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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Jurassic World - Michael Giacchino - Soundtrack Review

I wanted to post this review last week, but the sudden death of James Horner made it necessary to write a post about him. I still cannot believe that he is dead and that there will be no more soundtracks by James Horner!

The movie

"Jurassic World" (2015) is the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park film series and the first installment of the planned Jurassic World trilogy, while also serving as a direct sequel to the franchise's first film, "Jurassic Park" (1993). It was directed by Colin Trevorrow, written by Derek Connolly and Trevorrow, produced by Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley, and stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, and Irrfan Khan.

Set 22 years after the events of "Jurassic Park", "Jurassic World" takes place on the same fictional Central American island of Isla Nublar, which is located off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, where a theme park of cloned dinosaurs has operated for nearly a decade. The park plunges into chaos when a transgenic dinosaur escapes from its enclosure and goes on a rampage. Here is the trailer:

Universal Pictures intended to begin production of a fourth "Jurassic Park" film in 2004 for a mid-2005 release but development stalled while the script underwent several revisions. Following a suggestion from executive producer Steven Spielberg, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver explored the idea of a functional dinosaur park. Once Trevorrow was hired as director in 2013, he followed the same idea while developing a new script with Connolly. Filming lasted from April to August 2014 in Louisiana and Hawaii. The dinosaurs were created by Industrial Light & Magic using CGI and by Legacy Effects using life-sized animatronics.

Production was completed in May 2015. After a record-breaking opening weekend during which it became the first film to gross over $500 million, "Jurassic World" generated $1.6 billion in box office revenue, ranking sixth among the highest-grossing films of all time. It was also the second-highest-grossing film of 2015 and the highest-grossing in the franchise. Furthermore, it is the highest grossing film ever released by Universal Pictures unadjusted for inflation.

The music

This is the first review of a soundtrack by Michael Giacchino on my website, therefore, some basic information first. Born in New Jersey, Giacchino created as a teenager animation movies and began combining these movies with soundtracks. One of his teachers suggested Giacchino’s parents that their son should attend the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Giacchino said in an interview he loved the freedom at that school. He was able to get an unpaid internship at Universal and filled this position at night while attending school during the day and also working at Macy’s to pay his rent.

1990, Giacchino graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. He later moved to Disney and got his first jobs in composing music for video games. His first major composition was the music for the video games of DreamWorks “Lost World”. Interesting is also that this game was the first to be recorded with an original live orchestral score. I am sure Giacchino never thought at that time that he would compose the music for a Jurassic Park movie later.

Giacchino became popular for composing music for games such as the first “Medal of Honor” series and “Call of Duty: Finest Hour”. In 2001, J. J. Abrams hired Giacchino to compose the music for “Alias”and later for “Lost”. Brad Bird hired the composer for “The Incredibles”, his first feature movie score, and that score got nominated for a Grammy. Giacchino also scored for Pixar “Up” and won the Academy Award for “Best Original Score”. He also composed the music for the first movie of the new “Star Trek” franchise.

I never watched “Alias” and “Lost”, no idea why, I just was not interested at that time in these two series even though my friends were big fans of “Lost”, but I thought it was too late after two seasons to step into the plot. Therefore, the first time I really recognized Michael Giacchino was for his music for “Ratatouille”, in my opinion, one of the best animation movies in the last years, and this score was the first soundtrack by Giacchino I bought. I still love this music, especially Giacchino’s ability to write wonderful melodies, and my idea was to discuss this soundtrack as the first score by Giacchino on my website, but then “Jurassic World” came out, so let’s talk about this.

I watched “Jurassic World” when I was in Boston attending a summit of my business school. My first idea of that evening was listening to some live jazz music; I could not find one good place, so I decided to watch this movie on that Sunday. I did not know that Giacchino was writing the music, and just saw it at the end of the music. The soundtrack is a great mixture of lovely music that focuses more on atmosphere and very good action music later. Giacchino used John William’s majestic theme for various scenes and said: “It was a really targeted approach, as to where to include Williams' theme and where would make the most sense and where would we most appreciate it, as fans ourselves.”

Because of the action packed scenes, action cues are a big part of the soundtrack, starting with Nr 5 “Clearly His First Rodeo”. Then we have a break with quieter tracks. Action comes back with track 10 “Fits and Jumpstarts”, I really like the first part of the track and how Giacchino is able to create atmosphere and suspense here. The piano part with the lovely melody here is so nice to hear.

There are a lot of really noisy and quite impressive orchestrated parts of the soundtrack, and therefore, this is not an easy listening soundtrack at all. Giacchino really transforms the danger and the brutality of the dinosaur attacks in music. Examples are track 12 “Love in the Time of Pterosauria”, track 13 “Chasing the Dragons” (one highlight of the score”), track 14 “Raptor Your Heart Out” (great title!), track 15 “Costa Rican Standoff” (great beginning with the percussion and the brass section) and, of course, track 16 “Our Rex is Bigger Than Yours” (nice choir at the beginning, but I do not like the use of the choir in the second part of this track, a little over the top in my opinion).

The action tracks are overall composed with a high amount of string movements and percussions, the brass section sometimes interrupts with “shocking” outbursts.

Track 20 is called “Jurassic World Suite” (nearly 13 min long). To be honest, I have no clue what is the reason for this track. I can remember that some of this music was used for the end credits.

Overall, I prefer the quieter parts of the score. I still think that compare to the high amount of action tracks, there is really not one track that is great from the beginning to the end. Each of these action tracks has just great parts. Compare the action tracks of this score with e.g. Jerry Goldsmith’s tracks, and you can find that Jerry was able to write perfect action tracks from the beginning to the end.

My favorite track on the score is therefore Nr. 4 “As the Jurassic World Turns”. This five minute piece is for me the best track of the whole score. You really can hear how great Giacchino is in using the variety of a big orchestra. This track has wonderful melodies, a great usage of percussion, strings and the flute before Giacchino uses Williams “Jurassic Park” theme. This track as a whole is one of the best music composed this year so far. I listened to this track in the last three weeks nearly 30 times, and I just can admire Giacchino’s talent! This is really amazing movie music!

From all the film music composers nowadays, Giacchino is one of the most talented, I am sure he will give us a bunch of great soundtracks in the following years.

I attended the 50th birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall and found a clip from it:

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2015, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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