Soundtrack Review: The Last Airbender

Soundtrack Review: The Last Airbender

The Last Airbender Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the motion picture score The Last Airbender by James Newton Howard.

“If that kid in the movie is an airbender, then James Newton Howard surely must be a musicbender.”

So it’s finally here, a long time before it should have been released. iTunes answered my prayers and released it ahead of time. Huge expectations were built for this score judged on the trailer piece that James Newton Howard composed, then the small previews on the movie website. The Last Airbender is M. Night Shyamalan’s live action movie version of the anime TV series called Avatar: The Last Airbender (with a few/many artistic touches of course). They probably dropped the Avatar name because you know… How can you not get excited whenever you hear M. Night Shyamalan & James Newton Howard getting together for a project? All except for The Happening, they have been creating wonderful music together, at least James, but guided by Shyamalan’s vision. After the massive expectations I have built for this score, how can they possibly be met?

Track List

1. Airbender Suite *****
2. Earthbenders *****
3. The Avatar Has Returned ****
4. The Four Elements Test *****
5. Journey To The Northern Water Tribe *****
6. Hall of Avatars *****
7. Prologue *****
8. The Blue Spirit *****
9. The Spirit World *****
10. We Could Be Friends *****
11. We Are Now The Gods *****
12. Flow Like Water *****

The Love Of Film Scores

Do you know what the best part of listening to film scores are? Every person has probably a different answer, but for me it’s about imagination, it’s about leaving the grown up world behind sometimes and being a kid again. This morning I was walking to work while listening to film music and thoughts appeared in my head. The thoughts are forming images that only I can see, and these are purely based on the music I feel and the emotion it evokes. My life is filled with these wonderful moments and yet, when I am in another situation, it can all change. I was listening to the same cue ‘Airbender Suite’ this morning while walking and then a few minutes ago resting on the sofa. The thought and images that appeared weren’t the same, but it was just as wonderful. I am thinking to myself: “Wow, this is a thunderous and jawdropping track that I can’t stop listening to”, and then I laugh realizing this is not even the best track on the score!

I’ll tell you something about myself. Words usually comes very easy for me being a writer and all, but it’s really hard to put into words what I feel when I listen to The Last Airbender. I think there are no words, yet I know that I have to write about this score. I have to write for myself, for you and everyone who will read this. It might come across as the ramblings of a mad man, but then again it might be the most sensible things you have ever heard.

Prologue

Where to begin? Let’s start with the beginning, which is track 7. Wait… did you say track 7!? I sure did, and I think they mixed up the tracks quite a bit and the title ‘Prologue’ gave it away. I would have liked better if they put ‘Prologue’ at the beginning and ‘Airbender Suite’ at the end but I digress. ‘Prologue’ is a fantastic beginning to a score that seems to ruthlessly play with my emotions. From a quiet ominous start, except the amazing drums, it just get going.

Where does James Newton Howard get all this energy from, this creativity that is bursting in every cue? ‘The Blue Spirit’ is a fantastic example of that energy and one of my favorite themes from this score, the frantic violin sequence at 1:41. Then it explodes into a rhythmic percussion sequence and the fun marching theme starting at 2:57, all which you can hear in the even more energetic ‘Airbender Suite’. At 3:33 comes a fantastic action piece that only Zimmer seems to match in his “Angels & Demons”. I could probably break down every cue for you, but I won’t bore you with excruciating details. Oh, I have to mention the part from 5:42 until 6:08 that always makes me cry.

The Best Cue

The best cue on the score is the last one, and it’s called ‘Flow Like Water’. I have never seen the cartoon, I have never seen the movie –Okay, I have seen the trailer, but the point is this: It is just so beautiful. I am listening to this now and if this was a piece of paper and I was writing with a pen, the text would smear all over the page. How can you not cry when you hear this? How can you not be emotional? How can you not be the most happy person alive at the same time, knowing you have the opportunity to listen to this score? The sweeping violins, the mesmerizing horns, the amazing orchestration, the fantastic theme… You really have to listen to this cue and I will give you it at the end, so you too can enjoy this. This is art, this is indescribably good yet I’ve given it my best shot. You just have to hear it!

Let’s get back to the ‘Airbender Suite’ which is 11 minutes and 17 seconds of pure delight. It contains all the themes, all the action, all the adventure, all the love and all the emotion. Every second of this is wonderful. The first part from 0:00 until 1:13 is just the intro. From there you will truly be amazed by the bold and wonderful music James Newton Howard has made. It’s an epic piece that just rolls off your eardrums and it’s so effortless. You know those 3-hour movies that seem to end so quickly? If this was a 3 hour movie, it would seem like a minute really. It’s so fantastically fun and frantic. It contains an amazing action piece from 7:59 until 9:12 with massive orchestral sound, choirs, percussion… the works.

I could have given all cues 5 stars, and when I come to the end of this review I have no idea why I gave ‘The Avatar Has Returned’ only 4 stars. The beginning from 0:00 until 0:35 is a 5 star action sequence. Ok, so the part from 0:35 until 2:35 is a bit boring. The action sequence from 2:36 until 3:04 is fantastic though. Because of the brilliant sequences within I could have given it a 5, but I opted for 4 stars, hence this score isn’t perfect.

Conclusion

There’s no such thing as a perfect score, but I had a perfect time listening to this while walking, resting and writing this review. What can you say really? Just go buy the damn score. It’s been leaked on iTunes apparently before it’s official release. I don’t know why, but don’t question this. Just go and buy it. You’ll love it, I promise! If that kid in the movie is an airbender, then James Newton Howard surely must be a musicbender of the best sort! I almost opened Photoshop to make a special score for this, Geek Score 11, but I restrained myself. This is for me the best I have ever heard James Newton Howard and it might become the best score I’ve ever heard, but I don’t dare say it because it might not be true. There are a few great ones that in my mind would give this score a good contest, but wow, what a score this is! Expectations well and truly met! The actors might suck, the story might blow, the effects might be lackluster, but with a score like this I have to like it no matter what.

CUE RATING: 98.3
GD Star Rating
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Soundtrack Review: The Last Airbender, 10.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

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