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Jurassic World
  • Composed by Michael Giacchino
  • Back Lot Music / 2015 / 77m

What could possibly go wrong with a dinosaur-based theme park?  I know something went wrong before, but definitely everything will be OK this time.  And that has come to pass, with Jurassic World a sedate documentary about an ordinary day at said park, with absolutely nothing going wrong.  Everyone behaves in an entirely rational manner and there is little in the way of screaming, apart from the screams of joy from Universal executives at the extraordinary box office receipts.

When his career was first gaining traction, there were some who thought that Michael Giacchino was heir apparent to John Williams, with various tips of the hat to the great man coming in those early game scores he did, including the video game tie-in to The Lost World which in 1997 was one of his very first paying gigs.  In the years since he has very much carved out his own sound which is very distinctive and very much his own, even when he has stepped in to film series with more than auspicious musical pasts (Star Trek and Planet of the Apes); but now he really does have a chance to follow in Williams’s footsteps by joining a franchise which includes what I consider to be two of the greatest scores of the veteran composer’s celebrated career.

Michael Giacchino

Michael Giacchino

As with Don Davis who scored the third film, Giacchino does (inevitably) include some Williams here, but not as much as Davis did and unlike him, Giacchino doesn’t really attempt to write in Williams’s style, instead pleasingly ploughing his own field but planting a few Williams crops along the way.  The album opens with “Bury the Hatchling”, an unsurprisingly dark-hued piece of tension, orchestral colours – a glistening harp, a fluttering flute – and a hint of the score’s main theme playing out with a spooky choir.  Then after a brief rendition of the score’s family theme – sweet, sedate, a little nostalgic – in “The Family That Strays Together” we get a fist-pumping arrangement of Williams’s glorious, magnificent main theme in “Welcome to Jurassic World”.  It sticks pretty close to the original arrangement though the choir is more up-front, and it’s great to hear the grand, stately tune again; one of those that I never tire of hearing, one of the greatest in film music history.

Giacchino then shows what he can do with the fullest and most satisfying version of his own theme coming in the score’s finest (non-Williams) cue, “As the Jurassic World Turns”.  Heraldic trumpets, swirling strings, pounding drums and heavenly choir dominate the orchestration and it’s a very fine piece, a strong and impressive thematic statement with multiple sections and a stirring spirit.  If there hadn’t been a couple of minutes of Grade-A John Williams before it (and a few bars at the end of it, with the first score’s Island Fanfare making a cameo), I suspect it would seem even better; but there are, so it’s always playing catch-up, which might be a bit unfair but is what it is.  Still – when it crops up on people’s Best of Giacchino playlists, as it surely will, it’s going to be one of the best things on there.

A bit of suspense opens “Clearly His First Rodeo” but then we’re back into the grandeur of this score’s main theme.  “Owen You Nothing” then has a semi-comic feel to it, plucked strings and a gentle wind theme.  So – sweetness and light.  Somehow you know it’s not going to stay like that and, of course, it doesn’t; “Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.”  And that’s pretty much the rest of the score – dark action and suspense, punctuated with moments of sweetness and calm that are almost eerily so, recalling the sweet lullabies Williams put in a couple of places in Jurassic Park.  And it really does kick off in “Indominus Wrecks”, which after some swirling and tension-building (and wonderfully florid orchestration) starts the mayhem.  Appropriately, there’s a hint of Giacchino’s (and for that matter Goldsmith’s) Apes music with the intricate percussion but the melodic base is much stronger here and perhaps it would be better to compare it with some of the heaviest duty Lost action cues.

Numerous cues leave an impression.  A sense of grandeur opens “Gyrosphere of Influence”, an air of awe from the choir accompanying the main theme, before a playful interlude leads into gritty suspense.  “Pavane for a Dead Apatosaurus” is a surprisingly moving interlude, a gorgeous piano-led arrangement of the theme full of sadness.  “The Dimorphodon Shuffle” is a cacophonous delight, brilliantly intricate writing first for winds and then brass being really impressive.  There’s a dynamic action theme running through “Chasing the Dragons” that’s one of the score’s highlights.  Even better: “Raptor Your Heart Out” is a deliciously dark piece of action with a surprise thematic cameo appearance that will be a lovely moment for long-time fans of the composer (I won’t give the game away).  And speaking of surprise thematic cameos, it’s appropriate but I really wasn’t expecting to hear Williams’s The Lost World theme here – yet there are a few bars of it in “Our Rex Is Bigger Than Yours”, a glorious action cue featuring some strident tribal chanting in the middle section.

“Nine to Survival Job” is the beginning of the end, a lovely piece with another rapturous (or perhaps raptorous) rendition of the great main theme; then comes the rousing “The Park is Closed”, Williams leading into Giacchino leading into the gigantic 13-minute “Jurassic World Suite”, which offers a great reprise of the score’s major material along with some thunderous new stuff.  The album isn’t quite done there – four bonus tracks follow, the pick of the bunch being the last one, the lovely “Sunrise O’er Jurassic World”, written by Mick Giacchino, who I believe is Michael’s son and on this evidence perhaps destined to follow in his footsteps.

Jurassic World is a fine piece of work that through no fault of its own suffers in comparison with something that only one or maybe two working film composers in 2015 would be capable of matching, one of whom is rather busy at the moment with Star Wars.  (Critics of awkward sentence structure – fill your boots.)  Judge it on its own terms, as it deserves, and there’s a lot going for it.  To be picky – I’m not sure the album sequencing does it any favours.  Well, actually, I’m sure it doesn’t: the dramatic arc just isn’t quite there.  And that’s about the only bad thing I can say about another highly impressive score from what is proving to be a real banner year for Michael Giacchino.  The guy’s on fire at the moment and it’s a pleasure to experience.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Sam D (Reply) on Sunday 24 July, 2022 at 21:38

    The soundtrack very obviously sounds very generic and old. There is absolutely nothing catchy about it. Infact it is a big sour patch on the whole movie. Meaninglessly bring played all the time, it sounds stale. This is 2022, but the soundtrack sounds like an old 90s average feature film. Zero imagination, zero innovation, nothing interesting about it. Below average. Sound engineering has evolved so much over last three decades but this sounds like something that is stuck in time and irritably boring.