Walking with Dinosaurs is an ambitious documentary project undertaken by
the BBC, which brings, once again, the long-extinct Dinosaurs back to life,
utilising state of the art CGI. The BBC approached the Dinosaur theme from
a different viewpoint than Spielberg and many others before him, that is,
they described the life of those magnificent creatures in their natural habitat
as it has been millions of years ago. The human element is completely absent
in this context. This doesn't mean that the documentary is void of dramatic
elements. A wide range of emotions are denoted on screen: there is the struggle
for life, danger, death, even emotions like affection and love. The six different
episodes of the series explore a different part of the Triassic/Jurassic
life, such as the Desert, the Sea, the Sky etc.
Newcomer (actually this was his first break to the screen apart from commercials)
Benjamin Bartlett was summoned to score all six episodes of the documentary.
The score, performed by the BBC Concert orchestra, contains everything we
could expect from a Dinosaur feature: larger than life themes, bold brass
statements, timpani, lush melodies, and eerie soundscapes.
The CD commences with a narration by Kenneth Branagh that adds a fairy-tale
touch to the score, while the composer demonstrates that he is quite able
to adapt musically, by changing the style of his music in each episode to
satisfy the continuously changing drama. Or at least that he has done his
homework. Every part of the series seems to be appropriately scored: relentless,
jungle music for the fight of two Torosaurus, exciting, hunting music, based
on strings and brass, and subtle melodies for the "Death of the Postosuchus",
grand, brass and jolly themes for the flying creatures, harsh, eerie music
to accompany the hidden predators that lurk in the night. The peaceful Titans
have their own magnificent theme, which, rendered by strings and brass, is
full of grace. Rhythmic, menacing music highlights the dangers of the "Canyon
of Terror", with percussion, strings, bells and occasional brass outbursts.
The vastness and the coldness of the sea is denoted by a delicate synth motif,
assisted by winds, strings and some sound fx which convey the feeling cold
and emptiness very efficiently.
Bartlett's musical voice doesn't add anything particularly new to the
genre. He borrows the style from different composers and skilfully integrates
them into this score. On the other hand, his composition is detailed and
textured, orchestral colour is not absent. He demonstrates that he can score
for a variety of emotions, to musically adapt to the drama on screen, producing
in the meantime an enjoyable listening experience that does not lose its
strength even when detached from the screen. It would be unfair to compare
it to Jurassic Park. The only thing I could say is that it is quite
different. All in all, the score is not exceptionally original. It is all
that you would expect from a Dinosaur feature. But it is good!
and Jeffrey Wheeler adds
Bartlett's "Walking with Dinosaurs" is not the remarkable experience it could
be. Anagnostou rightly notes the use of various orchestral styles, but much
of the fault with the score dwells in these near schizophrenic compromises
on identity... Individuality, though present, does not prevail -- the
interconnection of assorted ideas strikes a notable chord yet there is precious
little beyond technical details and perfunctory emotions. (I imagine the
effect is akin to hearing Dimitri Tiomkin's "Rhapsody of Steel" at about
twice the length and half the finesse.) It remains competent enough to recommend,
but lacks much of the creative joy paramount to making the score sound sincere.