Home > Reviews > JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM – Michael Giacchino

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM – Michael Giacchino

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The second film in the re-imagined Jurassic Park franchise is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, directed by Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona. It takes place several years after the events of the first Jurassic World film, in which the fully operational theme park was, as one would expect, fully overtaken and virtually destroyed by the genetically modified dinosaurs it housed. Claire Dearing, Jurassic World’s former operations manager, is now the head of a dinosaur rights organization; when a volcanic eruption on the Jurassic World island Isla Nublar threatens to wipe out the remaining animals, she is called to action by multibillionaire philanthropist Sir Benjamin Lockwood and his aide Eli Mills, who say they want her to help them move the dinosaurs off the island to a safe location. To this end Claire recruits Owen Grady, Jurassic World’s dinosaur expert and her former lover, to accompany her and a team of mercenaries on the mission. However, once Claire, Owen, and the team arrives back on the island, it quickly becomes clear that the priorities regarding the dinosaurs have shifted. The film stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, and James Cromwell, and has an original score by the composer of Jurassic World – Michael Giacchino.

Jumping back a little bit to the 1990s, it’s hard not to mark the parallels between the original Jurassic Park and its first sequel, The Lost World, and these two Jurassic World films, both dramatically and musically. Jurassic Park and Jurassic World were films which started out with amazing optimism and a sense of joy and wonderment, which then all descended into terrible chaos once the dinosaurs began to get the upper hand. As Jeff Goldblum’s character prophetically says, it starts out with oohs and aahs, but then there’s running, and screaming. There are similarities too between The Lost World and Fallen Kingdom: both films deal with the real-world repercussions that dinosaurs exist, both films feature experts returning to the fray in the company of tough guy hunters and mercenaries who don’t have any idea what they’re letting themselves in for. And, eventually, both films place these ancient terrible lizards side-by-side with an unwitting and under-prepared human populace, with predictably disastrous results. Musically, too, Fallen Kingdom follows the lead of The Lost World by being, in general, darker and more aggressive than its predecessor, with a clear and strong militaristic undercurrent, as well as regular excursions into real out-and-out Gothic horror.

Giacchino’s score introduces three new themes into the Jurassic Park musical palette. The first is the Fallen Kingdom theme itself, which expands from a central 4-note see-sawing motif until it is accompanied by truly enormous orchestral forces, with especially notable brass, string, and choral writing. It shares some stylistic similarities to one of the main themes from Jupiter Ascending, but what I like about it is its capacity to convey different emotions depending on the setting: it can be moody and mysterious, even a little magical, but then it can also rise to truly apocalyptic heights to convey the powerful threat of the cloned dinosaur that appears prominently in the second half. The opening cue, “This Title Makes Me Jurassic,” features the first performance of this new theme: it begins with some menacing music full of low, hooting bassoons, and gradually increases in scope until it explodes into a rhythmic tribal action sequence full of sawing strings and relentless percussion, before finally introducing the Fallen Kingdom theme at the end in a bombastic statement full of apocalyptic orchestral-and-choral majesty. It also appears prominently in the subsequent “Maisie and the Island,” thereby firmly establishing itself as the score’s dominant musical identity.

The second new main theme is the Compassion theme, which is usually intimate and tender, and is most often orchestrated for soft strings, gentle lilting flutes, and solo piano augmented by harp. It speaks to the genuine affection Claire and her compatriots feel for these confused animals, displaced in time, and at times it has a sort of lullaby-ish quality, as if insinuating that Claire – like Owen did in the first film – now considers these creatures her children. It first appears in the second cue, “The Theropod Preservation Society,” where it bookends statements of Giacchino’s theme from Jurassic World, as well as a lovely nostalgic statement of Williams’s original Jurassic Park theme. Later, in “Volcano to Death,” the Compassion theme is emotionally heightened, performed by a cooing choir, and juxtaposed contrapuntally with the original Jurassic Park theme on cellos. Its use here is clearly intended to convey tragedy, a lament for the dying dinosaurs which couldn’t be saved from the volcano.

Another interesting use of the Compassion theme comes later in “Operation Blue Blood,” which accompanies a scene where Owen and Claire attempt to quietly give a blood transfusion to a sleeping Tyrannosaurus Rex so that they can save the life of Blue, Owen’s velociraptor from the first film, who has been gravely injured. Here, Giacchino makes clever use of the rhythmic part of the Raptor theme from Jurassic World (think “Chasing the Dragons”) on tomtoms as a leitmotif for Blue, before eventually segueing into a softer version of the Fallen Kingdom theme for harp and choir juxtaposed against the Compassion theme.

The third theme is the Mercenary theme, which accompanies the hired gun Ken Wheatley and his band of soldiers as they infiltrate Isla Nublar for what initially seems to be altruistic reasons, but is eventually revealed to be something much more nefarious entirely. It first appears in “March of the Wheatley Cavalcade,” a dark and militaristic piece full of heavy brass, thunderous percussion (especially from snares), and some unexpectedly florid woodwind writing which gives the whole thing textural depth and a classic soldier’s fife-and-drum sound. The whole thing comes across as a throwback to some of the writing Giacchino did on his Medal of Honor video game scores – I’m thinking specifically of the dark marches for the Nazis – crossed with Williams’s theme from The Lost World.

Later, in “Raiders of the Lost Isla Nublar,” the Mercenary theme has an even more imposing and reprehensible attitude, and as the cue develops it works in a number of fantastic action music ideas; the rhythmic brass pattern that kicks in at 0:38 reminds me of something Jerry Goldsmith might have written for Klingons, while the phrase that begins at 2:54 sees Giacchino seemingly channeling parts of the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back in the way the brasses combine with the string writing. Finally, in “Jurassic Pillow Talk,” the Mercenary theme is played at its most enormous scope, and combines well with the Gothic version of the Fallen Kingdom theme.

However, what most people will take away from this score is the action music, because there is a ton of it, and almost all of it is just fantastic. What I love about Giacchino’s action music, and what is especially noticeable here, is how much variation there is. It’s never the same twice – he’s always playing around with the rhythmic ideas, changing the meter, using different parts of the brass section to lead, changing the instruments that double. One minute the brass is offset by strings, then its offset by woodwinds, then by piano, plus different drums which give different sonic timbres. This, for me, is a hallmark of great action music – it’s constantly interesting, constantly surprising, and never just relies on basic chugga-chugga cellos or electronic drones.

The first main action sequence takes place on Isla Nublar itself, among the remains of the Jurassic World theme park, where Owen, Claire, Wheatley, Claire’s assistants, and Wheatley’s mercenaries are all desperately trying to round up the dinosaurs – and avoid being killed by them – so that they can evacuate the island before the volcano blows. There are half a dozen or so standout action cues here, each of which have moments of excellence. “Double Cross to Bear” features a dark variation on the original Jurassic Park motif buried under a bed of heavy brass-led horror, and makes unusual use of marimbas in the percussion. “Lava Land” uses pulse-pounding brass hits in bold, oppressive clusters, alongside rhythmically throbbing strings that overlap in complicated ways, as well as regular interjections from the Fallen Kingdom motif. The whole piece is just brilliant, with outstanding orchestrations that feel very John Williams-esque in tone

Later, “Keep Calm and Baryonyx” underscores the scene where Claire and her assistant Franklin are attacked by a particularly vicious dinosaur and try to escape from it through a hatch in the ceiling of a lava-engulfed underground bunker. This cue’s fierce action is coupled with a genuine sense of brooding horror, and is notable for its use of pianos doubled with low-end reeds, hammering anvils, and an all-round orchestral density that reminds me in places of the more menacing parts of Jaws. “Go With the Pyroclastic Flow” features action music of a more rousing and bombastic nature, and is especially notable for its inclusion of a church organ into the mix which – when combined with the full might of the chanting and yelping chorus – adds an appropriate Mount Doom/Lord of the Rings edge to the volcanic carnage. Finally, I love the writing in “Gyro Can You Go,” which uses cascading strings as a ‘falling’ motif, and uses harps to represent water, as dinosaurs and humans alike plummet off a cliff and into the sea to escape from the lava. The frenetic, anxious orchestral pulses accompany Claire and Franklin’s desperate attempts to escape from a sinking gyrosphere as it fills with water.

The second main action sequence takes place at Lockwood’s isolated mansion in the forests of northern California, where Lockwood’s aide Mills finally reveals his true plan: to auction off the ‘saved dinosaurs’ to an array of shady black market figures including organized crime lords, emissaries of corrupt governments, and unscrupulous military defense contractors. Here, Owen and Claire team up with Lockwood’s precocious grand daughter Maisie, and do battle with the fearsome Indoraptor, a terrifying new dino-hybrid created in the secret lab under the mansion, which combines all the worst personality traits of the velociraptor with the last movie’s big bad, the Indominus Rex. It all kicks off in “Shock and Auction,” which has an unmistakable John Barry-esque precision in the writing in the 5-note motif at the beginning of the cue, and reminds me of something from a Bond movie – almost as if Giacchino was subconsciously equating the black marketeers with members of SPECTRE.

“Thus Begins the Indo-Rapture” features a gargantuan statement of the Fallen Kingdom theme, replete with choir and church organ, finally cementing itself as a terrifying leitmotif for the Indoraptor itself. There is more thrilling action in “You Can Be So Hard-Headed,” which underscores the sequence where Owen and Claire intentionally release a bone-headed pachycephalosaurus dinosaur so that it can wreak havoc at the auction, and they can escape; the cue features several choral interjections from the Fallen Kingdom theme, and a great deal of interesting and complicated rhythmic writing, but also maintains a more playful and caper-like edge. “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Free” opens with a blast of the Mercenary theme, followed by a sneaky-creepy version of the Fallen Kingdom motif on high strings, and then an explosion of frantic action as the Indoraptor – which had been pretending to be tranquilized – attacks and eats Wheatley and then escapes into the mansion in search of more food.

Everything comes to a head in the final pair of action cues, beginning with “World’s Worst Bedtime Storyteller”. There is the briefest moment of calm in the first few seconds, when little Maisie thinks she has escaped from the Indoraptor and hides under her blankets, but this is quickly overtaken by an explosive, terrifying statement of the Fallen Kingdom theme as the deadly dinosaur appears in the little girl’s bedroom. The choir, the brass, and the church organ, all play at their fullest and most apocalyptic, and the cue ends with a disturbing arrangement of the Fallen Kingdom theme for what sounds like a de-tuned celesta, or perhaps a glockenspiel, underpinned with rumbling, dissonant tremolo strings and brasses.

Eventually the action moves from Maisie’s bedroom to the top of the mansion, where the Indoraptor has cornered the heroes on a glass rooftop with a sheer drop at their backs. The cue which underscores this climactic scene, “Declaration of Indo-Pendence,” begins with some pure horror dissonance, but then introduces what may be my favorite thematic statement of the score: at 0:39 Giacchino whips out the Raptor theme from Jurassic World in a clever new arrangement for stark brass and tribal drums, as the velociraptor Blue comes to Owen and Claire’s rescue and attacks the Indoraptor. The choppy, staccato action writing is pure John Williams, very reminiscent of The Lost World, and is offset with regular bursts from the Fallen Kingdom theme. The cue ends with Blue getting the upper hand and forcing the Indoraptor to fall to its death, and the music for this conclusion is brilliant as Giacchino re-arranges the Raptor theme as a huge, Gothic anthem for brass and choir – with his victory, Blue has stolen the Indoraptor’s orchestrations!

The finale of both film and score begins with “To Free or Not to Free,” which sees the return of the Compassion theme in several variations, including one especially anguished one as – to everyone else’s shock – Maisie makes the unilateral decision to free all the dinosaurs trapped in the bowels of the Lockwood mansion, saving them from certain death, but in doing so letting them escape into the forests of Northern California. A thoughtful and reflective statement of the original Jurassic Park theme, and a celebratory statement of the first Jurassic World theme, leads into the final cue, “The Neo-Jurassic Age,” where the audience sees all the newly-liberated dinosaurs beginning to encroach onto the periphery of contemporary human society, hovering on the outskirts of towns, wondering what there is to eat. An understated version of the Jurassic World theme for horns segues into the final statements of the Fallen Kingdom theme, arranged two ways: initially with a sense of mystery and foreboding through the use of a vibraphone to impart a different – almost Elfmanesque – tone, and then as a rousing, fanfare for full orchestra and choir. The 10-minute “At Jurassic World’s End Credits” suite offers several reprises of the score’s main themes, including a spectacular arrangement of full Williams Jurassic Park theme.

Say what you will about Michael Giacchino, but at this point in his career he is clearly the heir apparent to the musical legacies of both John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, having successfully taken over Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, contributed to Star Wars via Rogue One, dipped his toes into the super hero genre with Doctor Strange and Spider-Man Homecoming, and now left his stamp firmly on the Jurassic franchise. What’s so impressive about his music, from my point of view, is how he is clearly developing a signature personal sound that carries across all the different projects – you can tell that it’s clearly him – but also how different the scores sound. Jurassic World sounds nothing like Star Trek, and sounds nothing like Rogue One, which from my point of view shows that he is continuing to improve as a composer. Furthermore, here in this score, he has written some of the most complex and intellectually satisfying action music of his career, but has also maintained a thematic consistency across both his Jurassic World films that is deeply impressive.

Buy the Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • This Title Makes Me Jurassic (2:54)
  • The Theropod Preservation Society (3:47)
  • Maisie and the Island (2:07)
  • March of the Wheatley Cavalcade (2:14)
  • Nostalgia-Saurus (1:05)
  • Double Cross to Bear (2:32)
  • Lava Land (3:17)
  • Keep Calm and Baryonyx (2:46)
  • Go With the Pyroclastic Flow (3:43)
  • Gyro Can You Go? (2:17)
  • Raiders of the Lost Isla Nublar (3:20)
  • Volcano to Death (1:38)
  • Operation Blue Blood (3:43)
  • Jurassic Pillow Talk (2:47)
  • How to Pick a Lockwood (3:10)
  • Wilting Iris (1:11)
  • Shock and Auction (2:28)
  • Thus Begins the Indo-Rapture (3:41)
  • You Can Be So Hard-Headed (2:28)
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Free (3:29)
  • There’s Something About Maisie (1:20)
  • World’s Worst Bedtime Storyteller (2:27)
  • Declaration of Indo-Pendence (4:02)
  • To Free or Not to Free (3:00)
  • The Neo-Jurassic Age (3:33)
  • At Jurassic World’s End Credits/Suite (10:55)

Running Time: 80 minutes 02 seconds

Back Lot Music (2018)

Music composed by Michael Giacchino. Conducted by Ludwig Wicki. Orchestrations by Jeff Kryka. Original Jurassic Park themes by John Williams. Recorded and mixed by Peter Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley. Edited by Paul Apelgren and Joe E. Rand. Album produced by Michael Giacchino.

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  1. Morgan Joylighter
    July 20, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Excellent collection of insights, thank you for taking the time to write this 🙂

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