One of 2014's (and Howard's) best, chiefly for the reason that - for a comparably large amount of its running time - it eschews sounding like a modern blockbuster scoreTM. While still firmly anchored in that Disneyfied idiom of bright glockenspiels and sweet choruses, Howard manages at least one brilliant set piece - 'Maleficent Flies', linked above - and generally a strong thematic score built on a wonderfully simple-yet-evocative 'destiny' motif for Maleficent's arc that can afford to wander languorously or leaping upwards heroically. You may call it deceptively simple.
The score is somewhat uneven (thank you, blockbuster movie) in juggling the fairy-tale, folksy moments (basically the first quarter leading up to the first horrendous CGI/LOTR recall in 'Battle of the Moors') with the heavy dramatics that resort to the kind of sledgehammer writing used to cut through a wall of deafening sound effects (too much of what comes thereafter). The tranquil, peaceful tone Howard establishes for the quieter parts is defeated by this and the last 'big' action cue ('Maleficent is Captured') for a fight to the death with her childhood sweetheart who betrayed her, cutting her fairy wings, that should milk the tragic underpinnings of lost love and trust, just hammers away like a mad percussion drill. It's indeed a shame they composer couldn't cash in on the promise of the Grimm-ian beginning here.
But leaving that aside, 'Maleficent' still registers as strong work heavy on all kinds of motivic ornamentation so absent even in this kind of fare nowadays. As is his custom, Howard presents a suite at the beginning that gives the spotlight to a succession of ideas only used briefly in the movie (mainly for a scene where Maleficent casts a spell) that is expanded to dramatic heights and might be an indication where Howard's loyalty really lies (see also: overture to 'The Last Airbender').