WAMG Takes A Look At Henry Jackman’s Score For JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL And Talks With The Composer About His Approach To Combine Music And Film
Two-time BAFTA nominee Henry Jackman has won multiple American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) Awards for his work on top box office films like ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service,’ ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation,’ ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,’ and ‘X-Men: First Class,’ as well as animated features such as ‘Monster vs. Aliens,’ ‘Puss in Boots,’ and ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ for which he also won an Annie Award. His other diverse credits include ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,’ ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ ‘Big Hero 6,’ ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet,’ and ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle,’ also recently composing for ‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’ and The Russo Brothers’ produced action crime-drama ’21 Bridges.’
In theaters now, Henry returns to the magical board game-turned-video game adventure world of ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ and this summer, he is rejoining The Russo Brothers for their new drama feature ‘Cherry.’
In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own, they discover that nothing is as they expect. The players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape the world’s most dangerous game.
This past weekend ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ brought in an astounding $60.1 million at the box office.
As the film debuted to audiences worldwide, Henry and I spoke over the phone about the sequel as well as his score for last summer’s ‘Predator’, his thoughts on working on franchises and the holistic approach on the melding of film and music.
WAMG: We’ve had two previous conversations, one being your work on ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ http://www.wearemoviegeeks.com/2014/04/wamgs-interview-composer-henry-jackman-captain-america-winter-soldier/ as well as ‘Captain America: Civil War‘ and now you’ve scored for both “Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle’ and ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’. I found there to be a few similarities with the cues on this second musical adventure.
Henry Jackman: I don’t often work on two movies of the same franchise. I took the “Jumanji” DNA and came up with new themes. I had great fun with the combinations of crazy fun and a stealthy vibe, while re-conceptualizing for a new adventure.
WAMG: One of the tracks “A Fond Farewell” is a lovely final piece of music after the frantic pace of the rest of the movie. It’s an adagio, quiet theme.
HJ: Most of the movie is full of excitement, with complex action sequences, and I had to come up with this final cue that calmed it all down at the end and let the audience breathe. It’s great for a composer because it’s fun doing music for an action movie but its nice to able to do the quiet and touching pieces of music.
WAMG: I have to go back when we first spoke in 2014 where we discussed the score for 1987’s ‘Predator’ film and how we both loved Alan Silvestri’s score. Jump to 2018 and it’s Henry Jackman composing the score for ‘The Predator’. I was truly excited to see your name as composer and while watching Shane Black’s film, you could hear the original theme cleverly running throughout the new movie.
HJ: You couldn’t make that up. I had a strictly classical education and I saw the original movie when I was about 14 or 15 and I heard this really cool score that made my ears pick up. I’m not claiming the movie was Shakespeare but the music was really sophisticated and I thought I’m going to remember that name, Alan Silvestri. And then jump 20 something years ahead and I’m composing for “The Predator’.
I jumped into this franchise and tried to resurrect various them from Silvestri’s original score. Tonally the two movies were very different. The original had the very patriotic type of theme, which fits with that movie. ‘The Predator’ is very different and I was on the phone to the producers telling them, “Alan Silvestri is a hero of mine, I have this musical obsession with the original movie and I’m going to come up with new cues that have similar language and sound and harmony where I can start weaving in the music so that they can be heard on top of each other.”
WAMG: You score was so exciting because you really went out of your way to include the original theme for the fans of the 1987 movie. You found a way to cleverly pay tribute to Silvestri’s music. It was thrilling to hear your score in the cinema last summer.
HJ: Funny thing is, he’s a genius and so humble. When I finished it I really felt that I had done something to pay tribute to him and that it sounded cool, so I called him up and wanted him to listen to my music. We got into this conversation and I told him, not to sound like a fanboy, “Alan your score is so original and what so cool about it is that up until 1987, I can’t think of any other score that uses that kind of harmony.” I asked him what made him use those themes because its brilliant.
He was so funny. He said, “Ohhhh ‘Predator’ – I didn’t know what I was doing! The only thing I remember is that I was floundering around, I didn’t think I was film composer or an arranger.” I said, “hold on a minute, you wrote ‘Back To The Future’ by then!” He said, “Yeah but that was the first and it was orchestral, with ‘Predator’ I really didn’t know what I was doing.” I was like WOW… if that what happens when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, then that’s some natural talent. It’s still so original.
WAMG: That’s a great story! But how do you go from a Predator movie to ‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’ and ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’? How do you shift composing gears from sci-fi to two animated features?
HJ: You have to be a bit of a shape-shifter. (laughs) I’m lucky enough to be able to compose for the different genres so it’s really a blessing instead of a curse. One of the great things about that is that I don’t compose for the same type of film year after year. I had to leave the Predator behind and wrap my head around ‘Detective Pikachu’. You have to leave the other film behind and muddle your way into the new characters. By the time you join a project you’re seeing a first cut of a movie – so you have to forget the previous film, forget it even existed. The funny thing is that sometimes you can go really quickly from one film to the next and it very noticeable. The first few cues of ‘Pickachu’ has a hangover from the orchestrations of ‘Predator’. I hadn’t quite taken off the ‘Predator’ clothes and you can hear it. It’s a natural process. Far from annoying it keeps everything interesting. After the ‘Jumanji’ movie I’ll be doing a movie with the Russo brothers called ‘Cherry’ which is wildly different.
WAMG: I also loved your score for ‘Kong: Skull Island’ and the recent ’21 Bridges’. That one was very edgy and intense.
HJ: I was on that one from the get go. ’21 Bridges’ was produced by the Russo brothers. I worked with Alex Belcher on that and we tried to go for an intimate theme, not a boring electronic one. We really enjoyed that one. https://open.spotify.com/album/0E5Q7isRCDwXmlZKAbVQfG
WAMG: I was glad to see you working with the Russo Brothers again. Certain filmmakers tend to go with certain composers time and time again. Steven Spielberg and John Williams, James Cameron worked many times with the late James Horner. Do you find this to be true?
HJ: I think you’re right. When you’re a filmmaker you’re in a precarious, nerve-racking business to try and find the music. There is a bit of magic to it, but when you look at the history of filmmaking, the director and composer are music companions so it’s no surprise. Look at Cameron and Horner, their films together shows how the music is such a big part of the movies. Sometimes the score doesn’t work with a movie, so it’s no surprise that a director goes back to the same composer.
WAMG: How was the premiere for ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ – you were on the red carpet?
HJ: Oddly enough it was a blue carpet (laughs). It was great fun. When you compose music you spend so much of your time locked away in a room like a hermit but you know ultimately it will help the movie that will be seen by many. It is a very hermetic experience so when you go to a premiere you get to see all these people, the production crew and the actors but it’s a good way to remind yourself that while you were locked away like a madman in a laboratory ultimately it’s a shared experience and everyone did a great job on the film.