A futuristic adventure inspired by a Disneyland attraction, Tomorrowland (subtitled A World Beyond in the UK) stars George Clooney and Britt Robertson as a chalk and cheese duo who must work together to save the future of mankind. The former plays former boy genius inventor Frank Walker who must team up with Robertson's idealistic teenager Casey and travel to the mysterious, wondrous Tomorrowland: a remarkable place beyond time and space that was created by the world's greatest scientific minds. Crammed with all sorts of cool futuristic gadgetry from jet packs to androids and rocket ships, director Brad Bird's movie is narratively muddled, relying on an exposition-filled final act, but nevertheless spectacular and exciting with a positive message about embracing the future as opposed to fearing it. The movie marks the fourth collaboration between Bird and composer Michael Giacchino, who have worked together on Pixar movies The Incredibles and Ratatouille and also Tom Cruise blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Bird's witty, playful direction has in the past proven an excellent fit with Giacchino's energetic, full-blooded music, their past projects having ranged from John Barry-esque jazzy arrangements to tender French lyricism and full-blown action bombast. And Tomorrowland refuses to buck the trend: fully symphonic with memorable themes and a richly old-fashioned sense of adventurous spirit, Giacchino's music is a valuable asset to the film, raising the adrenaline levels even when the chaotic narrative stubbornly refuses to gel.
Throughout his career, Giacchino has proven adept at aping the styles of other composers, with the likes of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith proving especially influential on scores for the likes of Lost, Star Trek, Super 8 and this year's sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending. When it comes to the breezy, exuberant tone of Tomorowland, it's the late, lamented James Horner's rip-roaring score for underrated 1991 comic book adventure The Rocketeer that's the most obvious touchstone, although Giacchino's own voice has now matured to the extent that the Tomorrowland score doesn't sound like mere pastiche. Instead, it hearkens back to an old-fashioned style of scoring whilst also standing as an exciting, identifiable Giacchino work in its own right.
The score's main theme is introduced in in opening track "A Story About The Future", where a quiet piano solo leads into a bold brass fanfare. Unashamedly joyous and old-fashioned in nature, the theme acts as a kind of thematic overture to the movie's themes of science and discovery, and is subsequently developed throughout the score. "A Prologue" inverts the soundscape, the pensive brass section reflecting the more fearful attitude of Clooney's character Frank, who for much of the movie is seen looking to the future with a sense of pessimism. Contrasted with this is the wondrous tone of "You've Piqued My Pinterest", which steadily builds a sense of anticipation through the string section before the addition of the horns lends a noble quality, a reflection of the film's heartening central idea that we should look to the future with a sense of optimism and excitement.
The soundtrack's second theme, one brimming with a sense of adventure, is teased in "Boat Wait – There's More!" where a tantalising brass melody is undercut with a host of off-kilter percussive devices, a textural representation of quirky inventions and robots that occupy the eponymous futuristic world. At moments like this, the zip and invention of the composer's writing calls to mind his work on Pixar's movies. The theme then gets its first delightful airing in "Edge of Tomorrowland" where it erupts in a series of bold, fully orchestral statements, accompanying the film's flashback sequence where 12-year-old Frank is led to discover the extraordinary, inter-dimensional landscape. It's the kind of un-self-conscious film music that Giacchino revels in, and also where the aforementioned comparison to The Rocketeer becomes most apparent. Timpani rings out, bells clang and the brass resounds; it's wonderful.
The emphasis of the score then shifts to a depiction of Robertson's character Casey, with lighthearted yet purposeful strings in "Casey vs. Zeitgeist" painting her as a forthright, go-getting character. The brief but breathtaking "Home Wheat Home" then ushers in a choral variation on the central "discovery" theme, as Casey is first alerted to the presence of Tomorrowland via a mysterious pin that appears to transport her there. Everything then takes off in the gloriously grandiose "Pin-Ultimate Experience", one overflowing with a sense of wide-eyed innocence courtesy of frenetic strings, an undulating piano, tinkling xylophones and plenty of brassy outbursts. There's an appealing retro nostalgia to the tone of the music that calls to mind any number of popular soundtracks, with Star Trek and Star Wars featuring especially highly.
"A Touching Tale", as its name suggests, then calms everything down with a poignant rendition of the score's third theme, emphasising the connection between Frank and young robot girl Athena (Raffey Cassidy), whose relationship is central to the storyline. "World's Worst Shopkeepers" is the first blast of the action music that comes to dominate the album's second half. Ominous, rumbling timpani explodes into a densely constructed piece with the strings and brass going full bore; the rhythmic patterns of the latter call to mind John Williams, whilst the textural adornments like the rumbling piano undercurrent are pure Jerry Goldsmith. "Just Get in the Car" and "Texting While Driving" continue in the same vein, Giacchino tempering the aggressiveness with lighthearted flourishes: plucked strings here, a trilling woodwind solo there.
"Frank Frank" is a brief interlude, a melancholy, horn-led take on the central theme before the next piece of action music gets underway in "Full-House Assault", accompanying one of the film's best scenes in which Frank and Casey have to escape from hordes of deadly, humanoid robots. In the manner of his Mission: Impossible scores, Giacchino's music strikes just the right note of whimsical menace, zipping and darting around with lighthearted abandon whilst also proving visceral enough to lend an enjoyable sense of threat. The almost jazzy sounding arrangements for woodwinds and brass serve to further reinforce the comparison.
"People Mover and Shaker" is a somewhat tense cue with compelling work from the pizzicato string section; gradually as the track progresses, it develops a more optimistic tone through tinkling piano and horns, with the central theme again present. The score's adventure theme makes a welcome – and overdue – appearance in the following track "What an Eiffel!" that brims with a sense of old-fashioned heroism. The enveloping nature of the brass section also highlights the superior recording quality of this score compared to other Giacchino works: the nuances of the orchestrations really do stand out.
After that interlude, "Welcome Back Walker!" is altogether darker and more pensive, undulating, nervous strings mixing with muted brasses to suggest the possibility of a doom-laden future for mankind. This then builds into a militaristic rhythm – but the underlying feel this time is one of ominousness. "Sphere and Loathing" showcases Giacchino's underrated flair for textural, offbeat writing, mixing a host of fluttering woodwinds with somewhat discordant horns and off-kilter piano chords. Again, it's decidedly more unsettling than the earlier joyous material – an indication of the pessimism and darkness that has overtaken the inhabitants of Tomorrowland. The choral-led "As the World Burns" builds a sense of impending catastrophe, which then leads into the spectacular "The Battle of Bridgeway": an aggressive assault from the brass and timpani sections that recalls John Williams at his finest. At the same time of course, Giacchino's own voice is dominant: the frantic interplay between various sections of the orchestra, plus the little nuances like the bouncy woodwind undercurrent, call to mind Lost, Star Trek and other works. The anchoring presence of the central theme also ensures that the music never drifts off into aimless noise.
After another intense, albeit brief, blast of action in "The Hail Athena Pass", the score then reaches its emotional and thrilling climax in "Electric Dreams" and "End Credits". The tender woodwinds, piano and strings of the former summarise the central relationship between the characters of Frank and Athena, humanising the film's futuristic landscape. The piece then builds into a noble, soaring rendition for orchestra and soaring choir, dying away again into ethereal, delicate chimes. The latter track then lets rip with a bombastic blow-out of the main theme, brass and strings proving unreservedly muscular as the score rolls to its close. The awe-inspiring choral climax is surely one of Giacchino's greatest passages of music.
2015 is quite possibly the finest year in Michael Giacchino's professional career to date, with four excellent scores all tailored to their respective films yet each having their own distinct identities. Jupiter Ascending is the most technically accomplished, Jurassic World the most satisfying as a listening experience and Inside Out certainly the most unusual and creative. Yet even amidst all these riches, the exuberantly old-fashioned tone of Tomorrowland stands out. It's the sort of film score we don't get enough of in the 21st century: one not afraid of declaring its intentions from the rooftops, composed of memorable themes and proudly wearing the influence of its predecessors. The largely optimistic tone of the score is perfectly suited to the film's theme of hoping for a better future, proving that Giacchino is one of our greatest musical storytellers in terms of finding the right approach for a given movie. The future of film music is certainly set to be a bright one with Giacchino in it. The soundtrack album is available from these links at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.