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James Newton Howard - Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)


Edmilson
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I think it depends. On a same year he may deliver both a great score and a bad one, and I say that as a fan of the guy.

 

2010: The Last Airbender was great, but Salt and The Tourist were bad and boring.

 

2011: I love Water for Elephants, but Green Lantern and Green Hornet are crap.

 

2012: Hunger Games is so-so, but Bourne Legacy was pretty bad.

 

2013: Catching Fire is good, but After Earth is not.

 

2014: Maleficent is great and Mockingjay Part 1 was okay, but Nightcrawler and Pawn Sacrifice did nothing for me.

 

2015: Mockingjay Part 2 is not bad, but it contains a lot of material from the other Hunger Games scores. Concussion had one great track, but the rest was super boring.

 

2016: The Huntsman: Winter War wasn't good, but Fantastic Beasts was, well, fantastic.

 

2017: Haven't heard Detroit, and Roman J. Israel was very forgettable.

 

2018: Red Sparrow has a great beginning and ending, but the middle of the album is extremely boring. Nutcracker was okay and Fantastic Beasts 2 was very good.

 

2019: A Hidden Life was excellent

 

2020: News of the World was great

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I agree with almost all of that :) 

 

My differences would be that I love Nightcrawler (although the album could be trimmed a little), I don't like any of his Hunger Games material post Catching Fire (except The Hanging Tree), and absolutely nothing from Red Sparrow or Nutcracker did anything for me.

 

Bourne LegacySalt, and The Green Lantern are just bad. After Earth has a few good bits, but surrounded by very average material.

 

I'd say Water for Elephants, Maleficent, Hidden Life, News of the World, and The Last Airbender are the highlights of this period. Honorary mention goes to the stunning 'You Shouldn't Walk in Shadows' from The Huntsman.

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2 minutes ago, Richard Penna said:

I don't like any of his Hunger Games material post Catching Fire (except The Hanging Tree)

 

I think "Sewer Attack" from Mockingjay Part 2 is my favourite action cue ever :wub:

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Giving it a listen now... there's some good material in here, but it's surrounded by very generic percussion that doesn't seem to go anywhere for me.

 

It's not helped by the fact that I thought the final movie was pretty bad, and I'd lost all interest in what was going on by that point. Shame, because I remember watching Pt. 1 on a plane and really enjoying it.

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27 minutes ago, Richard Penna said:

Giving it a listen now... there's some good material in here, but it's surrounded by very generic percussion that doesn't seem to go anywhere for me.

Right. I just love the eclectic and intense mix of different energetic rhythms with odd and changing time signatures. And the fact that it always has some type of melodic line although you would think this kind of music wouldn't have any. 

And then at 4:00 onwards it gets so emotional and makes the scene in the movie so powerful and epic (it's still rushing and fast-paced, but the music suddenly isn't… Makes an awesome contrast).

 

 

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It’s already on Youtube
 

Some of the tracks grow on me, and the overall impression of the score is a bit better after repeat listens. 
 

Especially the tracks where they state the main theme.

What do you guys think of the theme?

I know this is a simple theme, and frankly, this is more suitable to be a countermotif than a full “main” theme (I suppose thats why it sounds similar; i guess the similarity comes from JNH’s own, as he often uses these kind of progression (Peter Pan comes to mind)), but it’s getting catchier after several listens.

 

The theme, in its glorious statement , can be heard in this track. The track ( among others) is one instance where JNH’s magic is still there:

 

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First listen... not what I was expecting!

 

Quite liking it.

 

 

EDIT:

 

Now that I’m a few tracks in, it’s exactly what I expected. And wanted!

 

Running On Raindrops is pretty stunning.

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Okay, this score is not just a "modern" JNH.

There is certain je ne sais quoi in this, be it the ethnical part, the percussion, or JNH's own magic.

 

Anyway,  i do hate the score for not "unleashing" the full JNH potential.

A lot of great moments are cut short :(

 

Like this moment. This thriumphant tone is pure JNH's claasic:

 

or this one:

 

Or this segment, where it channels "The Crystal Chamber" from Atlantis

 

Or perhaps this; the "staple", the distinct JNH's melodramatic writing that we've accostumed to

 

 

That's the disappointing thing about the score,

where you are forced to imagine what kind of better score this could be should JNH be allowed to "unleash".

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Just finished the OST. It has some great moments, but unfortunately they're spread around the score, surrounded by some modern, anachronistic techno-music (some of the action tracks reminded me of Tenet). 

 

It's a shame the album doesn't have a highlight cue. It doesn't have its own "The Egg Travels" or "Flow Like Water". But I'll give the album a few more listens before making a veredict.

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I'm listening now and am not particularly impressed. But I'll wait untill I've seen the film (should get a screener any day now), and organize my thoughts in a pocket review.

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I like it, a lot. As one of you said, it never quite reaches the moments of majesty we know and love from many of his other Disney/fantasy works, but it does come close. However, the thematic material is not particularly strong.

 

I do very much like the ethnic textures, especially in the softer parts.

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After my first impression wasn't so positive, the score started to grow on me on subsequent listens. I didn't cared for the main theme firstly, but now it doesn't leave my head :lol:

 

I look forward to watch the movie and see how the score works in context.

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Same - I love the main theme now, and now that I'm used to the idea of the hybrid approach, I'm liking the whole album more. The only issue is that for a lossless download, the cheapest I can find is £16, but I suppose I'll have to give in at some point.

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I have really grown to love this score the last couple of days. I’m interested to see the film and hear it in context. If anyone’s interested, here’s my playlist. A nice blend of highlights and “connecting tissue”

 

3. Young Raya and Namaari (3:26)
4. Betrayed (4:34)
5. Search for the Last Dragon (1:13)
6. Into the Shipwreck (2:52)
10. Journey to Talon (1:19)
11. Sisu Swims (1:44)
12. Dragon Graveyard (2:53)
17. Running on Raindrops (2:11)
19. Brothers and Sisters (3:58)
21. Storming Fang (4:09)
22. The Druun Close In (2:58)
23. Return (4:58)
24. The New World (2:35)

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It has grown on me massively the past couple of days. I can't get that main theme out of my head.

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Halfway through this. Not enjoying it at all.

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Saw the movie tonight.

 

It was okay, but also with some issues. It's certainly no new MOANA, for people who expected that (then again, it's hard to compete with the genius of Musker & Clements).

 

I'll organize my thoughts in a pocket review tomorrow.

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You're the only person I've ever seen use the phrase "pocket review" before.  Is that common language I've somehow never come across elsewhere, or a term you invented?

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It's kinda a direct translation of a Norwegian term, which I thought sounded neat in English. I doubt it's an actual English word, though. It basically means that it's brief/small enough to put in your pocket, "on the go". I think 'capsule review' is a more common word in English.

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Yea, I've seen the term "capsule review" around the web but never "pocket review" outside of forum posts by you

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On 3/2/2021 at 2:59 PM, WampaRat said:

I have really grown to love this score the last couple of days. I’m interested to see the film and hear it in context. If anyone’s interested, here’s my playlist. A nice blend of highlights and “connecting tissue”

 

3. Young Raya and Namaari (3:26)
4. Betrayed (4:34)
5. Search for the Last Dragon (1:13)
6. Into the Shipwreck (2:52)
10. Journey to Talon (1:19)
11. Sisu Swims (1:44)
12. Dragon Graveyard (2:53)
17. Running on Raindrops (2:11)
19. Brothers and Sisters (3:58)
21. Storming Fang (4:09)
22. The Druun Close In (2:58)
23. Return (4:58)
24. The New World (2:35)

 

I'd personally be a little more generous than this - I bought the album yesterday, and have found that it's only tracks 13-15 which don't need to be there.

 

I rather like the electronic/techno material, and so the shorter, sequencer-driven tracks are nice. It was only once I got to Escape from Talon that it became mickey-mousey music for about 10 minutes. Hence I think there's about 55 mins of good stuff here if you like the sound, and your playlist is probably good if you're just looking for the highlights.

 

However, I'm not going to complain for one moment about the album being too long. Someone will watch the film and enjoy the mid-section of the score more.

 

Without a doubt, the most wanting feature of the score is JNH coming up with a really interesting idea, and 15 seconds later it's gone, because clearly the film needs him to do something else. Very few things in the score are allowed to develop and really build because of this.

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@Richard PennaYeah. I can see that. Perhaps I’ll give the full album another listen and just omit tracks 13-15. But I really love the emphasis on the electronic elements in this score meshed with Howard’s lush traditional fantasy scoring. I liked the comparison made earlier “Green Lantern but good” haha. I’d probably toss the better parts of his After Earth score in there too. And a dash of shimmery Last Airbender tones and we got this great score.
 

Bring on Jungle Cruise!

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I've listened to this score a few times over the last couple days (I hadn't even realized it was coming, so a nice surprise!). Overall, I'm not an enormous fan of this score -- there's a lot of kinda boring underscore IMO. I would definitely rank this worse than Nutcracker (for which I thought almost every track was very good). 

 

That being said, there are a number of excellent moments that have kept me coming back to this score. Oftentimes, these moments feel like they're cut short -- I agree with the poster above who noted it feels like JNH wasn't allowed to "unleash" himself fully -- but they're still great. Probably my favorite moment of the entire score is this ecstatic fanfare, in the glorious vein of Treasure Planet and Fantastic Beasts:

 

 

The main theme is also beautiful, if a bit simplistic, and the cues that contain it are the best parts of the score, e.g.:

 

 

And: 

 

 

 

However, here's an example of a part that feels like it's building up to something amazing, but then the cue just ends:

 

 

 

 

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After seeing the movie, I can say that the music works tremendously well. That the main theme only appears a few times actually strengthens it when it does appears and really lifts up the moments it does appear.

 

I like the score very much. It's fits the movie very well and the ethnical instruments are amazing. The choral writing is very distinct and I feel that when the orchestra does kick in, especially at the more emotional parts and at the end it really makes those moments stand out.

 

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I'm not surprised, coming from "JNHFan2000". Alas, I can't share in your enthusiasm, as my previous pocket review testifies to.

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Regarding the above clips, I'm finding Into the Shipwreck one of my favourite tracks actually - I love the fluctuating woodwind in the middle, and then yes, that wonderful ending with the strings - if only he'd had longer to develop that.

 

Aside from the appearances of the main theme, another highlight for me is this recurring theme, which appears around 3 times:

 

 

Running on Raindrops is particularly cool as we get the light twinkly percussion at 0:50 as a sort of 'here we go....' moment, and then after we've had one dose of the theme, we get a build-up to another percussion-led one, and one of the rare moments in the entire score where he lets a theme or moment actually play out!

 

Also, Plans of Attack is just such a damn cool cue, going through a bit of everything in an upbeat break from the orchestral stuff.

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5 minutes ago, Richard Penna said:

Regarding the above clips, I'm finding Into the Shipwreck one of my favourite tracks actually - I love the fluctuating woodwind in the middle, and then yes, that wonderful ending with the strings - if only he'd had longer to develop that.

 

Aside from the appearances of the main theme, another highlight for me is this recurring theme, which appears around 3 times:

 

 

That's one of my favorite bits of the score along with the main theme, and it reminds me a lot of Fantastic Beasts Love Theme (the theme in the Thunderbird cue).

 

I have to say that at first I didn't quite liked the score that much, but after some repeated listens, it has grown on me and the main theme is quite memorable in its own way.

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I watched the movie. It's really good, it has great world building, great animation, fun characters and fight scenes that are better than a lot of live action movies. I liked it more than Tangled, Frozen and even Moana.

 

JNH's score works fine with the movie, although it's a little too mickey-mouse-y in places. There's quite a lot of unreleased material, I'd say about 15-20 minutes, but all the major highlights are already on the OST.

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The JNH curse continues: much like Atlantis and Treasure Planet, the new Disney animation scored by him also bombed at the box office.

 

https://www.boxofficepro.com/weekend-box-office-raya-last-dragon-tom-and-jerry/

 

Which is quite sad, the movie is really good.

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Must be covid related. And one cinema chain apparently boycotted the movie completely because of the simultaneous Disney+ release.

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Yeah, I read that Cinemark is not playing the movie because it's also available on Disney Plus. But they're playing Tom and Jerry, which is also available for streaming and, unlike Raya, with no extra fee. 

 

Maybe if it wasn't for the pandemic the movie could've been a solid hit at the box office.

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Would there be any hope in Intrada picking this up for a CD release?

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I saw the movie last night. Score definitely had some nice moments.

 

I can think of 1 emotional theme that stands out in key moments as memorable.

 

Also Sisu's theme is instantly memorable. 

 

The climatic moments have some nice one off moments.

 

Haven't heard any of the tracks so will now be listening with the knowledge of the film.

 

Overall, I might say a lesser work to a certain degree, simply because of the kind of film it is. 

 

I still wonder if JNH's level of refinement shown in Fantastic Beasts scores is only for that franchise. His sound is very finished, very sophisticated for those movies. Not of a similar style to Williams but a similar quality. Williams brings that level of quality to literally every score he composes, JNH's seems to bring it out fleetingly. But still a magnificent composer, one of our absolute best without a doubt.

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I've been listening to this track non-stop after watching the movie. The theme for choir and orchestra at the 1:00 mark is very epic, but my favorite part starts at 2:30. I just love JNH's melancholic writing for strings. That part is so good they used it twice in the movie. Not sure if it was tracked or it was a different cue, though.

 

 

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Do you prefer this or News of the World from recent JNH scores?

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12 minutes ago, Jay said:

Do you prefer this or News of the World from recent JNH scores?

 

Two very different scores for very different movies. Theoretically, Raya would be more up my alley, with expansive orchestrations and the typical JNH writing for fantasy movies. However, News of the World also captivated me with its restrained beauty. And it works like gangbusters in the movie.

 

I'd say I like both equally, but for different reasons. I took a while to actually warm up to them, but now that I've seen the two movies, I can admire them for what they are.

 

JNH fans like myself can't complain, he has been delivering consistently good-to-great scores since 2018.

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Nice.  I'm looking forward to hearing both albums and seeing both flicks.  We have Netflix and Disney+, but neither free on those in the USA yet, so I wait

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9 hours ago, Edmilson said:

I've been listening to this track non-stop after watching the movie. The theme for choir and orchestra at the 1:00 mark is very epic, but my favorite part starts at 2:30. I just love JNH's melancholic writing for strings. That part is so good they used it twice in the movie. Not sure if it was tracked or it was a different cue, though.

 

 

 

The theme at the 1 minute mark is what I called the emotional theme. It is very good and effective. And the theme at 3:36 is Sisu's theme.

 

Has anyone done a thematic analysis yet.

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8 hours ago, TheUlyssesian said:

Has anyone done a thematic analysis yet.

 

I don't think it has a lot of themes. From what I've heard, it's basically just Sisu's theme and some other minor motifs. But then again, I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

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