Michael Giacchino’s Strange, Pun-Filled Movie Scores

By  · Published on July 24th, 2014

Brett Butterstein / Disney/Pixar

Coming up with song titles for a score or soundtrack can be a tricky business. The music for a film is usually released before the film itself to get audiences excited, but if the track listing reads like a spoiler list for what happens in the film, the music can end up being more upsetting than enticing. Other times the titles that make up a film score can be boring and forgettable (even if the music is not).

However composer Michael Giacchino has taken a different approach by making his track titles stand out by giving them funny (even pun-y) titles.

For Giacchino’s most recent project, the score for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, he created one of his most comedic listings yet which Big Fish and Frankenweenie writer John August pointed out on Twitter:

With track titles like these plus “Level Plaguing Field,” “Look Who’s Stalking,” “Past Their Primates,” “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind,” honestly every track on the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes score has a tongue-in-cheek title that should have you scoffing (even if you don’t want to) as you read them.

However Dawn of Planet of the Apes is anything but a comedy with a story rooted in action and drama, making Giacchino’s silly track listings all the more comical because their tone is slightly out of place. But this is not Giacchino’s first time taking a dramatic, action packed project and giving his songs titles that will have you looking twice.

For Star Trek Into Darkness, Giacchino gave his tracks titles like “Earthbound and Down” and “Buying The Space Farm.” Funny, but moreso in their own right than in relation to the film. For Star Trek, Giacchino kept his titles within the scope of the story with “Enterprising Young Men,” “Nero Sighted,” and “Does It Still McFly?” These zings call on the famous Enterprise which is first introduced to a young Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), villain Nero (Eric Bana), and a slightly more out-of-the-box nod to another sci-fi, time-line bending film with McFly referring Michael J. Fox’s character in Back to the Future.

Both Star Trek films (and the series) had an air of comedy among the action which help Giacchino’s titles work, especially when some sound like something Pine’s smart-alek Kirk would say if he were asked to name the song playing over certain scenes.

Thanks to some of the seemingly more comical character names featured in John Carter, Giacchino capitalized on the opportunity to work those characters (like the Therns and the Tharks) into his titles coming up with “A Thern for the Worse,” “Thark Side of the Moon,” and “A Thern Warning” not to mention “The Temple of Issus” and “Zodanga Happened.” Again, working character names into the titles help tie things back to the film, but for a live action blockbuster, these puns feel like they undermine the world of John Carter rather than add to it.

The fourth in the Tom Cruise led Mission Impossible series, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was anything but comical, but that did not stop Giachhino from naming his tracks things like “Give Her My Budapest,” “Kremlin With Anticipation,” “From Russia With Shove,” and “Mumbai’s the Word.” His titles are funny, but they almost take you out of the feeling of a film because they do not quite mirror the emotion the songs themselves convey.

And this trend is not limited to films, Giacchino composed the music for the mystery driven Lost and made sure to keep his signature style with tracks named things like “The Swinging Bendulum,” “Crash and Yearn,” “Alex In Chains,” and “Sawyer Jones and the Temple of Boom.” Giacchino’s track titles almost become Easter eggs that only true fans know to go look for when they see his name attached to a project, regardless of the genre. But the do these funny titles take away from the overall impression of a production that does not deal in the comedy arena?

Giacchino is unquestionably witty and while his pun filled track listing for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does not quite fit the tone of the film, it does force you to pay attention when it comes to the score and what track you may be listening to. “Enough Monkeying Around” is one of the best tracks on the compilation thanks to its layered and varied instrumentation, but the song’s silly title does slightly take away from the emotional and impactful tone of the song itself. While it is true that the climax of the film does signal the time to stop messing around and get serious, in the context of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it is also not really the place to look for one more laugh.

It is good to know that Giacchino clearly has a healthy sense of humor, but his talent of giving songs funny titles may be better spent on comedy projects where they would be better appreciated.

Do you like Giacchino’s pun filled song titles? What film would do well to have a funny track listing? What would one of the silly song titles be?