By Charlie Brigden
An oft-mentioned quote about following in footsteps is “standing on the shoulders of giants”. This can accurately describe Michael Giacchino, whose work such as Ratatouille, Up, and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek has propelled those movies to huge successes, gaining him a lot of fans in the process. He’s already followed Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner with the aforementioned Star Trek, but now he’s taking on the big one, the one who people say he will eventually succeed. John Williams. Jurassic World is one of four scores from Giacchino this year (Jupiter Ascending, Tomorrowland, and the forthcoming Inside Out) and given the huge following the franchise has, probably the most anticipated.
It’s a big ask really. Jurassic Park is such an iconic work with a set of amazing themes that are as memorable as Jaws or Rocky. It’s a work of pure genius in the way it’s constructed, and even Williams had trouble matching it (as good as The Lost World is, it isn’t Jurassic Park). And after twenty-two years of humming those themes, it’s not really fair to compare it with a brand new score that doesn’t really go for the whole homage deal. Don Davis’ Jurassic Park III was upfront with its use of Williams’ themes – it even mentioned Williams on the cover – but here Giacchino uses it only really as a springboard and a bookend. This is a good thing, as it places the score the right side of nostalgic without being overdependent.
On it’s own, Jurassic World is a fierce beast. It begins in a foreboding mode (as all JP scores do) with a big horn rendition of a five-note motif backed with choir. The motif is similar to the four-note one Williams created for the raptors and T-Rex, and given that this film features a genetically-modified dinosaur, maybe the extra note is Giacchino stating that this too is evolution, just like the I-Rex as it’s called. After this, he introduces a gentle theme that builds from a solo piano to a warmer string arrangement. It feels like a love theme, but I can’t be sure. Either way, it’s lovely. [edit – Giacchino has noted that it’s a “family theme”]
And really it’s these two moods that Giacchino juggles throughout the album. There is a great deal of what I guess can be described as “angry dinosaur music” and it gets very tense and enthralling at the same time (fitting for a theme park). ‘Indominus Wrecks’ has a long string motif that’s countered with dulcimer and brass, and segues to a low piano that suddenly springs into life with horn and tuba, while ‘Love In The Time Of Pterosauria’ has a repeating four-note idea for brass that’s appropriately accompanied by flapping strings, which then spiral up and up gaining extreme height.
‘Raptor Your Heart Out’ has a lovely Prokofiev feel to it while ‘Costa Rican Standoff’ is pure Giacchino, with the string section going hell for leather while the brass clashes with a foreboding choir. While the music is often harsh and serious, there’s also a lot of fun to be had. The flowery ‘The Dimorphodon Shuffle’ has a crazy woodwind section, and ‘Gyrosphere of Influence’ runs with an inspirational string melody backed by choir and sprightly percussion. ‘Our Rex Is Bigger Than Yours’ is maybe the best of the bunch, with a huge heroic brass melody that leads to tribal chanting and drumming that, to be honest, makes a better Klingon theme than his one for Star Trek Into Darkness.
As the score winds down, we’re treated to some absolutely beautiful emotional material. ‘Nine To Survival Job’ is a wonderfully cathartic and gentle piece with the “family theme” that builds into a big brass and choral statement. It’s this kind of thing where Giacchino really channels his peers and you just come away with real satisfaction. The score shows the composer really paid attention to Williams’ scores, not just the themes, but the orchestration and dynamics. It feels like a Jurassic Park score, but a Michael Giacchino Jurassic Park score.
I’ll briefly address the big Tyrannosaur in the room. The score features three tracks – Welcome To Jurassic World’, ‘As The Jurassic World Turns’, and ‘The Park Is Closed’ – that either consist of the previous themes or at least majorly quote them. They’re great arrangements, very faithful but with little touches that stand out, especially with some economy. Like Don Davis’, Giacchino’s rendition of the main theme has a more pronounced choir, but it sounds great. Of what little there really is, it’s really well reprised.
And that’s maybe where people might stand on this score, or at least this album. If you’re coming to Jurassic World wanting to hear John Williams’ theme quoted over and over, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re interested in listening to a wonderful Michael Giacchino action score that displays just how much of a command he has over a modern symphony orchestra, then by all means, take an extended vacation to Jurassic World. But please don’t feed the animals.
Jurassic World will be released on CD and digital on June 9th from Back Lot Music