Review: Jurassic Park III (2001)

Composer: Don Davis (Themes by John Williams)

Label: Decca Records

Catalogue Nr.: 014 325-2

---

---BACK TO MAIN PAGE                BACK TO COMPOSER PROFILE                BACK TO LIST OF COMPOSERS

Jurassic Park III can easily be described as the no-brainer of the Jurassic Park series when compared to the previous two films. The only reasonable justification for the making of this film after the bad first sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) was the guaranteed box office success that these films are carrying. The result was the shortest flick in the series that naturally added the necessary superlatives to make it attractive for the audience: Bigger Dinos (especially the nasty Spinosaurus), flying Dinos, more Dinos, much more Dinos, etc. (got the picture?). It must have been pure accident that there is actually a plot (somehow they had to bring the meat...aeh, humans to the Dinos) which comes along as a lame and predictable rescue-mission with only one or two surprises and you really notice Michael Crichton's absence. But the main reason why people are watching these films are the dinosaurs anyways and this film offers plenty of them.

The score:

When it became clear that Steven Spielberg would not direct this film it was foreseeable that John Williams would not return for the sequel either. Instead, Williams himself recommended composer Don Davis who stepped into the spotlight two years ago with his extraordinary creative musical output on the action-hit The Matrix (1999) while Williams consulted with Davis about possible interpretations and integrations of his original themes for the franchise. In addition to that, Davis implied a lot of Williams-esque writing especially for the string and brass sections while adding his own, often dissonant sound to the composition as well as his own themes and motifs. There is a very lush family theme for the Kirby's as well as a menacing and monstrous motif for the Spinosaurus. However, it is really surprising how homogeneous the composition sounds even though it is relatively easy to tell when Williams' sound stops and Davis' starts.

The first cue is a perfect example for that. It starts with menacing suspense music and goes right into a marvellous but suspenseful variation of Williams' majestic 'Island-theme'. Only a few notes of suspense later the theme starts swelling in its full orchestral glory until the second half of the cue takes over with Davis typical dissonant orchestral sound which we already heard plenty of in The Matrix (1999). Dark overlapping brass notes are creating a sudden mood of panic and threat. As much as I like John Williams approach to The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) I find that Don Davis actually provides the better variations of the original themes in this new score. "Dinosaur Fly-By" can be seen as "Journey To The Island" in a nutshell and belongs to the highlights of the CD. "Cooper's Last Stand" is introducing two new thematic ideas: the dark motif for the Spinosaurus and a first hint of the theme for the mercenaries with its Slavic sound which is later revisited in "Bone Man Ben".

Don Davis mostly relinquished Williams' prominent use of ethnic instrumentation to underline the claustrophobic jungle environment of the Dinosaurs. Only "The Rapture Room" features an edgy pan flute performance for that purpose followed by a scare and a lengthy action passage with a dramatic integration of the 4-note raptor motif when these agile predators attack out of nowhere. The next cue "Raptor Repartee" is also focusing on the raptor-drama though this time without any quotes of the 4-note motif. "Tree People" starts with some funny whirling flute stuff and goes into the first statement of the Kirby family theme for English horn. "Pteranodon Habitat" is another suspense cue a scare and a variation of the family theme while "Tiny Pecking Pteranodon" is a full blown action cue with some pure Davis-dissonance, choir and an interesting but very short variation on the raptor motif. "Billy Oblivion" is very close in tone to "Ludlow's Demise" from The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). A nice variation on the actual Jurassic Park main theme is featured in "Brachiosaurus On The Bank" which goes right into "Nash Calling" with its rousing orchestral statement of the new family theme.

"Bone Man Ben" is actually a combination of several cues. It starts off with the full statement of the mercenaries theme. This particular theme was one reason why I liked the score very much. It has this Slavic sound and steady rhythm which makes it a very fun cue. Fans of the first Jurassic Park score claim that this theme is a variation on the 'visitor center' motif from the first score and there are indeed some similarities. The middle section of "Bone Man Ben" has the scary music for the actual 'bone man' scene which goes into the last part of the cue with a funny and completely over-the-top military march, featuring the 'island-theme'. "Frenzy Fuselage" is a very chaotic and dissonant cue which I found rather hard to listen to but "Clash of Extinction" (which was composed for the T-Rex vs. Spinosaurus scene but ended up unused) offers an interesting counterpoint of the raptors and spinosaurus motif. "The Hat Returns / End Credits" is the obvious summary of the main themes in a nutshell and is a pleasant way to end this roller coaster ride (that is, if you stop the CD early enough before the country song starts playing).

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 82%

Score as heard on CD: 70%

TOTAL: 76%

 

The presentation:

Compared to the soundtrack CDs of the previous two Jurassic Park scores this album of the third is just loosing in every possible way. First of all, the sound quality is extremely flat, has wow effects and hiss among other anomalies that are completely inexcusable since we have entered the new millenium. It almost sounds like the score was recorded in the late 70's due to the poor sound quality which will be a pain if you have enjoyed the stellar sound of the other Jurassic Park CD's (especially on the first one). Then, there is this odd Randy Newman country song. Yeah, this thing does actually appear in the film as source music but it is far away from being a necessity for a Jurassic Park III soundtrack. If you put the nasty song aside, the total amount of Davis' score comes close to 50 minutes which is okay but hardly a compensation for the other issues mentioned above. The other part of the CD contains the dreaded enhanced content which you will view one or two times and then forget about it (although you will be reminded of the stuff every time you want to play the disc on your PC due to auto start, which is annoying). All in all this album is such a poor show from Decca Records that it actually harms the experience of Don Davis music.

Presentation by the Label: 29%

 

Summary:

I can recommend the CD of Don Davis' score for Jurassic Park III to everyone who loves very well-made sequel scores. And there is really nothing wrong with the score despite some overly dissonant or chaotic passages here or there. The original themes by John Williams are used well and with a lot of care while there is enough new thematic material to distinguish this score from the other two. If only the presentation by the label would do the music any justice. The poor album is an unsatisfying experience, mainly due to the poor sound quality and the rather modest amount of score. An unnecessary country song at the end of the CD is the last small grain of salt that almost makes the album appear like a joke.

 

                                     Tracklisting:

01. Isla Sorna Sailing Situation (04:23)
02. The Dinosaur Fly-By (02:15)
03. Cooper's Last Stand (02:01)
04. The Raptor Room (02:35)
05. Raptor Repartee (03:06)
06. Tree People (02:04)
07. Pteranodon Habitat (03:04)
08. Tiny Pecking Pteranodons (03:38)
09. Billy Oblivion (02:51)
10. Brachiosaurus On The Bank (02:07)
11. Nash Calling (03:38)
12. Bone Man Ben (07:20)
13. Frenzy Fuselage (04:01)
14. Clash Of Extinction (01:42)
15. The Hat Returns / End Credits (05:10)
16. Big Hat, No Cattle (04:24)