This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on June 24th 2015.
During the fledgling stage of his career, and to an extent even more recently, Michael Giacchino has been hailed by some as the spiritual successor to the incomparable John Williams (who is still incomparable despite that very comparison). The validity of such claims do have some weight, and not just because Giacchino cut his teeth creating the score for the video game adaptation of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the film of which Williams scored. Not only does Giacchino have a similar sound, but he also seems to seek out similar projects, working on the kind of films that Williams would have when he was in his prime (think Super 8).
That being said, Giacchino has begun to transcend such claims and has carved out his own distinctive style, particularly with his work for Pixar for which he garnered his first Oscar with Up. You’d think then, that Giacchino would do everything in his power to distance himself from any further comparisons, after all, no one could come out of that tête-à-tête on top. But at the same time, it must be near impossible for a composer to turn down the opportunity to work on a franchise with one of the most acclaimed musical legacies in film history.
So, how does he fare in scoring Jurassic World? Well, all things considered, pretty damn well. Usually Giacchino’s greatest strength lies in his more sentimental work, whereas his peers are often more focused on coming up with elaborate, showy themes. Here however the composer achieves a good balance between slower, emotive fare and full on dramatic and exciting pieces.
Before we get onto the signature smaller, understated pieces, let’s look at some of the louder stuff. Things open up with copious amounts of dread. ‘Bury the Hatchling’ (note those Giacchino title puns) makes use of the increasingly popular Ligeti-2001-esque choir. This is probably a trope that needs to be retired soon before it becomes too stale, but here it works so well, and fits perfectly to accompany the ominous birth of a dangerous and intelligent creature. Williams himself utilized a similar motif in the first film in order to signal the frightening ingenuity of the Raptors when they first open a door, so starting things off on this note is a smart way of signposting the threat of the film’s new big bad. It’s a suitably foreboding introduction, and one that sets things up nicely.
One of the things Giacchino gets absolutely spot on throughout is scoring the carnivores. Treating them as both monsters and villains, he gives them each motifs that allude to their natural origins and their intimidating intellect. For example, perhaps the best original piece in the whole thing is the outstanding ‘Our Rex is Bigger than yours’. The track involves one of my personal favourite Jurassic Park tropes, that being the ‘heroic T-Rex’ music. It’s a slightly ridiculous concept, setting up the ultimate predator in a heroic light, but one can’t deny that it’s totally bad-ass. The track also contains an obvious throwback to the often overlooked score to The Lost World, which is both a surprising, and welcome addition.
On that subject, let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s no secret by now that the film takes several cues from John Williams’ iconic score. Most pronounced of these comes in the form of ‘Welcome to Jurassic World’, a 2 minute long version of the famous theme from the first film. There’s no denying the glee inducing power of this track; it’s a really moving piece of music, and one should admire Giacchino for using it. Others may disparage the inclusion however, accusing Giacchino of being afraid to stray from the beaten path and create something for himself. But the track consciously plays on the iconic nature of the theme, seemingly screaming “Come on guys! You know this one!” and it’s effective in that regard. It’s also in some ways the ultimate recording of the track, with subtle tweaking to make the most full-on and triumphant version that there is.
Other than the inevitable borrowings, the rest of it is unmistakably… Giacchinoian? ‘As the Jurassic World Turns” is a good companion piece to the location and surpasses his startlingly similar work for Tomorrowland in terms of fanfare and capturing a sense of wonder. As for those aforementioned emotive cues, look no further than the ‘Pavane For A Dead Apatosaurus’, which slows things down for a fantastic piano led moment that is all too brief.
Add to that some clever little bonus tracks, which function as the background music for the theme park itself, and you have a wonderful collection. Only intended as small extras, these couple of tracks ‘It’s a Small Jurassic World’ and ‘The Hammond Lab Overture’ are still fun additions, probably drawing on Giacchino’s own history scoring for theme parks (he did the music for Space Mountain at Disneyland don’t you know).
RATING: 8/10- A strong blockbuster score that hits every required emotional beat.
Jurassic World (2015), directed by Colin Trevorrow, is distributed in UK cinemas by Universal Pictures and is showing now. Its original motion picture soundtrack, composed by Michael Giacchino, is also on release now.