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Jurassic World (Michael Giacchino)

June 13, 2015

Cover_JurassicWorldJURASSIC WORLD

Michael Giacchino, 2015, Back Lot Music
24 t-racks, 76:50

The park is open! Spared no expense. Even got one of Hollywood’s finest composers to write a few tunes for it. But is Giacchino’s score better than being chased by dinos?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

I doubt it needs much introduction. Directed by Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”), this is the third sequel to 1993’s original “Jurassic Park”. Hammond’s vision has come true and the park is fully operational. In fact, visitor numbers are in decline, so they decide to create a new attraction. You may be surprised to find out… this goes horribly wrong. Scoring “Jurassic World” is Michael Giacchino. An obvious choice, not only because of his enormous popularity, but also because he has scored various related video games (“The Lost World” and “Warpath”).

What does it sound like?

The sound that John Williams created for the first and second installments is iconic. Don Davis didn’t deviate too much in “Jurassic Park III” and neither does Michael Giacchino here. The score is performed by a large orchestra with an emphasis on brass, though choir and percussion also play pivotal roles. The quieter moments (of which there are a fair few) are dominated by strings, woodwinds and piano.

The album opens with “Bury the Hatchling”, an ominous cue, where a solo horn call echoes (but not mimics) that off the original main theme. The particular sound of choir and bells, later in the cue, really does sound like Williams! The sinister mood of the opening cue is put aside and replaced with something altogether more family-friendly in “The Family That Strays Together”. It’s a lovely melody that will be reprised throughout the score. And then there is “Welcome to Jurassic World” where Giacchino faithfully reprises Williams’ original main theme. In case you had forgotten: it is a magnificent composition. Compared to the original, there is a slightly stronger emphasis on brass and choir giving it a ‘sharper’ sound; and it’s also cut short, making the overall performance feel a little bit rushed.

So far, we’ve got three decent tracks firmly planting this score in Jurassic ground; but there is an issue. Already the score sounds fragmented, as if we’ve just listened to three separate openings. The transition from the opening cue’s sinister tones to the carefree plucks on the harp of “The Family…” is abrupt and feels odd; though not quite as odd as the transition from track two (which ends really sharply) to the next. Whilst the transition to the fourth track is better, it too starts with a solo horn echoing those original ideas. Already I’m feeling deja vu-ish.  The flow of the music really doesn’t feel right – and we’re only five minutes in! Unfortunately, track sequencing will continue to plague this album, especially towards the end (more on that later).

Luckily there is good news too: “As the Jurassic World Turns” is an outstanding cue! Giacchino takes us on a musical journey revolving around his new main theme. Your appreciation for the entire score will strongly depend on your appreciation for this particular theme, as it is to play a leading role throughout the rest of soundtrack. I absolutely adore this theme. It is my kind of theme. It is lush, noble, epic and adventurous… but in a really humble way. There is something graceful about it; though it’s really quite slow. The melody itself is carried by legato strings, with staccato strings and woodwinds providing motion. Brass accents are scattered throughout; and towards the end the brass perform a bold statement of Williams’ original theme (though I wish Giacchino had used his own theme for this climax).

We get a first glimpse of Giacchino’s action material in “Clearly His First Rodeo”. He does a fine job staying close to Williams’ style with that typical use of staccato brass, string ostinatos and woodwind flourishes. The cue changes tone halfway through and ends with a playful rendition of the “World” theme. Action music and sinister underscore alternate throughout “Indominus Wrecks”, which also introduces a dark 5-note motif for this film protagonist: the Indominus Rex.

The “World” and “Family” themes come together in “Gyrosphere of Influence”; whilst “Pavane for a Dead Apatosaurus” revolves around a tender piano version of the “World” theme. It’s absolutely gorgeous… and it’s here (where it’s really slowed down and broken down) that I first start wondering whether Giacchino’s new theme works as a counterpoint to Williams’ original one, or follows a similar chord progression. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with perfect pitch so I’m not sure. Suffice to say, it fits snuggly in the Jurassic universe (perhaps a suggestion for a future sequel).

The next few cues showcase Giacchino’s adventurous action writing. Much of it revolves around repeating ostinatos for strings and brass, interspersed with snippets of various themes. They’re exciting cues (adventurous rather than scary), brilliantly orchestrated, though they also highlight Giacchino’s tendency to repeat phrases and motifs one too many times. The “Family” theme returns almost unrecognisable in “Chasing The Dragons” where it receives a brassy make-over, making it sound like it came from “The Incredibles”.

“Costa Rican Standoff” seems to echo Williams’ “The Lost World” (with its punchy brass stabs and latin percussion), whilst “Our Rex is Bigger Than Yours” features a brief but heart-stopping statement of the “World” theme for brass and choir. This is followed by chanting (which feels oddly out-of-place) and another motif that seems to harken back to “The Lost World”.

Via the slow, hymn-like “Growl and Make Up” (which reprises the “World” theme) we get to absolute highlight of the album: “Nine to Survival Job”. Softly oscillating strings and piano offer the gentlest of versions of the “Family” theme, which ends with a soft, mesmerising piano ostinato. Giacchino just lets that hang in the air, before carefully bringing in the “World” theme. The piano gives me goosebumps, and as the strings come in I’m getting shivers down my spine. The theme builds and erupts, with brass and choir lending it truly epic proportions. As this point I nearly have tears in my eyes. This. Is. Perfection.

Giacchino repeats the process in “The Park Is Closed”, which opens with a piano rendition of Williams’ original theme, before making way for a solemn, string-driven performance of the new “World” theme. It’s not quite on par with “Nine to Survival Job” though it’s close; and I believe the two cues would have worked better the other way round. The “Jurassic World Suite” is a nigh 13-minute cue reprising some of the score’s ideas, notably the ‘incredible’ variation on the “Family” theme, though comprises mostly of suspense- and action music. It’s good stuff, but probably not the kind of suite you’re expecting.

The album concludes with four brief cues, which I suspect are used as ‘source music’, probably accompanying public-announcement videos that play inside the park (I’m sure Giacchino did this before, I’m thinking of “Secrets Weapons Over Normandy”). They are four up-beat, march-like, infomerciallicious show tunes. Brilliantly executed, but they do make for an odd ending – once again highlighting the messy structure of this album.

Is it any good?

Michael Giacchino’s “Jurassic World” is for the most part an astonishing score. His new main theme is simply gorgeous and, combined with the “Family” theme, gives the score much more ‘heart and soul’ then you might expect. There is plenty of action- and suspense music, but it’s of a family-friendly adventurous nature. It’s not so much scary, as it is simply good fun. Your appreciation for the score as a whole will greatly depend on your appreciation for Giacchino’s main theme(s) as he depends on them throughout the album. For me, they clearly work. Williams’ original main theme also makes a few appearances, though no more than just a few. Those who were hoping that this score would rely solely (or at least: mostly) on Williams’ material (the way Don Davis’ “Jurassic Park III” did), will likely be disappointed. Of course, you can’t have a “Jurassic” film without the iconic main theme, yet I feel slightly underwhelmed by Giacchino’s adaptation of it. It’s faithful… but it feels like it’s shoehorned in. It sounds great, but its appearances feel awkward. By comparison, Don Davis did a superior job integrating Williams’ themes into his score, but then… that score was a wholly different proposition. It was meant to be a variation on Williams’ work, whereas Giacchino has been allowed to create something new.

However, what really does not work is the track sequencing. The current order of cues just does not do the score justice. The opening instantly creates a fragmented atmosphere; the four (bonus) cues at the end feel too much like an afterthought; and the sequencing in between is not much better. This is a real shame and diminishes the listening experience.

That said, I can’t not love this score. I adore the new themes. I enjoy Giacchino’s typically ‘economic’ style of writing (he only writes those notes that are necessary, no more) and the fabulous orchestrations by Tim Simonec and various others. The album also features some sweet liner notes by the composer and the director. Oh… and the reason I can review this album without yet having seen the film, is because Colin Trevorrow says so. “This score tells the story as clearly as the words or the pictures. You can watch it without a screen. All you need is a good set of headphones.” Joking aside, I think this is a tremendous compliment. It describes what I personally consider great filmmusic to be. Giacchino has more than deserved that compliment.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

01. Bury the Hatchling (1.56)
02. The Family That Strays Together (1.00)
03. Welcome to Jurassic World (2.08)
04. As the Jurassic World Turns (5.31)
05. Clearly His First Rodeo (3.28)
06. Owen You Nothing (1.19)
07. Indominus Wrecks (6.11)
08. Gyrosphere of Influence (3.14)
09. Pavane for a Dead Apatosaurus (4.44)
10. Fits and Jumpstarts (1.31)
11. The Dimorphodon Shuffle (2.13)
12. Love in the Time of Pterosauria (4.31)
13. Chasing the Dragons (2.54)
14. Raptor Your Heart Out (3.50)
15. Costa Rican Standoff (4.37)
16. Our Rex Is Bigger Than Yours (2.41)
17. Growl and Make Up (1.16)
18. Nine-To-Survival Job (2.33)
19. The Park Is Closed (1.38)
20. Jurassic World Suite (12.53)
21. It’s a Small Jurassic World (1.43)
22. The Hammond Lab Overture (1.07)
23. The Brockway Monorail (1.46)
24. Sunrise O’er Jurassic World (2.06)

Early reports showed a tracklist that omitted the last four cues, but instead included three cues labelled: “04. Does This Dino Make Jurassic Look Big”, “07. A Glorified Petting Zoo”, “18. The Teeth Degree”. I don’t know if this was a premature tracklist, a hoax, or a genuine alternative version. Answers on a postcard…

Availability

It’s everywhere!

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