Snow White & The Huntsman

James Newton Howard

" Magical yes, epic not so much "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

One of the hits at the box office last summer was Snow White and the Huntsman, a re telling of the famous fairy tale but with a modern twist. Because here Snow White has to become a warrior to stop the evil that threatens her land. In the film she's aided by none other than Thor (Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman), but after the film was shot, the film became noteworthy for the hidden relationship between star Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders (funny enough, on the blu-ray extras she actually told the interviewer that she was constantly running after Rupert Sanders). Talk about modern twists in Tinseltown.

Luckily some things stayed the same, like James Newton Howard's presence in summer blockbusters. And luckily he was present, considering it was an average blockbuster year for JNH (score wise). The Bourne Legacy didn't do his talent any justice at all, and The Hunger Games delivered only sporadically the JNH brilliance we were looking for. So luckily for us, Snow White turned out to be the best of the three, and all it took was the inspiration of a fairytale for a new generation.

Because let's face it, the opening of "Snow White" is like revisiting an old friend (Lady in the Water). The horn, the magical piano, the beautiful strings and a nice enough main theme deliver us a composer's voice we have not heard this year. In fact it's even strangely curious to mention that the best moments of this action blockbuster turn out to be ... the dramatic / fantasy parts. In "You Failed Me Finn" we hear a dramatic violin unfolding (reflecting the pain and sadness of Queen Ravenna), followed by even more dramatic highlights in "Fenland in Flames", when we hear moments of the good old JNH we have long feared to never hear again.

But the strongest musical moments are when James graces the mystical and magical elements of the story (aka the setting and the creatures). In "Sanctuary" and "White Hart" we hear Lady in the Water elements returning for good, delivering a beautiful combination of strings, piano and choir. These 2 tracks show us that Newton Howard hasn't lost his voice yet. No, it was just lingering behind in the dark and all it needed was the pure heart of an apparently cheating Kristen.

For the action, the voice is split in half. Half consisting of the good old JNH and half consisting of the JNH we heard recently in weaker efforts, delivering a combo of traditional orchestral music with snippets of electronically enhanced rhythmic music (The Bourne Legacy and The Dark Knight). During "I'll Take Your Throne" the tone is set on Ravenna's dark intentions (unleashing a motif that is used again in "Something for What Ails You"), all the while "Escape from the Tower" fails to give the audience the wow factor with a less than underwhelming choral support (a recent problem with JNH albums, remember the undermixed choral climax in the final track of The Last Airbender). Luckily this was rectified for fans during the WSA's in October 2012, when orchestra and most specifically choir delivered a thunderous performance of this specific cue. The best action track is low and behold "Warriors on the Beach", when we hear a better mix of orchestra and choir, aided by an epic enough JNH voice.

The end has the finest main theme performance of all ("Coronation") and an end credits song by one of the most popular bands of today. And this shows us that the score has (in moments) the good old JNH back in action. However (during most parts) there is still something missing, something that could have made it more memorable. Don't get me wrong, it's perfect material for the film, and the beautiful moments on disc shine on screen. But all it took was one orchestral performance during the WSA's to make us realize this could have been bigger. Not bigger magical wise, but bigger epic wise. And for that miss I tend to make Snow White & The Huntsman the best of James Newton Howard this year, but not of the last couple of years. For that the apple still tastes a little sour.

Favorite Moment - Snow White (0.35 - 1.30)
The realization that this is not gonna be another Bourne Legacy effort, when we hear that magical Lady in the Water piano work

Track Listing

1. Snow White (3.24)
2. I'll Take Your Throne (3.00)
3. Tower Prayers (2.07)
4. Something for What Ails You (3.26)
5. Escape from the Tower (2.33)
6. You Failed Me Finn (3.03)
7. White Horse (2.02)
8. Journey to Fenland (3.38)
9. Fenland in Flames (4.08)
10. Sanctuary (2.33) Excellent track
11. White Hart (6.37) Excellent track
12. Gone: Ioanna Gika (3.10)
13. I Remember That Trick (5.35)
14. Death Favors No Man (6.13)
15. Warriors on the Beach (4.52) Excellent track
16. You Cannot Defeat Me (2.35)
17. You Can't Have My Heart (1.57)
18. Coronation (2.06)
19. Breath Of Life: Florence + The Machine (4.11) Excellent track

Total Length: 67.06
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 15 votes - average 3.83/5)

Released by

Universal Republic B00 1693002 (regular release 2012)

Conducted by

Pete Anthony

Orchestrations by

Pete Anthony, Jeff Atmajian, Jon Kull & John Ashton Thomas