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Planet of the Apes (Soundtrack) by Danny Elfman

The Apes of Elfman
Review by Christopher Coleman


Planet of the Apes (Soundtrack) by Danny Elfman

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes (Soundtrack) by Danny Elfman

Category  |   Score

Originality 7
Music Selection 7
Composition 6
CD Length 8
Track Order 8
Performance 7
Final Score 7/10



Real Audio Clips


Track 8 - Ape Suite #2




 Purchasing Options

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Advance Poster




Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman


Quick Quotes

"Elfman has described his score as being melodic and simple but with a lot of muscle behind it. In that respect he is very correct. Fans of Elfman's current style of composing will relish PLANET OF THE APES.
" *****

Ryan Keaveney - Cinemusic Reviews Planet of the Apes



Composed and Produced by Danny Elfman
Conducted by Pete Anthony
Co-Produced by Steve Bartek, Ellen Segal and Marc Mann
Executive Album Producer:  Tim Burton
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek, Mark McKenzie, Edgardo Simone and David Slonaker
Released by Sony Classical Records December 1999

The Summer of 2001 has seen its share of blockbuster films, but none may have been more anticipated or heavily marketed than Tim Burton's "re-imagining" of the sci-fi classic, Planet of the Apes.  Wherever director Tim Burton is composer Danny Elfman is usually close at hand. With successful collaborative efforts such as Edward Scissorhands, Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas, the two creators pair up once again for this new millennium rendition of the great Ape story.

Like most composer loyalists, Elfman-fans have, for the most part, been satisfied with the composer's recent compositions such as: Proof of Life, Sleepy Hollow, and A Civil Action. Those not so devoted to the composer have found such efforts mediocre at best.  Planet of the Apes; however, is a different breed of film, garnering different expectations from fans.  The premise of Planet of the Apes is a story that certainly gives not only visual artists such as director Tim Burton a broad palette from which to create but also artists such as Danny Elfman. With this in mind, hopes and expectations for both film and score have been set especially high.

Overall, Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes is a film of pleasant irony.  Despite shortcomings in the script and logic the film remains entertaining.  The film  relies more upon the the costume design and, dare it be said, "acting" than glitzy digital effects.  Of course there certainly are many effects used throughout the film, but they are understated and take a back seat to fascinating costumes, make-up and characters (specifically the ape-characters).  Seldom can a statement like this be made of a contemporary Summer-sci-fi flick.

Right in step with this irony is Danny Elfman's score. Simply stated, Elfman's score fits well into the scheme of the film, but is not the sort of score that most will remember 15 minutes after leaving the theatre. The score similarly takes a back seat to that which has made the Planet of the Apes franchise unique and memorable - those wonderful apes.  This is not to say that this is a bad score from Elfman.  The music is definitely functional, just not as memorable as one might have been hoping for.

Danny Elfman's music is fairly aggressive - much in the manner of Jerry Goldsmith's score for the original Planet of the Apes film was.   Both scores communicated an "otherworldly,"  technological-feel but also contained a rough organic texture.   Elfman, not surprisingly, relies and incorporates much more electronic instrumentation than Goldsmith did, but uses the mesh between synthesized and orchestral elements to effectively create a main theme for the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes.

This main theme makes its first appearance in the film's opening credits [Main Titles (1)] and this may be the only time the music calls attention to itself within the film.  By today's standards, the opening credits were long and were not placed over the first few scenes of the movie which normally establish the film's setting.  This interesting choice by Burton also allows for Elfman's music to take center stage for a few moments, but for the rest of the movie, despite its aggressive stance, the score stays subtly within the framework of a given scene.  This attribute of the score is a double edged sword.  On the one hand, Elfman's music never distracts from a scene, but on the other hand, it doesn't give any particular scene a huge emotional boost either. 

Contrasting the methodic Ape-theme is a sparsely used love theme.  It is a teasing motif that  leaves one wanting a more.  Again, it fits the hintings of romance between Leo and Ari, the "human-rights activist-ape" as well as between Leo and Daena.  The theme is lead on the flute and accompanied softly by strings.  Elfman also twists the theme a bit to give a darker sense to Old Flames (9) reflecting the obviously tumultuous relationship between Ari and General Thade.

Sony Classical's presentation of the music is quite acceptable.  It features the most important cues from the film with a couple of added features.  First, there are two suites: Ape Suite #1 (2) and Ape Suite #2 (8) .  Both of which actually provide a good sampling of the score's electronic/organic atmosphere.  Second, there are two "remixes" of sorts that round out the CD:  Main Title Deconstruction (14) and Rule the Planet Remix (15).  The first features an even more aggressive interpretation of the score's main theme and the second an electronica-version, including dialogue samples from the film.  Both do add a some variety to the soundtrack, and if one is partial to this style of music, might prove entertaining enough.  Sony also provides a graphically pleasing CD insert which includes a bit from comic book, Planet of the Apes Official Movie Adaptation, but does not offer any interesting notes regarding the score.

Many consider the original Planet of the Apes score some of Jerry Goldsmith's most inventive and memorable, but would such praise be made of Elfman's interpretation?  The bottom line regarding Elfman's music is that it does fit the film's tone and respective scenes, but doesn't necessarily give any one scene a great emotional boost. While more definitive themes and motifs would make for a more pleasurable listening experience on the soundtrack, it is debatable whether this would have been equally edifying within the film.  Both the organic and technological elements of the storyline are represented well through Elfman's score, but, like Proof of Life, has few moments that are interesting outside of their pairing with the on-screen visuals.  The score does gain some appreciation with successive listens and the additional suites and remixes make a case for purchasing the soundtrack; however, once again, film music fans will best experience this score as it works in the film.


Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Main Titles 3:49  ***
2 Ape Suite #1 3:52  ****
3 Deep Space Launch 4:35  ***
4 The Hunt 4:58  ***
5 Branding the Herd 0:48  ***
6 The Dirty Deed 2:27  ***
7 Escape From Ape City/ The Legend 5:57  ***
8 Ape Suite #2 2:42  ****
9 Old Flames 2:10  ***
10 Thade Goes Ape 2:37  ***
11 Preparing for Battle 3:26  ***
12 The Battle Begins 5:17  ***
13 The Return 7:18  ****
14 Main Title Deconstruction 4:22  ***
15 Rule the Planet Remix - Paul Okenfield 4:03  ***

Total Running Time



Planet of the Apes (Soundtrack) by Danny Elfman

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
Proof of Life



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