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The Hunger Games by James Newton Howard (Review)

posted Apr 2, 2012, 10:15 PM by Kaya Savas   [ updated Apr 3, 2012, 9:38 AM ]

It's been a while since I was really excited for a James Newton Howard score, and he's one of my favorite composers so I always have expectations. My expectations were not met with The Green Lantern, but thankfully he returns to somewhat true form here with his score for The Hunger Games. Danny Elfman was reportedly supposed to score the film, but then had to dropout to do Tim Burton's Dark Shadows. James Newton Howard does a fine job painting a dreary picture of the dystopian future in the film. Moments of greatness do shine through, and he even created a decent theme. However, when you have a 46-minute running time to a 2.5 hour film then you know that the score wasn't used to its full effect, or maybe they were just cheap with licensing fees for this release (Pirates 4 anyone?). Either way the structure and approach show that score could have played a bigger storytelling role here. Something that is in no way James Newton Howard's fault since we know if he's given an open canvas then you can expect great things (King Kong, Michael Clayton, Signs, The Village).

The score starts off very intriguing and continues to build a grand opening act. What follows is a great journey even if it's rather predictable. If you were expecting a rousing score then you won't find it here. Instead of taking a more aggressive approach the music stays rather quiet. James Newton Howard does build some great ascending moments, and the wavy nature of the score is perfect for subtle moods. The two great tracks of the album come at the end, and they are indeed fantastic tracks. "Mutations" offers some interesting stylistic sounds that I wish were used more throughout. Then the final track is that great emotional James Newton Howard that I love. What falls in between the great opening and great ending is what bogs this score down. It bubbles down to a long stretch of mediocrity and predictability. The score lost me for a good chunk in the middle before those final two tracks hit.

This is a great James Newton Howard score, but it's nowhere near the level I know he's capable of. The score has a good opening and then it becomes rather boring and predictable. The strong ending picks it back up to finish on a high note, but overall it left a rather bland taste in my mouth. I'll probably return back to it for a few select tracks that I enjoyed, but as a whole score it suffers from a lack of narrative power. Oh and just a quick easter egg. Composer Michael Wandmacher is actually responsible for the "Mockingjay Call".