Tag Archives: John Powell

The Bourne Legacy (2012) – James Newton Howard

When I first learned that James Newton Howard was to be composing the score, I was actually a little bit worried – not because of my lack of faith in Newton Howard as a composer, but because it’s such an opposite film from the kinds he normally composes for. When I think Newton Howard, I think beautiful, flowing melodies, rich orchestra, and perhaps a warm brass fanfare or two…I certainly don’t think “action film”. John Powell composed the scores for the original Bourne trilogy, so I was surprised that he didn’t return. Despite my reservations, however, Newton Howard did a splendid job.

 I have two favorite things about this album: 1) the opening track, “Legacy”, contains the main theme for Bourne as heard in the opening track of The Bourne Identity‘s score, “Main Titles”; 2) the closing track is an updated version of Moby’s “Extreme Ways”, featuring a more orchestral accompaniment and the subtitle “Bourne’s Legacy”. “Extreme Ways” played in the end credits of all three Matt Damon Bourne films, so it’s nice to see it return.

Aside from those two tracks, much of this score is a lot more…”much-ier” than John Powell’s original scores. Newton Howard uses some of the same electronic orchestration, but he combines it with an orchestra in a way that is consistently action-packed and suspenseful. Whereas much of The Bourne Identity‘s score was a bit minimal, The Bourne Legacy‘s score features tracks like “Drone”, “High Powered Rifle”, and “Magsaysay Suite” that are much bigger and decidedly not minimal.

That’s not to say that Newton Howard sacrifices the kind of music I know him for in favor of this new, aggressive style. In fact, his traditional style of music is also featured throughout; in “You Fell in Love”, we hear a somber melody that starts dramatically in the low string part before the high strings take over and just about break your heart. Another track, “Aftermath”, opens with long, sustained strings that seem to emulate great loss or tragedy. This builds into a strong, full string orchestra that hints at a mission unfinished and more to come.

One thing I miss from The Bourne Legacy‘s score, though, is a consistent motif that is heard throughout the film that lets the audience know that something is either happening or about to happen. In Powell’s original score, you can hear what I’m talking about in the track “At the Bank”; this motif is catchy, prominent, and featured throughout, and it trains the audience to know that something awesome is going on when you hear it. There’s nothing like that (that I’ve noticed) in Newton Howard’s score, unfortunately.

Despite that small complaint, I’m overall pretty pleased with The Bourne Legacy‘s score. It keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat – or, if you’re standing, on your toes – throughout, and it supplies plenty of both compelling action and emotion, showing that this job is not just about killing people…it’s about finding who you are and doing something about it. James Newton Howard’s deviation from his normal style is refreshing and opens plenty of doors for both his career and for the continuation of the Bourne film series. This score definitely has me even more excited to see Jeremy Renner in the new film next week!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Legacy”   2:40
2. “Drone”   4:15
3. “NRAG”   0:59
4. “You Fell in Love”   1:42
5. “Program Shutdown”   3:00
6. “Over the Mountain”   0:51
7. “High Powered Rifle”   2:50
8. “They’re All Dead”   2:48
9. “Manila Lab”   2:40
10. “Wolves/Sic Ric”   2:19
11. “Doctor of What?”   4:28
12. “Aaron in Chicago”   1:32
13. “Wolf Attack”   2:57
14. “Chem Talk”   1:35
15. “Flight 167”   3:30
16. “Aaron Run!”   1:08
17. “You Belong Here”   1:17
18. “Cognitive Degrade”   2:49
19. “17 Hour Head Start”   3:51
20. “Viralled Out”   0:58
21. “You’re Doing Fine”   1:18
22. “Simon Ross”   1:37
23. “LARX Tarmac”   1:45
24. “Magsaysay Suite”   3:04
25. “Aftermath”   2:49
26. “Extreme Ways (Bourne’s Legacy)” (Moby) 4:51

Total Length: app. 64 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) – Hans Zimmer & John Powell

Continuing with Zimmer Week, I’m following up yesterday’s review of the Hans Zimmer/John Powell collaboration Kung Fu Panda with the sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2. As you’ll probably recall, I wasn’t too fond of how often material was repeated throughout the entire score; the main theme was hugely overused. However, that problem is (mostly) gone with the score to Kung Fu Panda 2.

The highly entertaining ( albeit obnoxiously exhausted) main theme from the first film, “Hero”, makes a return in the sequel, though it’s not nearly as…er…present as it was in the original. Thank goodness for that! When it does appear, it’s different every time – something that the first film’s score can’t boast.

Lots of different styles make appearances on this album. You have the obvious Chinese influence from the setting of the film, but there’s also a style that I’d like to refer to as “70s cop show retro-funk”…and that’s the technical term. Listen to this section of the track “Gongmen Jail” and then come back. I’ll wait…you back? Is “70s cop show retro-funk” not the perfect description for that bit of music?! Yeah, I thought so too. By the way, if you see that term elsewhere, you can tell people that you saw where it first originated!

There are occasional moments when Zimmer and Powell take us back to the stereotypical music heard in classic old kung fu films. One such moment is found in the opening seconds of “Po and Shen / Face to Face”; that opening solo just seems to ooze kung fu nostalgia, at least in my opinion.

Lots of this score is simply lots of fun, and it’s always different…again, a very good thing. These fun tracks include (but are not limited to) “Stealth Mode”, “Rickshaw Chase”, and “Zen Ball Master”. There’s even an incredibly well-done remix titled “Dumpling Warrior Remix” that’s worth having a listen.

Unlike its predecessor, this film, and, likewise, its soundtrack, is full of serious moments that are reflected powerfully in the music. The opening track, “Ancient China / Story of Shen”, alternates between tension/aggression and bits of tragedy, while the later track “Po Finds the Truth” could just about break your heart before transitioning into a hugely orchestrated version of the beautiful theme from the first film (not the fun one; listen to “Oogway Ascends”).

Overall, Hans Zimmer & John Powell’s score to Kung Fu Panda 2 is an improvement in every imaginable way over the score to the previous film. There’s more variation throughout, which is like a bit of cool mint after the stale taste of the overused theme in Kung Fu Panda. Thank you, Mr. Zimmer and Mr. Powell, for stepping up your games and providing us with something that not only works well with the film but is also capable of being its own entity.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Ancient China / Story of Shen” 2:43
2. “Dumpling Warrior” 1:19
3. “Inner Peace” 2:25
4. “Musicians Village” 1:19
5. “Save Kung Fu” 3:41
6. “Daddy Issues” 4:22
7. “Stealth Mode” 4:04
8. “Gongmen Jail” 2:40
9. “Rickshaw Chase” 2:36
10. “Po and Shen / Face to Face” 5:58
11. “More Cannons!” 2:59
12. “Fireworks Factory” 6:48
13. “Po Finds the Truth” 5:03
14. “Invasion Begins” 2:37
15. “Zen Ball Master” 7:21
16. “My Fist Hungers for Justice” 4:54
17. “Dumpling Warrior Remix” 3:30

Total Length: app. 65 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Remember: “70s cop show retro-funk”. It’s a thing. And it started here!


Kung Fu Panda (2008) – Hans Zimmer & John Powell

After reviewing Hans Zimmer’s score to Inception yesterday, and with the upcoming release of The Dark Knight Rises next week, also scored by Zimmer, I’ve decided to make this next week Zimmer Week! Every day will feature a soundtrack review for a score composed or co-composed by Mr. Zimmer. Second up on this list is the Hans Zimmer and John Powell collaboration, Kung Fu Panda.

The album has a promising start with the incredibly fun track “Hero”, which opens with a beautiful solo from a pan flute-like instrument before being interrupted by a brass fanfare that rolls into a rock-and-roll-influenced beat, showcasing the main theme that is heard throughout the entire album. I know I’ve said that before, about a theme being heard throughout, but I really mean it this time; there are maybe only one or two tracks in the entire album that don’t feature something you didn’t hear in “Hero”. In fact, this whole album could be summed up with this opening track, and it gets pretty obnoxious.

Don’t get me wrong – there are still a few great moments every once in a while, such as in the track “Oogway Ascends”, but even that track is just a rehash of the opening solo in “Hero”. Very few of these tracks present something we haven’t already heard, and some even appear to have entire duplicate sections. Listen to the “Hero” starting at about 1:55 and compare it to the opening bits of both “Impersonating Shifu” and “Panda Po”…sound familiar? That’s because they’re nearly identical.

I could go on and on about this soundtrack, but the fact of the matter is, aside from a few individual tracks, this isn’t an album that stands well on its own because of how repetitive it is. In the context of the film, though, Kung Fu Panda‘s score works magnificently well. So here’s what I recommend: watch the movie and enjoy the music simultaneously with the plot, the characters, and the visuals. Wrapped together in one big package, Kung Fu Panda is one of Dreamworks Animations’ best productions. Buy the Zimmer/Powell score if you’re a collector, but don’t expect a lot of variety. (However, the closing track, a Cee-Lo Green/Jack Black cover of the Carl Douglas classic “Kung Fu Fighting”, is quite enjoyable, so check that out!)

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

1. “Hero” 4:42
2. “Let The Tournament Begin” 1:59
3. “The Dragon Warrior Is Among Us” 2:57
4. “Tai Lung Escapes” 7:06
5. “Peach Tree Of Wisdom” 1:53
6. “Accu-flashback” 4:05
7. “Impersonating Shifu” 2:18
8. “The Sacred Pool Of Tears” 9:51
9. “Training Po” 1:28
10. “The Bridge” 3:23
11. “Shifu Faces Tai Lung” 4:47
12. “The Dragon Scroll” 2:31
13. “Po vs. Tai Lung” 2:41
14. “Dragon Warrior Rises” 3:22
15. “Panda Po” 2:39
16. “Oogway Ascends” 2:04
17. “Kung Fu Fighting” (Performed by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black) 2:30

Total Length – app. 61 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


How to Train Your Dragon (2010) – John Powell

2010 was a good year for animated movies, bringing usToy Story 3Tangled, and Despicable MeHow to Train Your Dragon was also released in 2010 and featured an incredible instrumental score by composer John Powell, who was relatively unknown to me at that time.

The score of How to Train Your Dragon has a very Celtic feel to it to tie in with the Viking characters, with lots of bagpipes, fiddle, and even some harpsichord. There are parts that have an almost swashbuckling kind of sound to them, like in the track “Focus, Hiccup!”

The real appeal of the score to HTTYD is the sheer number of memorable tracks, with my favorites being “This is Berk”, “Forbidden Friendship”, “See You Tomorrow”, “Test Drive”, “Romantic Flight”, “Coming Back Around”, and “The Vikings Have Their Tea”. “Romantic Flight” features one of the most beautiful themes I’ve ever heard in a movie, while “Test Drive” is just incredibly fun.

Overall, John Powell’s score to How to Train Your Dragon presents everything you could want in a movie score and has quickly climbed to my list of favorites. I have very little (if anything) to complain about with this score.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

1. “This Is Berk” 4:10

2. “Dragon Battle” 1:54

3. “The Downed Dragon” 4:16

4. “Dragon Training” 3:10

5. “Wounded” 1:25

6. “The Dragon Book” 2:22

7. “Focus, Hiccup!” 2:05

8. “Forbidden Friendship” 4:10

9. “New Tail” 2:47

10. “See You Tomorrow” 3:53

11. “Test Drive” 2:36

12. “Not So Fireproof” 1:12

13. “This Time For Sure” 0:43

14. “Astrid Goes For A Spin” 0:43

15. “Romantic Flight” 1:56

16. “Dragon’s Den” 2:29

17. “The Cove” 1:10

18. “The Kill Ring” 4:28

19. “Ready The Ships” 5:13

20. “Battling The Green Death” 6:18

21. “Counter Attack” 3:05

22. “Where’s Hiccup?” 2:43

23. “Coming Back Around” 2:51

24. “Sticks & Stones” (Written and performed by Jónsi) 4:17

25. “The Vikings Have Their Tea” 2:03

Total Length: app. 72 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad