144 of 161 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2009
James Horner... You either love him or hate him. The film score fan world is clearly divided between these 2 camps. I've never heard Horner described as just ok or average. Depending on who you ask, he's the greatest thing since sliced bread or the scum of the Earth. I'm a Horner fan. I think he has the rare ability to tell a story with his music and be able to evoke emotion with his music alone, not requiring a visual aid to accompany it. This is special. Such greats as Williams and Barry also have this rare ability and this puts James Horner in a select group. However, this is good James. Bad James shamelessly lifts parts from his prior scores and inserts them, sometimes note for note, into his new scores. He also has the tendency to lift parts of classical pieces and use them as well, almost note for note. The Horner fans are able to overlook this stuff because the purely original, new, and innovative parts of his scores more than make up for the already mentioned "Hornerisms".
Avatar, while a solid and fitting score, does not live up to its potential. Scores are about giving a movie a unique musical identity. In this aspect it fails. Most of the themes and motifs presented can be clearly traced back to many prior Horner scores. I shouldn't have images of Glory, Willow, Titanic, The Four Feathers, etc in my head while I am watching Avatar. This can be really distracting to the viewer. If you aren't familiar with this prior material, then this score may rate higher with you. The main theme begins with the exact timing and first 3 notes of the love theme from Titanic. Even without considering the slight lift of the Titanic theme, this main recurring theme is one of the most underdeveloped themes Horner has ever put to a movie. It hardly qualifies as a theme. I guess this is where I can't support the self rips. Usually when lifting his own material he develops it further into something grander. Such is not the case here. Having a year to develop this score, I ask... is this the best you can do?
While weak in themes and full of self rips, the Avatar score does have a bit going for it. The latter portions of the score have some top notch action music. Easily the scores highlight is the track "War". I'm a big fan of the choir in movie scores and Horner employs one in Avatar very effectively. What pulls this score from a 2 rating to a 3 rating are 2 things...orchestration and production/mixing. Avatar is hands down one of the better orchestrated scores you will find. This isn't surprising given Horner's orchestration talents as he did do some of the orchestrations on this score. What a lush score, using so much different instrumentation! For you Horner fans, this score contains just about every instrument he has ever used in his prior works. He even got an acoustic guitar strum in, identical to the one that opens "The Mask of Zorro". Synths and electronics can dominate at times but they are not a detriment and add welcome depth. Being a Cameron film, you know sound quality would be a big thing. This music delivers. I can't recall a score that just jumped from the speakers like this one does. Just running it in 2 speaker stereo and you will feel like you are immersed in the music.
So to wrap up, James Horner has written music for Avatar that undoubtedly fits the movie like a glove and will do its job. However, it just seems a bit uninspired and lazy in its composition. With really no movie music blockbusters over the last ten years, one has to wonder if Horner's tank has finally run out of gas. By all means buy this disc as there are enough positive things to justify the purchase. For those that are new to Horner, I would nudge you in the direction of "Legends of the Fall" or "Glory".
91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2009
James Cameron makes a habit of being groundbreaking. Whether he is creating a planet full of ferocious xenomorphs in Aliens, experimenting with liquid metal robots in Terminator II, or making a realistic recreation of a sinking boat in Titanic, the Canadian director has always been at the forefront of cutting edge cinematic technology, pushing the envelope of what is creatively and technologically possible on the screen. His latest film, Avatar, continues that trend; with an estimated budget of $320 million, it's the most expensive film ever made, and looks set to become one of the biggest grossing films of all time too.
The film's plot is deceptively simple. Set in a future where the Earth's natural resources have been depleted to the point where the planet is almost uninhabitable, human scientists find a distant planet called Pandora, which is rich in a rare mineral that can replenish the Earth's atmosphere and save humanity. The problem: Pandora is inhabited by a race of 10-foot tall, blue-skinned humanoid creatures called the Na'vi, who don't take kindly to an alien species coming and strip-mining their lush, beautiful planet. Needing a way to infiltrate Na'vi society, Earth's military leaders develop a technology that allows humans to assume control of genetically-bred Na'vi hybrid bodies - the `avatars' of the title. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a former marine paralyzed from the waist down after being injured in combat, is recruited to the secret program, having been lured by the prospect of being able to walk again via his avatar. Once on Pandora, and with orders to learn as much about the Na'vi in advance of a full-scale invasion, Jake finds himself being assimilated into their culture. However, rather than encountering a savage, primitive race, Jake falls in love with the Na'vi, their simple lives, their closeness to nature, and with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a Na'vi warrior princess. Before long, Jake finds himself torn between his duty to the military and his mission, and his new found respect for the peace-loving aliens.
Despite having been dubbed `Dances With Smurfs' by some of the more unkind online bloggers, Avatar is nevertheless a thought-provoking mix of environmental awareness and full-blooded cinematic action that shares conceptual ideas with both Dances With Wolves and Starship Troopers (although it is less blatantly satirical than Robert Heinlein's classic novel), drawing thematic parallels with the European colonization of the Americas and the subsequent obliteration of native American culture, and asking audiences to examine their prejudices.
For Avatar's music, Cameron once again turned to James Horner; the last time the pair worked together was on Titanic, for which Horner won his first (and, to date, only) Best Score Oscar. One of the stipulations Cameron gave to Horner was that he must not work on any other films during the period that Avatar was being made; as such, this is Horner's first score since The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which was completed in the spring of 2008. With an uncommonly long 18-month period in which to write his music, Horner worked closely with sound designer Christopher Boyes to develop an alien language for the Na'vi, which Horner would utilize for the choral parts of his score. He also spent a great deal of time creating a unique musical `sound palette' to represent the Na'vi culture, taking inspiration from everything from ancient Finnish woodwinds to Indonesian gamelan music, as well as inventing brand new percussion instruments from scratch, in an attempt to capture the visual `bioluminescence' of Pandora through music.
The first thing that Horner's detractors will jump on is the fact that, for the 100th time, Horner has referenced some of his own earlier works. The main theme sounds like the main theme from The Four Feathers. Some of the percussive and vocal parts sound like the African music from Mighty Joe Young. Some of the action writing is similar to the action writing in Troy. Some of the vocal work will also remind you of Apocalypto. The synth programming is similar to the synth programming in Titanic, and one romantic theme is similar to the Rose theme from that score. Elsewhere he references scores as obscure as Where the River Runs Black and Thunderheart, especially in some of the ethnic woodwind phrasing and electronic rhythmic elements. Virtually the first thing you hear on the album, within the first 60 seconds of the first cue, is the four-note `danger motif' that has littered dozens and dozens of scores throughout his career. If, after 25 years, you still haven't reconciled yourself to this facet of Horner's musical personality and it still bothers you, don't buy the CD - unless you enjoy purchasing music that you know will outrage you, and you get your rocks off complaining about it on an internet message board. It's time to move on from this argument and just accept that this is how Horner works, and embrace instead his astounding dramatic sense, his boundless enthusiasm for the art, and his masterful command of an orchestra.
Much of the first half of the score is concerned with setting the scene, and giving the Na'vi and their culture its musical identity. Tribal percussion, ethnic woodwinds, breathy wordless vocals and Native American-style chanting in the Na'vi language by Drea Pressley and Mark Edward Smith anchor the opening cue, "You Don't Dream In Cryo...". There's not a great deal of prominent thematic writing in the first few cues, which is unusual for a Horner score; instead, it concerns itself with abstract textures and voluminous percussion writing, and with layers of cool synths underpinning the orchestra, establishing a mood which is both alien and familiar. After a few moments of unusually comical pizzicato build-up, "Jake Enters His Avatar World" adopts an untouched, almost primeval sound, with breathy whispered vocal performances, Amazonian-style woodwind flutters, and more than a hint of danger through the use of Horner's familiar `crashing pianos' and some chaotic percussion writing. By the end of the cue, however, the music has embraced a sense of wondrous freedom, as though celebrating Jake's boundless enthusiasm at being set free in this remarkable new landscape.
"Pure Spirits of the Forest" and "The Bioluminescence of the Night" have a shimmering, iridescent quality, and make excellent use of long-lined string writing underpinned by beds of soothing synths, often incorporating tribal rhythms, chanting vocals and eerie woodwind calls to add to the sense of alien mystique. There is a sense of calmness, and of peace about this music; it's the kind of music that conjures up images of starlit skies seen through shadowy treetops at night, or of a spiritual communion with nature. Even here, though, there is still danger lurking in the darkness, as the strident brass performances and guttural growls towards the end of "Pure Spirits of the Forest" attest.
The first performance of the score's recurring main theme appears towards the middle of "Becoming One of the People; Becoming One With Neytiri"; this is the theme that is clearly modeled after the theme from The Four Feathers, and forms the cornerstone of the score's main emotional content, dealing with the developing romance between Jake and Neytiri. The lilt in the melody, and the passion in the writing, is palpable, and hugely rewarding. Towards the end of "Becoming One With Neytiri" there is a sublime romantic sequence for strings, piano and Tony Hinnigan's effortlessly expressive woodwinds that brings back wonderful memories of the William/Murron romance from Braveheart and the Jack/Rose romance from Titanic.
The rest of this cue, and later cues such as "Climbing Up Iknimaya - The Path to Heaven" and "Jake's First Flight", are expansive celebrations of the Na'vi culture, with broad and joyous themes accentuated by all kinds of percussion and warm, almost child-like vocals. Despite a few superficial similarities to Brian Tyler's Children of Dune, this music succeeds in capturing the essence of the Na'vi, and their respectful symbiotic relationship with their world. It is worth noting that, in "Jake's First Flight", Horner cleverly re-orchestrates a variation on Col. Shaw's theme from his 1989 classic Glory into a vibrant, tribal celebration that is simply glorious.
Things begin to turn ugly in "Scorched Earth", heralding the arrival of the humans on Pandora. From here on in, Horner's music returns to a more familiar orchestral palette, but adopts a harsher, more militaristic tone, a significantly larger brass section, and increased levels of dissonance. Some of the brass trills in "Scorched Earth" rekindle memories of the brutal Nockmaar music from Willow; the metallic percussion hits and thunderous ostinati in "Quaritch" are Horner trademarks, while the choral writing in the lavish and intense "The Destruction of Hometree" is the grandest Horner has written since Enemy at the Gates. Throughout all of these cues Horner maintains his use of the Na'vi vocals, overlaying the foreign chants over the music, often in synchronicity with the rhythms, often as a kind of lamenting counterpoint to the orchestral carnage, but always to great effect. Equally lamenting is the distressing vocal performance in "Shutting Down Grace's Lab" that recalls the great Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's mournful howls in The Four Feathers, which gives the piece a unmistakable sense of overwhelming tragedy.
The conclusion of the score is a 15-minute epic comprising "Gathering All the Na'vi Clans for Battle" and "War". It builds from a contemplative violin solo and a noble performance of the main theme, a moment of calm before an impending storm. Relentlessly building rhythms, more ethnic vocals, and huge performances of the main that seem to imply a sense of purpose and destiny eventually give way to thunderous brassy battle calls, thrusting percussion writing and heroic Na'vi war cries. As the final cue develops, it picks up a pulsating electronic undercurrent, as if pitting the unyielding, mechanized forces of humanity against the more earthy sounds of the Na'vi. As the piece reaches its conclusion, Horner begins to interpolate rousing fragments of the main theme into the action material, before ending with a reflective solo violin refrain which rounds out the score on a philosophical note.
Having said all that, and despite understanding the reason why Horner wrote the score the way he did, the thing missing from Avatar - and the thing that stops it from getting truly top marks - is long-lasting memorability. While there are literally dozens and dozens of excellent individual moments dotted throughout the score, the sum of these parts never quite add up to the classic Avatar clearly wants to be. The main theme, while undeniably attractive, is not memorable enough to go down as a Horner standard. The ethnic vocals, while certainly effective, aren't as innovative or groundbreaking as Horner's 18-month research period would have us believe. The action material is certainly impressive, and will likely be remembered as the score's strongest part, but you need more than rousing action alone to create a balanced, strong album.
And speaking of creating a balanced, strong album, listeners will most likely want to skip the quite awful song, "I See You", performed by British R&B artist and music reality show winner Leona Lewis. It's an over-processed, over-produced monstrosity with banal lyrics and an unfathomable internal tempo which, despite being based on Horner's main theme, completely loses its way as a romantic ballad. It's clearly intended to recapture the same buzz as Celine Dion/My Heart Will Go On, but is a significantly inferior song.
Avatar is a strong score. Horner's dramatic sensibility can never be faulted, and his mastery over the instrumental palette at his disposal is second to none. Although its general air of over-familiarity gives his critics plenty of ammunition to trot out the tired old `self plagiarism' chestnut again, this should not dissuade admirers of Horner's work from seeking this out, because there is still a lot to admire here, and the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. However, perhaps a little inevitably, the score does not live up to the hype that preceded its release. It's not the best score of 2009 - it's not even in the top five - and will not go down in history as one of Horner's quintessential works, however much success the film itself attains.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2009
Well, I must agree with some of the other reviewers: this is not an entirely original piece of work. Those of us who really appreciate film scores will be able to pick out recycled James Horner themes and cues throughout Avatar. However, despite this fact, I still found myself really enjoying the album as a whole. For me, the Avatar soundtrack is one of those few gems that gets better the more you listen to it. At first I was a little put-off by such heavy synthesizer use (which Horner is known for), but after listening to it again it grew on me. In my mind, the blend of heavy synth and orchestra paralleled the film's dichotomy of industry at odds with the natural world. Now, sure, I could be reaching there, but in a quirky way it does actually make sense. There could have been a bit more diversity among the themes and intimiate moments in the tracks. However, if you see the movie you'll notice it too is rather sparse on those softer moments between two characters where we delve into their motives, emotions, and history. The film's characters are rather one-dimensional (despite being in 3D), so it's no wonder the score doesn't offer as much complexity as we'd like. I wish the music were a little stronger to stand on it's own (I always feel the mark of a great piece of filmic scoring is one that can tell the story all on it's own). Still, this soundtrack is certainly not without it's key moments that completely sweep you into the music/story. To that effect, Avatar does accomplish a rather emulsifying experience (especially if you listen to it again and get past our always too-high initial expectations), but it could have gone just that extra step deeper.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2009
Easily one of the most anticipated scores to come this year amongst some big contenders. James Horner has worked his ass off for years to make a great score for James Cameron's epic sci-fi movie about the Na'Vi world and the (mostly) evil humans and their avatar characters. It has been hyped up by just about everyone and it's supposed to be an epic orchestral score of massive proportions. First I got hold of part of a cue from Avatar, then 1 minute previews of all the tracks on the score. We can't wait any longer! James Horner is back ladies and gentleman so sit back and enjoy the ride.
Every single time James Horner releases new work, the same criticism and discussions arise about him re-using his stuff. It never fails, and it used to be amusing, but now I just find it annoying. If the music is good, then it's good, it's not rocket science folks. If the music is bad (and it happens, even for Horner), then fair enough, but don't say you hate it because he uses the 4 note danger motif or any other strange reason to hate him. Another funny thing I've read on forums is that some people get disappointed because he spent so long on this. What has that got to do with anything? The fact is, James Horner is king when it comes to fusing what's going on in the movie with a great piece of emotional music. There's simply no one better at it today, and I stand by that remark.
As for the score itself, after we all heard the various previews and some got excited, some didn't. I firmly place myself in the excitement camp. I admit, I have put Avatar on a pedestal, expecting James Horner to shine more than he has ever done before. This of course leads to extremely high expectations and Horner almost succeeds in meeting them. The first part of the score is much more calm than the second part. There's some jungle rhythms in there and there's also the use of ethnic vocals. Now clearly, if you don't like either of these things, this one will be hard to truly enjoy. The main theme heard in a number of cues is not Horner's greatest work, but it does work in the movie itself. The movie has gotten great reviews and several have commented on how great the score works in the movie. Those who know James Horner, weren't surprised by this as it is his main strength.
According to other sources, this score was supposed to be hugely epic and orchestral. Is it? Yes... to a degree. There's certainly traces of electronica in cues like The Bioluminescence of the Night, but it's hardly the main thing here. Voices are a big part of the score, to the innocent boy chanting along in the beginning of Becoming One of "The People" Becoming One With Neytiri'. It really works great. More vocals in Climbing Up "Iknimaya - The Path to Heaven". It's a beautiful cue mostly based on a choir singing with hypnotic jungle percussion in the background. The fact that it sounds like Glory, makes it even better in my mind.
You can't have a Horner score without the hated Rachmaninoff 4-note motif of doom of course, and yes it is here as well. Stay away from the cue The Destruction of Hometree if you hate it, because it will be repeated without remorse at the end. Personally I have no problem with it. It was brilliant when Rachmaninoff wrote it, and just because Horner uses it, doesn't make it less brilliant. It propels the action and when you see it on screen within the context of the movie, you'll love Horner for it.
James Horner loves to make those long cues, and I love him for that. It seems like him and Hans Zimmer are the ones consistently doing it. The last cue War is a wonderfully epic and choral ending cue. It is 11 minutes and 22 seconds long , and every second of it is great. One of the best action cues this year for sure. It sounds like a trailer song to be honest, starting with a violent epic choral section that represents the humans with their war machines. At 0:50 it changes to a more soft, but still epic theme with horns and some choral bits as well to represent the Na'Vi heroes. It changes back and forth as the humans and the Na'Vi advance. The humans have an evil sound, which almost reminds me of the Nero cues from Star Trek by Michael Giacchino. It's beautifully put together with the epic scenes that unfold as machine meets nature in one of the most epic battles ever produced on screen. The Na'Vi sections of the cue are heroic in nature with horns, making it a perfect representation of the good guys. This cue is war, and it never lets go of you until the very end, where war finally ends. It is one of those cues that makes you go "wow!" every single time you play it. Pure gold from Horner and I wouldn't be far off the mark if I say that this cue is one of the best cues he has ever made.
There isn't much negative to say about this score, unless you get stuck counting the Horner-isms and similarities with other work by certain composers. I just listen to this score as music, and music can be interpreted in many ways. For example, the opening cue You Don't Dream In Cryo... is clearly lifted from Trevor Rabin's play book which you can clearly hear from 1:40 to 2:32. At first listen, you might think that it sounds like a Hans Zimmer or a Remote Control Productions score, but that feeling goes away after the second listen, at least it did for me. It's James Horner all the way for better or worse.
I could probably say a lot more about this score and James Horner and I'll say this much. James Cameron has got the perfect score for Avatar, even though the score itself is not perfect. James Horner has spent over a year making this, but that doesn't matter in the end. Hans Zimmer created Lion King in about 3 weeks, so it can work for you or against you, when you spend a lot of time on something. In this case, this is his best score since Beyond Borders in 2003. I wanted to give this a 10, but it's not a 10 score overall due the following: The main theme doesn't do it for me. I love James Horner's themes, and the theme in Avatar is quite good, but I was expecting a lot more. The year is coming to an end and I feel this is one of the best scores this year. People are whispering about Oscars due to the immense success of the movie. Who knows? I would personally be surprised to see Horner's name when the nominations are released. Oscar-worthy or not, it's a solid score worthy of the praise the movie has gotten so far.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2009
There are a few things one could hold against the score to Avatar. One could remark on the self-plagiarism that, while not unique to James Horner, saturates Horner's work. One could speak to the cheesiness of the score itself, the almost giddy feeling of goofiness you feel listening to the themes. Overall, you might even say Horner is just getting lazy, and hasn't even bothered to create anything new.
I used to say those things, but now I'm giving Horner a break. I've had the score to Avatar playing on just about every device I own that plays music, from home, to the car, to work, and it gets better the more I listen to it.
Yes, Horner cribs almost three decades worth of his own work to create this thematic frankenstein, but it works. It's good! Every theme he uses is familiar, but it fits the movie perfectly. It's a big helping of auditory comfort food. You know the music, and if you're a Horner fan, you love the themes, and you won't care that you've heard them a hundred times already.
Yes, the themes are "Titanic" cheesy. They're designed to provoke that swelling feeling of emotion in your chest while you watch the film, and in that respect they're perfect. And they're recognizable. It took me twice listening to catch them, but the Na'vi, the military, Jake and Neytiri all have distinct themes that are almost extensions of their characters, and in the end are absolutely beautiful, necessary additions to the story. The way Horner pieced this score together, no matter what it's made of, is what makes it so amazing.
When listening to this CD, you can tell the soundtrack is split into two parts. Jake's exploration of Pandora takes up the first half with beautiful, ethereal music accentuating the visuals, while the second half slides into an epic war-torn score that supercharges the destruction on the screen. It's hard to suggest what could possibly be the "best parts" of the score, but the way the first half plays, it's definitely the whole, and not the sum of the parts. Tracks 3 through 7 work best as a seamless accompaniment to Jake's introduction to the world and the Na'vi people. The score breaks up after track 7 into pieces that work, and then pieces that blow your ears off. "The Destruction of Hometree" is heartbreaking, and the epic ending track "War" is just incredible. That's the track that will get the most repeat play. Watching the film later I did notice some themes missing from the CD that were in the film but the score doesn't suffer from the absence.
The score to Avatar may work best with the film than without, but on its own it still packs quite a punch. Horner may not have the re-inventive talents that other composers do, but he knows what music works and he knows how to conduct an orchestra. I was skeptical on the first listen, but I kept listening and it was worth it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2010
When James & James (Horner & Cameron) collaborate result can't be nothing short of fantastic! Music is very important part of Avatar movie and Horner managed to get the emotions right. From start to finish this is beautiful musical journey through the movie. It is hard to pick some tracks because this is one body but opening track is one of my favorites, mood is just fantastic as we arrive to mystic world of Pandora, to which we are introduced through beautiful tracks of 'Jake Enters His Avatar World' and 'Pure Spirits Of The Forest'. The most beautiful moment of the score comes at 1.55min mark of 4th track 'The Bioluminescence Of The Night'! Oh, that is just incredible piece of music. Main theme of the movie, which is present in many tracks at certain moments, is very beautiful. First two notes remind of Titanic but after that it goes its own way. Mid section of the score is happy, as is the movie, while Jake gets to know the Na'vi, and 'Climbing Up Iknimaya - The Path To Heaven' and 'Jake's First Flight' shine here! Than comes the sad and dramatic part of the score in which you feel the drama through 'Scorched Earth' and 'Quaritch' and pain of Na'vi through 'Destruction of the Hometree' and 'Shutting Down Grace's Lab'. In the later battle part of the score 'War' is just amazing track, so beautiful and so bombastic at the same moment, love those drums which shake my room. All in all Avatar score is one incredible journey from start to finish, and I can't get enough of it since I first laid my ears on it. Hope it will get deserved Oscar!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2010
This movie was the best piece of escapism I've seen in a long time.
I don't understand all the harsh reviewing about this movie. You'd seriously have to have a sharp stick up your backside to dislike such an interesting movie. People are saying this movie is the same as Dances With Wolves, so, sure... the scenario is similar. But then, Dances With Wolves is a lot like the scenario from the story of Pocahontas. So then, Pocahontas could have come from Romeo and Juliet, too?
And how many times do we have to see the vampire and the human fall in love? Lestat, Armand, Edward, Angel...
Scenarios for movies can and should be played with again and again, so they can be molded different ways with different sounds and looks.
The music was beautiful, and no way too much like Titanic or Braveheart. It was dramatic music for a beautifully made movie. It had both sad and upbeat tribal chanting and singing,with gorgeous drums accompanying. I personally love Jake's First Flight, and I See You by Leona Lewis.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2009
I grew up listening to James Horner music -- "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock," "The Rocketeer." They were favorites before I even knew who "James Horner" was. When James Cameron and James Horner collaborate (as in "Aliens" and "Titanic,") it seems to bring out the best in Horner. The Cameron/Horner duo strike well again with "Avatar." In fact, I wasn't too hyped about the film, but was interested in the score. After hearing the score, I'm actually more interested in seeing the movie. The Leona Lewis song is a very good one (she's terrific talent) and although I'm not sure I like as much as the song for "The Mask of Zorro," it's terrific.
At times, James Horner tends to repeat motifs. He has done this for many years, and the subject is a touchy one which is hotly debated. At certain points on this CD, I am reminded of other Horner works, but this is certainly one of his freshest scores in many years. If you like Horner music, this is a "must-have."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2010
Composing the music for Avatar is a tough job. Since the movie is so fantastical, and the main character is moving through a new world, you need a good soundtrack to draw the audience into the world. It's not enough that the plants glow, but the surrounding music has to put it together so you truly get the sense of emotion James Cameron wants you to get out of this world. Guess what folks, James Horner has done it again.
Pure Spirits of the Forest
Becoming One Of "The People" Becoming One With Neytiri
Jake's First Flight
I See You
Since the movie is extremely varied in the tones it wants to convey, the soundtrack is also appropriately varied. When there's spirits, the sound is chimes and toned-down synth sounds. When Jake Sully is exploring his world, it's appropriately magical and wondrous, and when the world is being destroyed, it's appropriately sad, even if it is overblown. And like his approach to Titanic, James Horner mixes in the catchy pop ballad in the credits in with the rest of the music, making it the theme of the movie. The soundtrack just has such a wide range of emotions, you may also be in awe while listening to it. In fact, for pure soundtrack fans, this reminds me a lot of the Dinosaur soundtrack, because it has a lot of the same motifs & sounds.
But speaking of the pop ballad, how does "I See You" hold up on its own apart from the movie, which it seems to work well in? It's an appropriately schmaltzy pop ballad, that at this point almost seems like parody of itself. Sure, Leona Lewis does a good job at selling it, and the production values are specular, but there's just not that much here. But that doesn't make it insanely catchy, even when you actively avoid it. The song just has a trance quality about it, and for that, I give it credit and praise, despite its flaws. I would still argue that Adam Lambert's ballad from "2012" is still a better song quality wise though.
Now, if there was one complaint I had about the soundtrack, it would be the fact that the tracks are too broad. Quite a few of them are over five minutes long, and they just go through such a wide range of emotions during them, it almost would have been nicer if it was a little more broken up.
Overall, the soundtrack certainly fits the movie, and it will certainly please soundtrack fans alike the world over. For non-soundtrack fans I'm a bit unconvinced, but James Horner comes out with another winner that does its movie justice, and is just great to listen to on its own as well.
Real Score: 4.5/5
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2009
There are two things I don't like about this score:
1. I have a little trouble getting over how I keep hearing themes from all his previous work in it - I literally found myself humming or singing themes from The Missing, Titanic, etc., because there is so much in this score that is VERY reminiscent of those other scores. In that sense, I do not find this score very original. It seems like Horner just took previously existing work and played around with it to make this score rather than making something truly original.
2. It seems to me that hearing distinctly Irish themes and Native/Aboriginal themes in the music adds to the cliche aspects of the movie that others have noted - the whole White Guy joins and saves Natives theme - that are a bit racist and worn out. There was an opportunity here to try to musically make Pandora something truly unique and stunning in line with the state-of-the-art visual effects, but instead the music contributes to the cliche problem.
If one removes these two context issues from consideration, the score stands alone as something evocative and beautiful. I do enjoy the music if I can get myself to ignore the two main issues I mentioned above.