THUS BEGINS THE NEO-JURASSIC ERA
As much as I love soundtracks — and trust me, that’s quite a bit — I don’t know a great deal about them on a technical level. I’m a fan, not a connoisseur. I could take a stab at telling you whether a particular element of a piece is being played on a piano, harp, violin, what have you, whether something is in a minor key or major… but ask me anything deeper, anything about metre, for example, or scales, chords, or — God forbid — ‘musical phrases’, and I’d probably look at you like you’d suddenly sprouted a second head.
Not the most encouraging way to kick off a post about music, perhaps, but I feel it’s an important point to get out of the way — especially when preparing to discuss that of Fallen Kingdom.
Much has been made of this particular soundtrack, of its style and its influences — but I can’t really speak to those things. I can, however, talk about it as a fan, as someone just as excited by, and invested in, the music of the Jurassic world as the films. And so that’s what I’ll try to do.
Frankly, I found Fallen Kingdom’s soundtrack incredibly disappointing.
I also love it.
My initial disappointment is laid bare in the first impressions I wrote mere hours after finally seeing the film.
‘ALL THIS IS IN THE PAST…’
Musically, I still consider the majority of the first half Fallen Kingdom to be a huge missed opportunity; I still think that Nublar’s apparent last hurrah should’ve leant more heavily on familiar themes, and I still think, frankly, that much of what’s there in their place (Lockwood’s theme, Wheatley’s, the lighthearted opening of Go With the Pyroclastic Flow, for example…) is disappointingly unremarkable.
Though I hesitate to apply that description to all the first-half music (while I don’t think Lava Land, Keep Calm and Baryonyx, Go With the Pyroclastic Flow, and co. fit Nublar’s scenes, ‘unremarkable’ they are most definitely not), the point still stands: for me, the music of Fallen Kingdom’s first fifty minutes or so is at its most effective when referencing that of the past.
The wonderful, rousing statement of As the Jurassic World Turns as Claire heads to Lockwood Manor; the similarly excellent return of Jurassic World’s family/love theme as she seeks out Owen*; and, of course the haunting, melancholy and thoroughly effective reprisal of Jurassic World’s theme as the characters arrive on Main Street all serve as proof. It’s odd, really, that the music goes down such an unfamiliar path, given the rest of the film’s almost slavish use of classic visuals.
I think it’s important to note, however, that when I talk about ‘referencing’ classic themes, or ‘leaning heavily’ on them, I mean it very literally. I don’t want note-for-note reproductions. The thrill, for me, lies in subtle differences, in hearing the familiar, but something new, too — which is why, despite my above sentiments, I was completely underwhelmed when (as Owen and Claire had their heart-to-heart in the bowels of Lockwood Manor; as Mr. Mills had his unfortunate encounter with the business-end of the Rex; and as Owen and Blue had their ‘moment’) Giacchino chose to lift music pretty much directly from Jurassic World.
Unforgivable? Certainly not. It’s not as if the returning music is bad; it’s just that, in those moments, it carries a definite sense of ‘Been there, heard that.’ All familiar, nothing new.
As for what is new, however…
‘… I WANNA TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE FUTURE.’
As underwhelmed as I was by much of Fallen Kingdom’s music, as ‘disappointingly unremarkable’ as I found some bits, there’s one particular theme that stands out as unreserved success.
Given that it’s heard most prominently when the creature is on-screen, you could consider it the Indoraptor’s theme, but, really, it’s the theme of the entire film itself.
Ridiculously versatile, it closes the film’s opening in spectacular fashion, subtly warns of what’s to come as Malcolm not-so-subtly does the same, and speaks of what’s been lost as that brachiosaur makes its way across Main Street.
Of course, when the Indoraptor finally takes the stage, it becomes big, loud, larger than life — and thoroughly (though I hate to use that most overused of overused descriptions) epic. In my aforementioned first impressions, I called this particular use ‘incredibly intrusive’, but, in retrospect, I think that was because I was still in shock about how the film used the classic themes. I was still thinking more about what I wanted to hear, rather than what I actually was.
No longer, though… if ‘chills’ were literal, I’d have a severe case of frostbite by now.
Indo-disaster averted, the theme becomes quiet again, lullaby-like, underscoring the changing world and ushering in the neo-Jurassic Era. In my eyes — or ears, I suppose — it single-handedly redeems the whole soundtrack. Funny, really, when you consider that, back when Bayona first teased it, I wasn’t fond of it in the slightest…
‘WE’VE ENTERED A NEW ERA…’
Ultimately, while I don’t think I’ll ever get over my disappointment about the classics, I can, at least, deal with it when they’re sacrificed in favour of that one — and, I must be honest, there is a part of me (very small, but there all the same) that can appreciate that their relative absence might prove to have been for the best.
As much as we — I — love that music, every single Jurassic film can’t follow the same formula. The same stuff, over and over, would get real stale, real fast (something Fallen Kingdom demonstrates, in fact, with its overwhelming use of classic shots), and in stepping away from the familiar, however painful it might be, Giacchino opens the door for innovation, for future Jurassic films to sound very different.
Mills wanted to show us that future; Giacchino, you might say, wanted us to hear it.