved sound and the fact that we actually finally got a complete Star Trek score from Paramount's vaults - and particularly that being one of Horner's best scores to boot with FSM's usual high quality and in depth liner notes - was positivity enough for FSM, through their Retrograde label, to issue the CD in unlimited quantities. It can best be bought from speciality stores instead of places like Amazon, but for any fan of the score this complete version is well worth the money.

      Original Album

      1. Main Title (3:03)
      2. Surprise Attack (5:06)
      3. Spock (1:10)
      4. Kirk's Explosive Reply (4:02)
      5. Khan's Pets (4:18)
      6. Enterprise Clears Moorings (3:32)
      7. Battle in the Mutara Nebula (8:08)
      8. Genesis Countdown (6:36)
      9. Epilogue/End Title (8:40)

      Complete FSM Release

      1. Main Title (3:06)
      2. Surprise on Ceti Alpha V* (0:45)
      3. Khan's Pets (4:19)
      4. The Eels of Ceti Alpha V/Kirk in Space Shuttle* (3:53)
      5. Enterprise Clears Moorings (3:33)
      6. Chekov Lies* (0:40)
      7. Spock (1:12)
      8. Kirk Takes Command/He Tasks Me* (2:07)
      9. Genesis Project* (by Craig Huxley) (3:16)
      10. Surprise Attack (5:07)
      11. Kirk's Explosive Reply (4:01)
      12. Inside Regula I* (1:35)
      13. Brainwashed* (1:24)
      14. Captain Terrell's Death* (1:58)
      15. Buried Alive* (0:57)
      16. The Genesis Cave* (1:09)
      17. Battle in the Mutara Nebula (8:07)
      18. Enterprise Attacks Reliant* (1:29)
      19. Genesis Countdown (6:34)
      20. Spock (Dies)* (1:53)
      21. Amazing Grace* (1:26)
      22. Epilogue/End Title (8:41)
      23. Epilogue/End Title (Original Version)* (7:29)

      * Previously unreleased

      Music Composed and Conducted by James Horner
      Orchestrated by Jack Hayes
      Scoring Engineer: Dan Wallin
      Recorded at Record Plant Scoring
      Music Editor: Bob Badami
      1982 / GNP Crescendo, 1990 (GNPD 8022)
      Film Score Monthly/Retrograde, 2009 (FSM 80128-2)

      © berlioz, 2007 / 2010


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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Main Title
      2 Surprise Attack
      3 Spock
      4 Kirk's Explosive Reply
      5 Khan's Pets
      6 Enterprise Clears Moorings
      7 Battle In The Mutara Nebula
      8 Genesis Countdown
      9 Epilogue

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