May 7: In ‘Jurassic Park,’ the music finds a way

John Williams Jurassic Park

UW Cinematheque concludes its John Williams retrospective with the soul-stirring Jurassic Park

Universal Studios must have sprained a finger promoting Jurassic World. With trailers pushing old memories of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original, marketing mashed the nostalgia button into oblivion. After two diminishing sequels, “The Park” was placed front and center again. The film itself even resurrected the T-Rex, sparking life into a dull climax while sparring with the franchise’s latest, lamest super-saur.

All the key pieces were present in Jurassic World for maximum recall, save one. Apart from a few nods, John Williams’ themes were nowhere to be found. It’s not the only reason, but what was promised to be an energizing adventure back at Jurassic Park feels more like a class trip to the zoo.

For its time, Jurassic Park raised the bar on special effects. Industrial Light and Magic’s pioneering doesn’t always hold up in 2017, in particular an early sequence featuring a herd of Brachiosaurus in broad daylight. With Williams’ music though, it’s easy to pick up on the amazement of Doctors Grant (Sam Neill) and Sattler (Laura Dern). Soaring with a rising motive that builds into an arpeggio-like main melody, Williams’ main theme takes a momentary flight of fancy. Aesthetically, it both stirs and soothes the soul. Functionally, it has no trouble capturing our minds, like any good live-action dinosaur movie should. Take that music away or even replace it, and the results are stultifying — or even comedic.

The enterprising work of Dennis Muren and his VFX may have received all the awards, but the most critical element of Jurassic Park is the unbridled optimism its music brings. The irony of course is that much of Michael Crichton’s story is dedicated to destroying that edifice, a chaos theory-driven lecture on science overstepping the bounds of nature. John Hammond’s dream is a crazy but glorious one, and John Williams is here to seal it in amber.

  • UW Cinematheque presentsĀ Jurassic ParkĀ on Sun, May 7 at 2:00p in the Chazen Art Museum. Admission is FREE and open to the public.