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Section Header
Jack the Giant Slayer
(2013)
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Produced by:
John Ottman

Conducted by:
Jeffrey Schindler

Co-Orchestrated by:
Rick Giovinazzo
Jason Livesay
Nolan Livesay
Frank Macchia
John Ashton Thomas
Larry Groupe

Label:
WaterTower Music

Release Date:
February 26th, 2013

Also See:
John Carter
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Raiders of the Lost Ark
First Knight
Fantastic Four

Audio Clips:
1. Jack and Isabelle (Theme from Jack the Giant Slayer) (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

18. Chase to Cloister (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

20. The Battle (0:28):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

22. The New King/Stories (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release, primarily distributed via download but later also availabile through Amazon.com's "CDr on demand" service.

Awards:
  None.









Jack the Giant Slayer
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Buy it... if you love old-fashioned, orchestral adventure scores that combine soaring themes, choral grandeur, accessible harmonies, impressive instrumental colors, and a stunning recording quality.

Avoid it... if you demand absolutely coherent thematic integrity and detest being reminded of prior classics in the genre, two issues that John Ottman struggled with just enough in this assignment to reduce the score in stature by a small notch.



Ottman
Jack the Giant Slayer: (John Ottman) The shared concepts of the "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" fairy tales have been adapted to the big screen a number of times over the previous century, but never had they been combined in the fashion eventually chosen by director Bryan Singer for 2013's Jack the Giant Slayer. The infamous farmhand at the center of these tales, Jack, experiences portions of both adventures as he obtains a magic bean that sprouts and lifts his house to a land of the clouds in which the mythical giants of old England reside. In this case, the giants descend and challenge the knights and Jack, whose is keen upon saving the princess of the land, for the control of the entire kingdom. Featuring a relatively minor cast, Jack the Giant Slayer (which went through much of its production as Jack the Giant Killer) is a change of pace for Singer and, with its relatively new photography methods, 3D technology, and wild bevy of special effects, the project was pushed back by Warner Brothers by a year, lengthening its overall production lifespan to four years. Involved in Jack the Giant Slayer as an associate producer, editor, and composer is Singer collaborator John Ottman, whose career, after a flurry of superhero scores in the 2000's, slowed down considerably in the 2010's. Part of his absence from the spotlight was due to his extended duties on Jack the Giant Slayer, which occupied two years of his attention. As the composer for the project, he made the determination that he wanted to approach the story from a classical standpoint, utilizing an old-fashioned orchestral adventure mould and, in so doing, reflecting many of the same sentiments expressed by Michael Giacchino for John Carter in 2012. Between John Carter, Andrew Lockington's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and Jack the Giant Slayer, the swashbuckling symphonic bravado of an older generation of Hollywood has returned with satisfying force during this era, all with impressive results. Ottman specifically sought to avoid the potential pitfalls of this scoring assignment, avoiding "cutesy" and frivolous mechanisms while also steering clear of a musical tone that would be taken too seriously. Interestingly, the score was a journey for him as well, with the main theme eluding him until late in the process and the complexity of his product exhibiting influences from other composers whose styles Ottman obviously cares for.

Perhaps the most intriguing attribute of Jack the Giant Slayer is just how much the score deviates from Ottman's own mannerisms. You do hear a few of his melodic tendencies at times, and there are moments of suspenseful propulsion that will remind of the highlights of his low-profile horror works, but this is music that explores as much new complicated territory for the composer as it does pay tribute to the great scores and composers of yesteryear. Those two aspects of Jack the Giant Slayer are its most clearly defining. It is a work of incredible technical complexity, offering thematic layers that intermingle in difficult ways and instrumental applications that are wildly creative, the latter in some cases rivaling Howard Shore's music for Middle Earth. A crystal-clear recording exposes a masterful job of utilizing each section of the orchestra in engaging performance techniques, forcing performers in some cases to test the limits of their instruments' capabilities. Very challenging dissonant layers occupy significant sections, potentially harming the accessibility of the overall work, but even in these tough passages, Ottman maintains your interest with his textures. The other aspect of Jack the Giant Slayer that will arrest listeners, as mentioned before, is the plain fact that the score maintains traits that will, no matter Ottman's intentions in this regard, remind listeners of the music of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Hans Zimmer, Christopher Young, Danny Elfman, Alexandre Desplat, Alan Silvestri, Craig Armstrong, and Brian Tyler, and this review will point to specific instances where Ottman raises connections to each of those artists. Most of these reminders come in Ottman's handling of secondary lines of action during a cue or rhythmic motions and instrumental choices, and none is poorly handled in such a way as to generate "temp track" controversy. Instead, Ottman, either wittingly or otherwise, seems to have handled Jack the Giant Slayer with his own favorite composers in the same frame of mind that Tyler would probably allow. There really is nothing to fret when a composer like Ottman, in the process of intentionally seeking the orchestral adventure sound of a previous generation, raises a significant dose of Goldsmith mannerisms. Given that Ottman has had difficulty defining his own compositional style after his early, deviously-natured 1990's successes, it may be rewarding for some listeners to hear him channel more generic genre tones into one wickedly powerful result.

Before launching into a discussion about the themes of Jack the Giant Slayer, it's important to emphasize once again that the instrumental colors of the score are the reason for its success. The motifs themselves are not really that ingenious, and in many ways, they aren't organized as well as they could have been, but Ottman goes so overboard in fleshing out these ideas that their sheer size and scope allow them to succeed anyway. You can tell from the finished product that he had a few creative challenges when conjuring the themes, because while they are applied consistently throughout, they don't enunciate their intentions as well as they otherwise might have. The press releases for the score indicate the four main themes of the work, though that list doesn't entirely make sense when you compare it to the finished product. What isn't to be questioned is the attractiveness of Ottman's two very clearly delineated primary themes. The first is the one for Jack, and it is here where the composer struggled. Only when Singer pointed out a specific minor motif during a scene with the character and asked for that idea to be expanded did this main theme come to fruition, and by that point in the production process, Ottman had to go back and change several cues in Jack the Giant Slayer to utilize the theme. Fortunately, it's a great barn-burner of a theme, roaring immediately out of the gates in the opening "Jack and Isabelle (Theme from Jack the Giant Slayer)" track on album. This concert-like performance until the 1:22 mark utilizes brass techniques from both Williams (0:20 - 0:34) and Goldsmith (0:56 to 1:11) and is so exuberant that it even allows a tambourine a few moments to shine and features a traditional string interlude sequence. At 0:40 into "Logo Mania," Ottman comes the closest to the deeper brass personality of his Fantastic Four material with the theme, but he quickly translates the idea for soothing violins and choir (then to woodwinds and cello) early in "To Cloister." Faint references over troubled atmosphere from 0:46 to 1:15 in "How Do You Do" are followed at 3:14 into "Story of the Giants" by the first of several quick, tacked-on references of a partial phrase of the theme to end a suspenseful cue (the same technique is heard in large choral form at the end of "Roderick's Demise/The Beanstalk Falls"). Softer, melancholy renditions exist on woodwinds and strings at 2:10 into "The Legends are True/First Kiss," 2:35 into "Onward and Downward!," 2:13 into "Waking a Sleeping Giant," and the start of "Goodbyes."

Ottman was successful in leaving listeners with strident performances of his main Jack theme for Jack the Giant Slayer in the final cues, referencing very bold fragments of the idea at 4:06 into "Chase to Cloister" and throughout the first two minutes of "Sniffing Out Fear/All is Lost" before savoring victory in redemptive, slow, and pronounced performances during the first two minutes of "The New King/Stories." Less of a presence at the end of the score, unfortunately, is Ottman's love theme for the kidnapped princess, Isabelle. It is introduced on harp at 1:23 into "Jack and Isabelle (Theme from Jack the Giant Slayer)," an appropriate choice of instrument given the historical role of the harp in the stories, before being passed to woodwinds and then to the full ensemble in the remainder of that track. Horner enthusiasts will appreciate Ottman's nod to that composer's style of plaintive solo horn melodies mixed into that equation. Thereafter, the theme is mostly adjoined to other ideas, serving as a brief interlude to a rising fantasy motif at 0:24 into "The Climb" and returning to the harp for twenty seconds at the start of "How Do You Do" and faintly over dissonance at 1:20 into that same cue. The theme enjoys slight but pretty interlude duty at 2:41 into "The Legends are True/First Kiss" that may remind some listeners of Naoki Sato sentimentality. Similarly, the idea occupies the last minute of "Goodbyes" with subtlety and informs a unique waltz sequence in the middle of "The New King/Stories." More obviously, weightier enunciation of this theme might have helped the romantic aspect of the score, though the fantasy nature of the remaining themes helps pick up the slack. Among these is an idea that Ottman wrote for the crown, introduced with mystical choral allure in "Power of the Crown." This cue eventually builds to a stomping statement of resiliency that is lovely but slightly evil in its major/minor-shifting tone. A variation of this idea is explored at 2:27 into "Roderick's Demise/The Beanstalk Falls," with immensely massive choral shades that remind of Young's bombastic Hellraiser work. The religious tone continues from 4:29 to 4:55 into that same cue, by which time the theme has transformed into a full requiem mass. That overwhelming expression of chime-banging, orchestral and choral tone is reprised at 4:54 into "The Battle." More appealingly, Ottman allows the theme to influence the villainous close to "The New King/Stories," intertwining the idea as necessary with his underutilized and somewhat nebulous idea for the antagonist, Roderick.

When exploring Ottman's musical identities for the various villains of Jack the Giant Slayer, that's where you'll find the score going awry in its attributions. While the rising four-note phrase for Roderick, often accompanied by dulcimer accents, was reportedly meant to be the score's fourth main theme, it doesn't announce its presence effectively at any point. Its stomping notes of false nobility occupy 0:49 to 1:03 in "Power of the Crown," are joined by the dulcimer for ten seconds at 0:29 into "Roderick's Demise," and open the sinister conclusion to "The New King/Stories" (at the 3:28 mark). It is naturally connected to and almost completely usurped by Ottman's "phantom" major theme in Jack the Giant Slayer, one that could represent many general topics but seemingly accompanies the overarching battle between humans and giants (and the lamentation caused that conflict). This anthem-like theme is an effective but absolutely unmistakable insertion of Zimmer methodology into the score, the introduction of this material from 1:46 to 2:50 into "Story of the Giants" as pure a nod to a Zimmer choral and brass anthem over string ostinatos that one can imagine, even down to the overly-dramatic chord progressions. Softer variants of the same idea follow at 0:25 into "The Legends are True," but fear not, Zimmer fans, for Ottman returns to the anthem and ostinato format for the theme at 0:52 into "Chase to Cloister," a cue that also features this theme in massive form at 2:20 and accelerated even further at the 3:27 mark. One final blast of theme is explored at 1:53 into "The Battle" over heroic snare before Ottman dissolves it into the stew of evil that elegantly closes "The New King/Stories" (at 3:37). The giants do have their own motif, though it's more of an instrumental technique that can be applied to nearly any of the action cues without melodic interruption. This striking of the taiko drums, first on the skin and then with the typical "clack" of the sticks on the side, is, along with other rowdy percussive banging, a predictable but very effective way of addressing the giants, and ironically the most enjoyable performance of the idea comes in the very last few seconds of score's magnificent closing. The outstanding recording quality allows this somewhat tired technique (it's became far too common over the course of the 2000's) to still shine. Another minor motif exists for the beans, utilizing the traditional glockenspiel and choral approach to denoting magic, though don't expect this idea to become readily evident on album.

One of the consistent aspects of the score for Jack the Giant Slayer that is both an asset and a liability is Ottman's tendency to conjure somewhat orphaned offshoots of motifs and even longer-lined themes. One of these is a robust action/adversity motif at 3:11 into "The Legends are True/First Kiss" and 3:37 into "Roderick's Demise/The Beanstalk Falls" that sounds, quite humorously, like Brian Tyler imitating Goldsmith's Rambo universe (which, of course, actually happened). Likewise, Ottman unleashes a David Arnold-like rising theme of grand optimism at 0:15 and 0:41 into "The Climb," only to diminish the motif thereafter. Similarly, the beautiful waltz that runs from 1:57 to 2:52 into "The New King/Stories" is a "Williams meets Desplat" moment featuring dashing piano work that eventually morphs into the love theme. Other singular highlights of Jack the Giant Slayer don't involve themes, per se, but rather unique instrumentation. The bassoons from 2:35 to the end of "Fee Appears" groan with menacing delight, and the texture from flutes and percussion in rambunctious action mode during "Story of the Giants" is exceptional. Slamming percussion at 2:48 into "Why Do People Scream?" resurrects the Mongolian material from Goldsmith's The Shadow. A distinct touch of Williams' Raiders of the Lost Ark is exuded at 3:30 into "Welcome to Gantua," and the maestro's Star Wars prequel action mode (a Ewan McGregor connection?) is heard in the last 30 seconds of "Not Wildly Keen on Heights." That latter cue also features the most accessible, purely Ottman-like propulsive sequence at 1:20 (a la Hide and Seek). From 1:06 to 1:20 in "Roderick's Demise," he borrows a moment of ethereal Armstrong beauty. A rampaging triangle (yes!) during a magnificent ensemble whole note at 2:21 into "Onward and Downward!" is a great touch, as is an interlude of rhythmic percussion and brass at 1:53 into "Chase to Cloister," reminiscent of Silvestri's Predator. The "Sniffing Out Fear/All is Lost" cue is full of great brass clusters and percussive strikes, from Ottman's familiar clicking effects to well-mixed cymbal tapping at 4:20 to accent one powerful note. Finally, an Elfman moment emerges in the first 1:20 of "Kitchen Nightmare," during which Ottman strays into a devious, descending song melody with wicked lyrics for the giants as they prepare a variation of soylent green for supper. Unfortunately, a sudden cut from the song to continued score material somewhat ruins the album edit of this humorous moment.

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Much of Ottman's score for Jack the Giant Slayer actually could be termed "wicked" in personality, and although the score suffers from thematic enunciation issues, it's a wild and intelligent ride overall. There will be listeners who will be turned off by the clear connections between this work and the bevy of other composers' triumphs. Having said that, however, it's difficult to imagine what else could have resulted given Ottman's desire to revisit an older era of symphonic mastery and his unfortunate loss of own individual writing style through the 2000's. The same feeling resulted from Giacchino's similar approach to Super 8 and, to a lesser extent, John Carter. The fact that much of Jack the Giant Slayer ends up resembling Raiders of the Lost Ark and First Knight in style (but with much nastier layers of instrumental complexity) is not necessarily a bad thing, and the Zimmer-like passages of meatier anthems should not be pervasive enough to really ruin the whole for anyone. Suckers for massive choral beauty will appreciate the streamlined fantasy portions that Ottman brings to the table. You can hear the machinations the composer was striving to fashion to achieve the same kind of rambunctious, old-school adventure sound captured by Lockington in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and its predecessor, and while Ottman's result is more intelligent in its incredible sonic textures (and not yielding to the guilty pleasure of solo female vocals), the muddy thematic connectivity in Jack the Giant Slayer leaves it a small step behind. Composers do suffer from writer's block when conjuring themes, and perhaps this admitted issue from Ottman contributed to the somewhat unorganized spread of thematic performances and enunciations in the final product. As mentioned before, though, this is the kind of score that achieves a five-star rating despite its thematic drawbacks, if only because Ottman, just as he proved in the late 1990's with scores like Incognito and Goodbye Lover, is a proven professional at his instrumental textures. Even when incredibly unpleasant in its harmonies, this score is a wonder to behold. The "Fee Appears" cue alone is a marvel of orchestration. As such, it's a travesty that this score was initially distributed in only MP3 form, because as reviewed here from resounding, lossless masters, the sound quality is easily a highlight of the work. A perfect amount of reverb and incredible spread across the soundscape elevate Jack the Giant Slayer to great heights, cementing it as one of Ottman's most impressive career achievements. *****   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Ottman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.15 (in 34 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 2.96 (in 18,663 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





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 Track Listings: Total Time: 72:50


• 1. Jack and Isabelle (Theme from Jack the Giant Slayer) (3:56)
• 2. Logo Mania (1:00)
• 3. To Cloister (1:28)
• 4. The Climb (2:41)
• 5. Fee Appears (3:16)
• 6. How Do You Do (2:23)
• 7. Why Do People Scream? (3:17)
• 8. Story of the Giants (3:22)
• 9. Welcome to Gantua (4:12)
• 10. Power of the Crown (1:21)
• 11. Not Wildly Keen on Heights (2:19)
• 12. Top of the World (2:30)
• 13. The Legends are True/First Kiss (3:43)
• 14. Roderick's Demise/The Beanstalk Falls (5:36)
• 15. Kitchen Nightmare (3:24)
• 16. Onward and Downward! (3:19)
• 17. Waking a Sleeping Giant (2:21)
• 18. Chase to Cloister (5:19)
• 19. Goodbyes (2:29)
• 20. The Battle (5:31)
• 21. Sniffing Out Fear/All is Lost (5:07)
• 22. The New King/Stories (4:17)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert includes a long note from John Ottman about the creative process behind the score.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Jack the Giant Slayer are Copyright © 2013, WaterTower Music. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/17/13 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.