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Soundtrack review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay part 1 (James Newton Howard – 2014)

Franchises JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay part 1 (James Newton Howard – 2014)


I’m not a “Hunger games” fan. I haven’t read the books, or seen any of the movies. My only interest with the franchise is James Newton Howard scoring every movie. It’s time now for “Mockingjay part 1”, the beginning of the end.

When the first cue “The mockingjay” starts, I recognize the sound I am so addicted to. This is JNH land, where depth and sensitivity dominate. This is the fantasy land I can get lost in without being worried, because I know every corner and hidden place; at least that’s what I always think before James Newton Howard comes with a new score and extends that fantasy world. “Mockingjay” sounds like a Shyamalan/Newton Howard collaboration most of the time…It has the same dark and moody feel to it, I can sense something hiding around me. I’m in a dark forest and every now and then the mood reflects brightly in a pool of water; that’s when a violin plays from nowhere and makes a track even more interesting.

The more I listen to this score, the more I realize that I would love it even more if I was invested in the story. I am enjoying it now as well, but there’s something missing. Anyway, when I hear a cue like “The arsenal”, I forget all about movies and connections and just enjoy the subtle action magic.  “Air raid drill” is even better: it sounds like a piece of “The last airbender”, and is one of the best cues I’ve heard this year. I needed to stop listening to the score and replay it a few times, because it blew me away.

Of course, right in the middle of the score we get the cue everyone’s been talking about… ”The hanging tree”, featuring the OK vocals of Jennifer Lawrence. I understand the hype. The buildup is quite emotional and the feelings rise and rise like a chant, and even if I don’t want to, I get goose bumps. It gets very infectious very fast. Speaking of voices, I love the way the female background is used in cues like “District 12” and “District 8 hospital”.

With its subtle emotions, intense themes and deep impact, “Mockingjay” delivers. I will never get tired of the unique James Newton Howard style… Even if this score isn’t among his best ever (it’s not even his best of 2014, “Maleficent” wins that one), even a great JNH score is better than 80% of the scores out there…

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 42 / 65

Album excellence: 65%



The Mockingjay

Remind Her Who The Enemy Is

District 12

Katniss’ Nightmare

The Arsenal

Don’t Be A Fool Katniss

District 12 Ruins

The Hanging Tree

Peeta’s Broadcast

Air Raid Drill

It’s Gonna Be A Long Night

Taunting The Car

District 8 Hospital

The Broadcast

Jamming The Capitol

They’re Back



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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