It’s hard to review a score like Jurassic Park. John Williams’ score has been deservedly embedded in our unconscious since 1993, and like Jaws has become a theme for sharks as a species, it’s hard to think about dinosaurs without recalling the enthralling themes from Steven Spielberg’s monster hit. Unbelievably this year is the film’s 20th anniversary, and while there has been a massive hoo-hah about the cinema re-release in 3D, something else has snuck out unnoticed: a brand new remastered edition of the soundtrack, complete with four bonus tracks!
So Jurassic Park. I always find it funny when people posit the film as a spiritual successor to Jaws in Spielberg’s filmography, because aside from large animals eating people, there’s really no resemblence. Jaws is about overcoming fear with the shark an emblem for Brody’s fear, whereas Jurassic Park is a whole different kettle of fish, or dinosaurs. The dinosaurs here are a representation of the failings of man and his attempt to recreate a species long since wiped out by nature. The dinos are essentially victims, as the real villains here are the creators of the animals and the park, and the main threat of the dinosaurs comes as a result of the corrupt actions of another human who has only greed at heart.
But Jurassic Park is also about wonder, and that is certainly reflected in the music. At the end of the day, these are freaking dinosaurs, and while Jeff Goldblum can go on about chaos theory until he’s blue in the face, dinosaurs are awesome. And while our first fleeting moment of dinosaur music really nails on the horror aspect (unsurprising as it’s a raptor) during the opening sequence, our first proper look is as exciting as film music gets.
Of course, this is ‘Journey To The Island’. Starting with a flourish and some playful brass as the experts joke amongst themselves (“I bring a scientist, you bring a rock star” etc), it suddenly opens up with an incredible sense of grandeur as they approach the island, with the amazing Island theme counterpointing with the brassy line and the wonderful strings following, with a return to the brass in a massive way. Antiicipation follows with jaunty tones and brief quotations of the Island theme as they make their way in the jeeps. From there it builds and builds with a sense of mystery, with little flourishes, until that stately main theme comes in, lifting as the characters attempt to come to terms with the fact they’re seeing dinosaurs. It’s a magical moment, especially with the choir going great guns in the background and that magical rendition of the theme as Sam Neill looks across the landscape and sees the animals.
There’s a gentle aspect to the dinosaurs that Williams brings out (well obviously the ones that aren’t trying to eat people), with the beauty of ‘My Friend, The Brachiosaurus’ echoing that these are animals to be marvelled at, not feared. But while the wondrous nature of the dinos and their creation is there, there is also an underlying sense of foreboding, reflecting the theme of nature and life finding a way. ‘Hatching Baby Raptor’ is a great example, with an almost heavenly choir that underlines the miracle of the creation and friendly tones that recall E.T. as we see the baby hatch, but also a darker motif to illustrate the fact that these are raptors.
And then there’s just the plain thrilling action music, such as the tense part of ‘The Coming Storm’ that scores the famous T-Rex jeep chase, and the final set of tracks that make up the end of the film as our heroes try to escape from the velociraptors, culminating in the awesome ‘T-Rex Rescue and Finale’, a powerhouse track that runs nearly eight minutes and is easily one of the best action setpieces of Williams’ career. And after all that, we can relax with the tender piano rendition of the main theme that follows, and which segues into a full reprise for the end titles together with a return to the Island theme. The credits end with my favourite moment of the score, the gentle piano reading of the theme that unexpectedly moves into a low brass motif and shimmering strings, reflecting on the theme of the film. Chills.
As an album, Jurassic Park always been pretty generous, with a sixty-seven minute running time. However, like many soundtrack albums it’s not in film sequence, and it actually repeats one of its tracks, with ‘End Credits’ being a duplicate of the last three and a half minutes of ‘Welcome To Jurassic Park’. This 20th anniversary release adds four bonus tracks: ‘Stalling Around’, which is the delightful music for the cartoon with Mr. DNA (named for Looney Tunes composer Carl Stalling); ‘The History Lesson’, which is made up of two cues that introduces Richard Attenborough’s character and preempt the tour; ‘The Coming Storm’, which is made up of the amber scene from the beginning, the scene where the storm approaches the island, and the T-Rex jeep chase; and ‘Hungry Raptor’, one of the final velociraptor escape cues from the end of the film.
It’s worth noting that the album has been remastered, and really sound great. It’s always been a great-sounding album anyway, but this just has a tiny bit more clarity for me. The only real downside is that it’s an iTunes US release only, which means it’s not available in lossless audio, and it’s only currently able to be purchased in North America and Canada (although tech-savvy individuals can easily solve this). Although it’d be nice to see a CD come out when the 3D reissue is released.
I guess it depends how much of a fan you are of the score as to whether this is worth a purchase if you already have the original album. The four bonus tracks are fantastic, and it’s nice to know that almost all of the score has now been released. However, the fact that it’s iTunes US only puts a damper on things, but Google can help you with that. If you don’t own the album at all, it’s your civic duty to go and purchase it right now. It simply is one of the greatest scores ever composed.
JURASSIC PARK – 20TH ANNIVERSARY is out now from MCA Records
Bonus: if you want to rearrange the actual score into a semi-chronological order (without editing tracks), you can set them in this order:
Remember, you don’t need 16. 02 ‘Theme From Jurassic Park’ is more an arrangement of the themes that duplicates some of track 04, so I put it at the beginning, acting as an overture of sorts. Big ups to Jason LeBlanc at the FSM message boards for the track order.
Words: Charlie Brigden