Two of the summer’s most anticipated movies, “Incredibles 2” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” are franchise follow-ups with music by the same composer. Surprisingly, neither score relies much on familiar themes.
It might have been a no-brainer for tunesmith Michael Giacchino to fall back on his well-known theme for “The Incredibles” (written in 2004) or on John Williams’ even more famous fanfare for the original “Jurassic Park” from 1993. Both make fleeting appearances in the new films, but otherwise the scores are entirely new.
“There is a tendency these days to just plug and play when it comes to scores from past years,” says the Oscar-winning composer (“Up”). “Many times, it derails what you’re trying to do narratively. And the last thing I want to do is just rehash what we did before. I like to bring something new and then lean on old themes only when you absolutely need them.”
For “Incredibles 2,” the style remains rooted in the 1960s jazz-meets-orchestra spy-action style originated by John Barry in the James Bond films; Henry Mancini in his stylish caper scores, including the “Pink Panther” movies; and Hoyt Curtin in the animated “Jonny Quest” adventure series. “On this film, I had that arsenal ready,” Giacchino explains. “I had more fun and I felt more free.”
When Variety visited the final recording session in early May, a brass-heavy big band was situated directly across from a large string section, an unusual configuration for a 99-piece orchestra on the Sony recording stage. Giacchino credited engineer Joel Iwataki for the arrangement, which enabled the big band to perform, in the composer’s words, “tight and grooving.”
Giacchino wrote a sexy, elegant new theme for Elastigirl, who has a much bigger role in the sequel. And he collaborated with Tony-winning “Hamilton” arranger Alex Lacamoire on amusing commercial jingles for key characters Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). The composer, along with director Brad Bird, wrote the lyrics, and the jingles are sung in the movie.
“It was such a crazy idea,” Giacchino says. “It’s as if, in that world, each of these characters had a TV show based on them and they know their own theme songs.” Thirty-second faux commercials for “Incredibles” toys, also featuring the jingles, have been a cornerstone of the marketing for the Disney movie, which opens June 15.
One week later, Universal’s “Jurassic World” sequel debuts. Giacchino scored the first film of the new trilogy in 2015 and notes, “This one is darker and a lot scarier than the previous one.” The composer says he asked director J.A. Bayona: “What if Igor Stravinsky and Bernard Herrmann teamed up to score a movie together?,” positing a mash-up of styles that leaned on the 20th-century classical Russian composer and Hitchcock’s favorite songsmith (“Vertigo,” “Psycho”).
“Fallen Kingdom,” he says, “has a gothic feeling.” The intense, brutal, Stravinsky-esque tone is prevalent in the first half of the film, as dinosaurs run rampant during a volcanic eruption on the fictional Isla Nublar, while the more moody, Herrmann-esque suspense predominates in the second half. “It’s as if we did a score for a Dracula movie,” Giacchino offers. A 102-piece London orchestra and 60-voice choir brought the score to life.