Musings About Music In Film

Rewind: Jurassic Park III

jp32 Don Davis’ score for Jurassic Park III may be the best part of the film, which ultimately isn’t saying much. Easily the worst of the franchise, Jurassic Park III portrays the dinosaurs on Isla Sorna as bloodthirsty monsters instead of actual living creatures. Apart from the intriguing premise of saving a marooned boy from an island crawling with dinosaurs, the film is just one dinosaur attack after another, but fortunately Jurassic Park III is the shortest of the franchise. That being said, Davis’ score is quite good, the sequel most capturing the spirit of the original Jurassic Park score, with its wild and edgy action tracks.

The film’s few emotionally suspenseful moments are only made possibly by Don Davis’s musical contributions. As per tradition, John Williams’ original themes from Jurassic Park make an appearance in the score, but the original themes are used verbatim less in this film than in any other sequel. Often when original material is used, Davis plays around with those themes to make it something different – a wise choice since audiences are quite familiar with these themes by this point. To diverge from the frantic and wild action tracks that make up a majority of the film, Davis creates a lovely lyrical theme, often played by the English horn. This serves as a family theme, for the Kirbys and their son, and it’s most notably heard when the Kirbys are reunited with their son, right before another Spinosaurus attack. At times, the theme is overly sentimental for the context of the film, but other times its mood is transformed and used in suspenseful moments, which works very well, as in 'Pteranodon Habitat'.

The narrative of the film relies heavily on action, which doesn’t leave much room for Davis to create softer moments. I would have loved more moments like the first minute of “The Raptor Room”. For that one minute, he creates a mystical atmosphere with sustained strings, exotic flute, voices, piano and wind chimes. It completely puts the audiences in a trance, which makes the abrupt velociraptor attack the more shocking. Davis proves to be just as masterful on the other end of the spectrum. Tracks 'Pteranodon Habitat', 'Tiny Pecking Pteranodons' and 'Billy Oblivion' work as a three-act arc in the aviary scene. The first track sets up the Pteranodon attack with sneaky and mysterious music. The following two tracks unleash some of the most exciting action tracks out there.

These two tracks are prime examples of the original Jurassic Park spirit, some of which comes through with orchestration. The horn and the piccolo – the two instruments that led many of the action tracks of the first score, also lead these two tracks. Although using new material, this music sounds very similar to that of the original score. The piccolo creates the frenzy and the horn (at times assisted by the trumpet) builds up to climaxes that bring emotional weight to the scene. This is the most emotionally powerful moment in the film, delivered by the power in the score.

Don Davis’ score for Jurassic Park III often gets overlooked because of the lackluster film itself, but the music he created warrants attention. Recommended by John Williams himself, Davis proves that he has the skill and intuition not only to compose a score loyal to the franchise but also to compose a fantastic film score in itself.

- Jonathan Thompson

Jurassic Park III is available on CD and digitally from Decca Records