Friday, March 30, 2012

My movie score nerdom revealed: The Hunger Games musical composition review

I bought [downloaded] my first complete movie score in a long time today. I think the last one I got in its entirety was a Christmas gift: The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (Harry Gregson Williams). I've only downloaded hit and miss pieces recently.

(Here's a new favorite of mine that I cannot wait to find a good photo slideshow to put together with... It's actually not from a movie, but was used for the Oscar's this year: Celebrate the Oscars, Hans Zimmer)

Big surprise...the soundtrack was The Hunger Games. Props to Mr. James Newton Howard on yet another job well done! No one will ever know what the emotional sound of The Hunger Games could have or would have been had Danny Elfman's allegiance to director Tim Burton not won out and the original composer had completed the job he was originally tasked.

Howard was first on my radar during my chick flick obsession era with his work on My Best Friend's Wedding. The 2003 version of Peter Pan was my first full album purchased, which is one I still love to this day and not just because I'm in love Pan the Man.

For a two and a half hour long movie, the score rounds out to only about 45 minutes. Whether it was Howard's expertise or the wise insight of director Gary Ross, I found the lack of music in many key parts of the movie more impacting than any combination of melodies and instruments could have attained.

The Reaping, in particular, stands out to me. The stark silence and hearing every soft foot step, brush of clothing and crinkle of paper radiated the terror and hatred that every person in District 12 was feeling. (Minus Effie, of course!) Music could have only detracted from enabling us, the viewing audience, from feeling like we were as much a part of that reaping as Prim and Katniss.

Then you have the sharp turn around to the Capital and the Game Festivities. "Entering the Capital" takes you from the stark silence of District 12 to the bizarre elite world of Panem's Capital, full of the foreign feeling Katniss and Peeta must have been overwhelmed with upon entering. This, in addition to the cheering crowds and complete love of the Games, gives a full picture of the opposite life and perspective for Capital citizens.

The score in and of itself, to me, has an Eastern influence to it. I know that, based on the "Songs from District 12" soundtrack, there was a folkish approach to the music, but after listening to it on repeat for awhile (because that's what I do with new music!) I heard similarities to Japanese composers, Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno and some of their more famous movie compositions. (I'm not an anime gal but my college roommate was--as well as a movie score enthusiast like myself. She supplied me with much of the music I love today. I have to say that the Anime scores are extremely beautiful and well done.) I picked up on this similarity primarily in the more tender pieces on the soundtrack, like "Healing Katniss," "Rue's Farewell" and "We Could Go Home."

On the other hand, the more intense and active scenes were inspired with melodies that brought to mind another score I recently downloaded a few selections from: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Patrick Doyle) I heard some of this mostly in the finale selections like, "The Muttations" and "Tenuous Winners/Returning Home."

I'm thoroughly enjoying the music and feeling like I'm reliving the movie emotions as I listen. I have to admit, though, I fell in love with the trailer score and wish this was a part of the soundtrack. Guess I'll be buying it independently. 


Jenn M said...

I could not agree more about your use of the music in this film, or rather, the lack of it! In fact, I've done a full review of the movie that I hope you will enjoy. There's even a free download at the end for the mockingjay whistle, or call, used so frequently in the marketing of this film, and I found it ominous, beautiful, and simply a wonderful choice to associate with this film. Please check out my link at Thanks!

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