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Soundtrack review: Maleficent (James Newton Howard – 2014)

JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: Maleficent (James Newton Howard – 2014)


Maleficent was the one fairy tale character I had nightmares about when I was a child. I had a book of Disney classic stories and her horns where scaring me and I kept seeing them in the shadows of my bedroom. I had forgotten about her until I saw the poster with Angelina Jolie looking just like the dark lady of my nightmares.

Since I was still on a great high about his score for “Snow White and the Huntsman”, when I heard that James Newton Howard was writing this one as well, I went to my closet, put on my best clothes, prepared a nice welcome basket and rushed to the train station to wait for this score. I was tapping my foot impatiently, ready to welcome the wave of unbelievable feelings this score was going to give me. I counted the days, I counted the hours….and this anticipation ruined my first listening experience with this score. I rushed to listen to “Maleficent”, trying to drink it all in a single sip, and choked and coughed and remained with an uncomfortable sensation.

Come next listen though, I was coughing for an entirely different reason:  because the “Maleficent suite” threw so much magic dust at me that I could barely take it all or hear anything else afterwards. That’s more like it…”Maleficent” has a different kind of appeal from “Snow white”. It’s more “in the moment” magic. It doesn’t yet have the replay value for me that the other score does; I don’t yet feel the need to hear again the beautiful themes that James Newton Howard crafted. Yet…

And “Maleficent” is full of magic and beauty. It’s an amazing adventure, captivating like a fairy tale, a roller coaster of feelings and notes that play and dance and make me dream. I hear an action cue and I’m all invested in it and then a beautiful female vocalize starts in the background and my mood changes completely…I start humming and dreaming and boom, the music changes the pace again and it’s a tender melody…It is a rich and multi layered score and one of the most magic sounding that Newton Howard has ever written. And “Maleficent captured”…this cue has more texture than many scores don’t have in an hour…”Maleficent flies ” is one of the best themes of 2014. It’s an amazing feast for the ears and heart and another one of those moments when James Newton Howard is divinely inspired…

As “Snow White”, “Maleficent” also ends with a haunting vocal theme. “Once upon a dream” is Lana del Rey’s interpretation of an old Disney classic, and it sounds…maleficent…Because this is the newest score in my James Newton Howard collection and because I want to make it as familiar as the others, I will try to listen to it more often.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 62 / 72

Album excellence: 86%


Maleficent Suite

Welcome to the Moors

Maleficent Flies

Battle of the Moors

Aurora and the Fawn

The Christening

Prince Phillip

The Spindle’s Power

You Could Live Here Now

Path of Destruction

Aurora in Faerieland

The Wall Defends Itself

The Curse Won’t Reverse

Are You Maleficent?

The Army Dances

Maleficent Is Captured

The Queen of Faerieland

Once Upon a Dream

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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