Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jurassic Park

Falan Fish

According to Louis Giannetti in Understanding Movies, “music can serve as a kind of overture to suggest the mood or spirit of the film as a whole” (Giannetti 214), and the music in Jurassic Park does just that. In fact, the poignancy of the music is so memorable that the main theme song is listed as number 15 out of the top 25 most recognizable movie soundtracks. But why is this so? What about this is so “memorable”?

Well, in the beginning of the movie the main characters sit in a helicopter as they travel towards the island where Jurassic Park is located. So far Dr. Grant and Dr. Sadler have no clue what they are going to visit, and, technically, neither do we. As they sit in the helicopter discussing their professions, fast paced, high-pitched music plays rather noticeably in the background. Besides simply propelling the action in the scene forward, the music performs a greater purpose. Because “the faster the tempo of sound, the greater the tension produced in the listener” (Giannetti 208), the music serves to heighten our anticipation of what is soon to come. It also emits a tone of impatience and wonder as it builds up to a pivotal moment, which further connects the music and us, as listeners, to one of the overall themes of the movie. This theme conveyed by Jurassic Park is the potential danger of science and the danger of scientists who wield that power. As Dr. Malcolm says, “You’re scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” The scientists of the film were impatient. They were so excited to see the wonder they could create, that they didn’t even pause to think of the consequences of their actions, which Michael Crichton argues is exactly parallel to scientists in real life.

From here the music climaxes with the introduction of the main theme song as the island is revealed for the first time. Here the song is very dramatic and loud in volume. The speed continues from before as fast paced, emitting an emotion of wonder, accomplishment, and overall pride that transfuse with our own emotion. In Everything’s an Argument Andrea Lunsford says, “If you strike the right emotional note, you’ll establish an important connection” (Lunsford 33). With the help of the grandiose music, Jurassic Park established this connection early on, in order to keep you connected with the rest of the film. This connection then helps us recognize its messages and, of course, make the studios money at the same time.

As the characters are riding in jeeps through the park, the music immediately stops and changes as they approach an off-screen dinosaur for the first time. While we still can’t see the dinosaur the music is slow, very lowly pitched, and laced with foreboding, emphasizing the gravity and significance of what they can see but we can’t. Obviously the message here is that these dinosaurs shouldn’t have been created and it foreshadows the destruction to come. Once we see the dinosaur, however, we immediately forget this as the film switches back to our happy, awe inspiring theme song, albeit slower and quieter this time to convey the admiration of the living, breathing dinosaur.

The main theme song is used many more times throughout the movie, and each time it represents something a little different depending on the particular context of the scene. The most dramatic change is at the very end. The song here uses a piano and slowly morphs into light orchestral instruments to produce amazement, appreciation, and a sense of humility (as opposed to pride), not for what has been created but for life and nature, themselves. There is so much more I could say on the music of the film, especially the scene with the baby raptor, but that alone would produce enough information for another entry. As a whole the music drastically adds to the emotions and messages conveyed by the film. Without it, Jurassic Park wouldn’t be the same. Because of its importance to the film, it’s importance in emotionally connecting the audience, and it’s own fame, I grant the music a 3-ticket rating. 

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