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Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Composed by James Newton Howard
  • Universal Republic Records / 2012 / 67:07

The second Snow White film of the year (after the much-maligned Mirror Mirror), Snow White and the Huntsman stars Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart and Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth in the lead roles, with Charlize Theron as the Queen.  It didn’t exactly cause a storm, but at least did better than its 2012 rival.  With his exceptional scores for M. Night Shyamalan’s various fantasies under his belt, James Newton Howard’s appointment as the film’s composer could (perhaps should) have been cause for celebration, but his output is so variable it’s always hard to know what to expect.  Sadly he wasn’t able to conjure up anything near Lady in the Water or The Last Airbender (or even Alan Menken’s Mirror Mirror), providing instead a score with moments of undoubted quality but also a lot of forgettable material.

The score’s most impressive moments come in the expressive beauty of the cello solos, which are sadly few and far between.  The action music is decent if unspectacular, pushing the right buttons without offering anything we haven’t heard before.  That’s essentially the score, in a nutshell – it’s not bad by any means, but it’s rarely as good as the other scores by the composer it so closely resembles.  A notable exception is the gorgeous “Sanctuary”, which is Howard at his best – inspirational music based around a theme in the style of the previously-mentioned Shyamalan scores, which boosts things whenever it appears.  A better-produced album missing out half an hour of the duller material would probably have been terrific; the album we do get features so much bland, generic material that the highlights tend to get rather lost.  That’s a real shame, because it will stop people reaching for the album and giving it a spin.  Fans of the composer are sure to enjoy it; the wider audience will have a harder time.  *** |

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  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Friday 22 June, 2012 at 02:45

    Sad to hear that it underwhelms. It’s ironic that I discovered JNH’s finest fantasy adventure scores (Dinosaur, Atlantis, Treasure Planet) just as he seems to have moved further away from that style than ever before, most likely because it’s what the directors want.

  2. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Friday 22 June, 2012 at 06:48

    I actually thought it was quite good. Certainly JNH’s best since The Last Airbender, and a good sight more enjoyable than The Hunger Games in my opinion. Yes, the action music is closer to Salt than Waterworld, and yes there are some stretches of unpleasant industrial grinding, and yes the themes are not exactly obvious. But I had no trouble finding fifteen or so minutes of fantastic JNH fantasy material to add to my playlist, comprised of the cues “Snow White”, “Journey to Fenland”, “Fenland in Flames”, “Sanctuary” and the first 4:25 of “White Hart” (before that cue is sadly interrupted by some of the aforementioned industrial grinding). As such I’d give it either a high *** 1/2 or low ****.

    Orion, yeah, I’ve really been hoping for JNH to return to that more lighthearted fantasy/adventure sound for quite a while now. He gave us a flash of it in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and the underrated Nanny McPhee Returns, but other than that it’s been MIA ever since Hidalgo, which was pretty much the last score to fully embrace that style. Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender are both fantastic scores, mind you, but they’re very different creatures entirely, and I really do want the brass fanfares and snare ripping and unashamed choral wonder (oh yeah, Snow White has a criminally undermixed choir, just like the last few JNH scores) of Atlantis and Waterworld and The Postman and Treasure Planet and Dinosaur back.