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Soundtrack review: Snow White and the Huntsman (James Newton Howard, 2014)

JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: Snow White and the Huntsman (James Newton Howard, 2014)


Snow white and the Huntsman was one of the two 2012 movies inspired by the story. It starred Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth and I really enjoy it. Even if the girl playing Snow White was totally forgettable, Charlize was masterful as the evil witch. The movie looked good and it left me with a pleasant feeling. I had hoped for as much after I listened to the score. I got it before seeing the movie, and it was love at first hear.
As almost always, James Newton Howard opens the score with the perfect prologue. It’s a habit he picked up during his collaborations with M. Night Shyamalan, where the opening sequence was very important. I can always count on the opening track of a James Newton Howard score to be perfect. It’s no different here. “Snow white” opens with the sweetest theme which warms the heart and can easily get you misty eyed because of how beautiful it is. It starts with a distant horn, then the piano, flute and discrete, somber strings take over and almost force you to close your eyes and take in the wonderful feelings it conveys. I think it’s his most beautiful opening since the prologue of Lady in the water.
This score truly shines in its peak moments. The adventure tracks are truly epic orchestral delights; ample, spectacular, rich, compositions with lives of their own that transcend simple music. They are legends themselves…”Escape from the tower”, “Journey to Fenland”, “Fenland in flames” are like storybook heroes, powerful, eternal, engaging, they all made me really want to see the scenes they were composed for. I imagined epic battles, heroic saves, and dramatic losses.   
The softer, more emotional cues are even better. It’s James Newton Howard we’re talking about here, and when I hear “Sanctuary” and “White hard”, I feel like I enter a fairy tale world where nothing can go wrong, I feel protected, blessed, I feel out of this world. These cues are sweet lullabies and I will never get enough of them. The music is about as beautiful as it could ever get, really… I feel grateful once again that this composer was given such incredible talent which he continuously shares with us…
When evil invades the fairy tale world, the music gets scary, the strings take over, and the drums become ominous. “White hart” ends like this and a haunting ballad, “Gone”, performed by Ioanna Gika and the dwarfes from the movie, takes us to the second half of the score on wings of a terrible sadness.
The second half is even more amazing. We get nonstop thrills and a music that gives an even more intense experience than watching the film itself. Almost every track deserves a mention, but none more than “Death favors no man”. It’s a 6 minute cue which starts with the most minimal of cries, before building up into another grand emotional feast. It has everything: soft choral parts, large orchestral pieces, and minimalist instrumental sections, all of them falling into place like the pieces of the best sounding puzzle.  
Such an excellent score could only have a perfect ending. “You can’t have my heart” and “Coronation” are the strong and hopeful conclusion of the movie and score. I especially like the last track because it’s the kind of ending that promises and motivates. The score ends with a powerful crescendo that leaves no doubt that things are even better than they were when the score began…
My ratings:
Cue rating: 92 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 61 / 67
Album excellence: 92%
Cues to listen to:
Snow White
I’ll Take Your Throne
Escape from the Tower
You Failed Me, Finn
White Horse
Journey to Fenland
Fenland in Flames
White Hart
I Remember That Trick
Death Favors No Man
Warriors on the Beach
You Can Not Defeat Me
You Can’t Have My Heart
Breath of Life
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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