The movie industry has a deep love for making sequels. In 2017, for example, a sequel to the movie Jumanji, titled Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, was made after a two-decade time gap. Since original composer James Horner is sadly no longer with us, the honor of writing the music was given to Henry Jackman. Apparently, the movie did quite well, and another sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level was made shortly after, with the music again composed by Jackman.
At first glance the album starts very strongly with “The Jumanji Suite,” which is a beautiful suite based on the main theme of the two new movies. It is a gorgeous melodic suite, but it is exactly the same as “The Jumanji Overture” from Welcome to the Jungle, so I am not sure why it was added as the first track on this album.
The first track is not the only one that sounds familiar. There are two worlds in this movie: the normal one, and an adventurous video game world. To highlight the fact that the regular world is nice and safe, Jackman uses acoustic guitars as support for the theme’s melody performed by a flute. This concept of the guitars can also be found on the album of the previous movie in the track “Brantford High.” The guitars are used again in “Home at Last,” when the characters return to the real world after their adventure, but before the guitars begin, you can hear a gorgeous emotional version of The Next Level theme Jackman wrote for this movie. The melody of the new theme is simple but elegant and reminds me of the song “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz.
The other new music Jackman wrote for the movie, is for the antagonist. It is not really a theme, but rather a musical idea with a long scream by a woman on a foundation of loud chords by the brass instruments. The best version of it can be heard in “The Tale of Jurgen the Brutal,” together with the The Next Level theme and dramatic sounding chords that remind me of a classical music piece. You can hear the scream throughout the rest of the album in certain spots, one example of which is in “An Unexpected Friend.”
While I was exploring the music before seeing the movie, I already heard that this movie would not take place in a jungle, as the prequel did. This can be heard in “A Whole New World,” which starts with amazingly long melody lines, played by the violins that are highly influenced by the music from Lawrence of Arabia. Every time I hear a musical idea from a different movie in a soundtrack it makes my heart beat faster, since I am a strong supporter of using music to tell a story.
The rest of the soundtrack has a strong focus on using the music to support the story with rhythmic patterns, bursts of brass sounds, parts of the themes and other random melodies. ”Flightless Fury” is a good example of how Jackman has done that for this movie, but the best version of supporting the scenes musically can be heard in “Attack of the Mandrills” with dramatic music, fast notes and patterns, together with many percussion sounds that remind the listener of a jungle.
Overall, I think Jackman has written a decent score to support all the things that happen on screen. Every moment is supported by some kind of music, which is a very good thing – a job well done, but for me, however, that is not enough to make it an amazing score. It is as if the music informs me that something is happening, but it does not tell me exactly what is happening. I think the reason for this is the simplicity of the Jurgen scream, and the fact that the two Jumanji themes (the main theme and the The Next Level theme) represent the movie as a whole and not a smaller concept in the movie. When you hear the theme, you do not know what is happening, and why the theme is playing.
The Next Level is a different movie from Welcome to the Jungle, since the main characters in the gaming world are different persons than their real-world counterparts playing them and I was hoping to hear these differences in the music. The addition of the new theme and the scream for the antagonist is not enough for me to make this an amazing soundtrack for a sequel. If you really like the music from Welcome to the Jungle, you will probably like this one as well, since it is not that different. I, however, was hoping for a bit more innovation in the music and some more musical storytelling.
Listen or buy
The highlights are in bold.
- The Jumanji Suite (3:18)
- Hanging Out (1:10)
- Going Solo (1:26)
- The Reluctant Adventurers (1:57)
- Who’s Who? (2:37)
- The Tale of Jurgen The Brutal (1:47)
- The Quest Begins (0:48)
- A Whole New World (2:37)
- Flightless Fury (2:57)
- The Oasis (1:35)
- A Flame from the Past (1:40)
- An Unexpected Friend (2:44)
- The Jumanji Berry Tree (2:53)
- New Powers (1:23)
- We Need Camels (1:05)
- Ancient Feud (1:14)
- A Perilous Crossing (1:34)
- Attack of the Mandrills (5:03)
- Olive Branch (2:16)
- Captured (1:02)
- Castle Infiltration (1:19)
- Cliffhanger (1:36)
- Multiplayer (1:49)
- Arranged Marriage (3:11)
- Chaos at the Palace (1:22)
- Bravestone to the Rescue (1:22)
- The Battle of the Zeppelin (2:07)
- Beyond the Clouds (2:15)
- A Fond Farewell (3:38)
- Home at Last (1:42)
Total length: 1 hour and 1 minute
Sony Music Entertainment (2019)