Thoughts on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom's Musical Score (Michael Giacchino)
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
[Original publication: July 5, 2018]
I’ve been anticipating the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and its musical score for three years now. Fallen Kingdom is remarkably different from Jurassic World as a film, and its musical score is no different. While the Fallen Kingdom score contains many appropriate musical callbacks to other Jurassic films, it follows its film counterpart in forging a bold and enthralling new path for the Jurassic franchise.
Fallen Kingdom marks Michael Giacchino’s return to the world of dinosaurs after scoring Jurassic World in 2015. Hiring Giacchino was a great choice for many reasons, the obvious being that his film music résumé is outstanding. Giacchino also has a tremendous ability to compose music that is ultimately cohesive with what is happening onscreen. On top of that, this composer choice is a win for musical continuity within the Jurassic franchise. I thoroughly enjoyed both the film and the score. I’ll do my best not to spoil much of the film. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Where Jurassic World’s score was full of wonder and light-heartedness but also terror, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s score is full of beauty and nostalgia, but also darkness and horror. Like Jurassic World in 2015, Fallen Kingdom does not begin with the Universal Pictures fanfare, instead opting for ominous, brooding silence as the Universal logo slides across the screen above the globe. The musical score enters quietly with woodwinds as the film establishes its location: Isla Nublar, 120 Miles West of Costa Rica. The cue, called ‘This Title Makes Me Jurassic’, accompanies Fallen Kingdom’s tense opening scene. As you can see, Giacchino hasn’t abandoned his brilliant track title punnery.
As a submarine crew encounters the skeleton of the Indominus Rex from Jurassic World, the creature’s musical theme from World is heard on brass instruments. An InGen crew aims to retrieve its DNA on their short expedition to Isla Nublar. Mysterious music turns into an orchestral reflection of terror as the dinosaurs on the island emerge from their jungle home at the smell of their first live human prey in a long time. Rhythmic and abrasive strings support swelling brass as an InGen employee runs as fast as he can attempting to escape dino death.
Once he reaches the helicopter and safety, a refreshing and hopeful motif sounds in the woodwinds and strings. Percussion and atonal brass explode onto the scene, however, when an unexpected creature emerges from the water to make the employee’s safety only temporary. As the helicopter finally pulls away from their dangerous operation, the Indominus Rex’s theme sounds once again in the brass, harmonized for the first time by Giacchino. This is a creative choice that makes the scene and underscore quite haunting.
What happens next is an engrossing whirlwind transition into Fallen Kingdom’s musical theme and the title card for the film. Lava flows over molten rock as the full orchestra swells, giving the viewer a sense of impending danger. Heroic high brass accents the thirteen-note Fallen Kingdom theme sung by operatic chorus and aided by the full string section. Operatic chorus further interjects along with low brass to solidify the absolutely epic cue. It is in a minor key and features the interval of a tri-tone prominently, which history has long associated with darkness and evil. The entire score makes use of the tri-tone interval frequently, as it turns out. The theme ends on a Picardy third (a musical technique in which a minor theme ends on a major chord), giving the theme a dark, yet heroic semblance as the full, white-hot logo for the film is revealed.
What ensues in Giacchino’s Fallen Kingdom score is what is to be expected of a Jurassic score, but at the same time something very new, different, and unexpected when listening to a score for a Jurassic film. My biggest critique of the score lies not in Giacchino’s compositions themselves, but in the timing of the musical cues in the context of the film. There are a few moments where the score feels just a bit off in relation to what’s happening onscreen. In my opinion it’s because the score could have been cued a little earlier in the scene or could have waited a few more seconds to be dramatically cued. There are also a few short musical moments that are not included on the released score, which is unfortunate, but normal in the film score world. Other than that, Giacchino’s Fallen Kingdom score is so very well done.
The score embodies the tense and emotional feelings of Fallen Kingdom’s characters very well throughout the film. There are moments in which the score goes unnoticed because it fits the tension or excitement of the scene really well. Contrasting those moments are many standout musical cues in which the score is very noticeable because of its grand, operatic, and epic nature:
‘The Theropod Preservation Society’ is one of Giacchino’s biggest callbacks to his Jurassic World score. He takes what is Claire’s theme from the first film and re-orchestrates it for a grand and triumphant cue. The theme was also associated with travel in World, and it is associated with Claire’s travel to the Lockwood estate in Fallen Kingdom. After arriving at the mansion, the four note french horn motif long associated with Jurassic Park is heard as Claire sees a portrait of John Hammond. The cue is quite affecting, and full of the nostalgic reasons our characters aim to save the dinosaurs.
After arriving on Isla Nublar for their dinosaur-saving mission, Jurassic World’s Main Street shakes as a brachiosaur approaches. ’Nostalgia-saurus’ is cued as much of the team sees a living, breathing dinosaur for the first time. The Fallen Kingdom theme is heard first, sung by chorus. It gives the moment a bit of an otherworldly feeling at first. The cue earns its name, however, as the brachiosaur grazes on a tall tree, reminiscent of the brachiosaur scene in Jurassic Park. The Jurassic Park theme is heard for a brief moment through solo brass, evocative of the wonder Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler felt when they saw the brachiosaur for the first time.
‘March of the Wheatley Cavalcade’ is a powerful, but slow march that is cued as the team travels in convoy further into the island. This cue feels militaristic, and is minutely reminiscent of The Lost World because of its heavy and brassy nature. The first half functions as the theme for the crew on the island. The tail end of this cue contains a truly mysterious rendition of the Jurassic World theme as the convoy travels over the mountains of Isla Nublar with the dilapidated park in the background. While most cues like this in the Jurassic franchise are in a major key, this one is in minor, giving the moments its associated with an atmosphere that is adventurous but still quite dark.
‘Go With the Pyroclastic Flow’, ‘Gyro Can You Go’, and ‘Raiders of the Lost Isla Nublar’ bring forth some of Giacchino’s best action music as characters and dinos do their best to escape the erupting Mount Sibo on Isla Nublar. The rhythmic strings and percussive, persistent brass make their respective scenes of explosions and underwater peril all the more stressful and exciting.
‘Volcano to Death’ is the most sentimental and affecting cue of this score because of the scene it was written for. It contains a new theme which I’ll call the ”love for dinosaurs theme” that is as stirring as it is well-written. As a beloved landmark of the Jurassic Park franchise is seen for the last time as our characters leave a burning Isla Nublar, a small part of the Jurassic Park theme is heard above that new theme. Giacchino’s composition here for harp, strings, and brass and the imagery onscreen meld to bring forth many tears in this moment.
Quiet, minimalistic music in ‘How to Pick a Lockwood’ and ‘Wilting Iris’ underscores telling scenes of conversation involving new characters Eli Mills and Benjamin and Maisie Lockwood. They feature the minimalistic piano, strings, and harp Giacchino is fond of in his recent scores. The cues provide a subtle underscore for the enigmatic and dark scenes they are cued under.
As the film transitions into its second part at Lockwood mansion, Giacchino’s score transitions from wistful, triumphant, and exciting to dark, operatic, and reflective of horror. Giacchino stated in interviews that he and director JA Bayona approached this portion of the score as if Igor Stravinsky (a provocative 20th century composer of thick and dark opera, stage, and orchestral works) and Bernard Herrmann (a film composer widely associated with the horror films of Alfred Hitchcock) had a child, and he wasn’t joking about that.
‘You Can Be So Hard-Headed’ brings in the elements of Bernard Herrmann’s music, especially that of the score for the Hitchcock film Psycho. Stabbing strings support interjecting brass as a Stygimoloch utilizes its hard, dome-shaped skull and its horns to disrupt the nefarious plans InGen has set forth in this film.
Dr. Henry Wu, Eli Mills, and InGen have conspired to create the most dangerous creature to ever walk the earth: the Indoraptor. As the animal hybrid is showcased to InGen’s clients, Giacchino’s cues ‘Shock and Auction’ and ‘Thus Begins the Indo-Rapture’ bring forth feelings that the creature has come from hell itself. Immensely grand and operatic chorus states the Indoraptor’s chilling theme as bombastic brass and trilling strings overwhelm viewers with the distinct evil present in the creature they are seeing.
‘World’s Worst Bedtime Storyteller’ is cued a few moments later in what is perhaps Fallen Kingdom’s most gorgeous shot.
The Indoraptor climbs to the highest point of Lockwood mansion’s roof and releases a terrifying roar under the light of a full moon. As it ascends and the shot is framed around the creature and the moon, dark, operatic chorus and brass herald the destruction and danger this creature is capable of unleashing. The moment brings forth memories of gothic horror films such as Dracula and The Wolfman from the early twentieth century. These cues are quite possibly the best and most groundbreaking of the entire score.
It’s important to note that the prevalence of dark and operatic chorus in these cues is a compositional choice that no Jurassic score has really made before. It serves as a distinction between this score and scores of the past. It is a fantastic choice in my opinion because it powerfully evokes the colossal danger and malevolence present in not only the Indoraptor but the entire second half of this film. As I said before, Fallen Kingdom is a very different Jurassic film, and its score is no different. I think this is a good and refreshing thing for the franchise.
‘To Free or Not to Free’ is cued as characters must make a choice as to whether to free the dinosaurs from their manmade enclosure. The four note french horn motif is heard once again. I love that this motif is being associated with a world inhabited by dinosaurs. As the dinos run rampant and free, the Jurassic World theme makes its most prevalent entrance into the film’s score.
‘The Neo-Jurassic Age’ is cued in the final moments of Fallen Kingdom, and is a mirror image musically of a scene near the end of Jurassic World. The cue starts out rather small, and Owen and Claire’s themes make a brief return in the woodwinds and percussion as Owen’s raptor Blue decides to run free. The ominous Fallen Kingdom theme returns as our characters and the world must face the choices they’ve made in what is now a true Jurassic World. The heavy chorus, strings, and brass make for an openly epic and gorgeous final scene. ‘At Jurassic World’s End Credits’ is cued as the credits roll. It begins with a rousing rendition of the Jurassic Park fanfare, helping audiences to realize the thrills they have just witnessed.
This is most definitely a wild animal of a score. It contains the perfect and appropriate amount of nostalgic awe and emotion, and only in the moments in which it is earned. On the other hand, it ventures to many places Jurassic scores have never gone before, serving up musical terror, thrills, and wonder that accompany the film very, very well. Some of the most haunting and beautiful music of the entire Jurassic franchise is heard in this film. Overall, Giacchino composed a resoundingly epic score for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.