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Soundtrack review: Atlantis – The lost empire (James Newton Howard – 2006)

JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: Atlantis – The lost empire (James Newton Howard – 2006)


„Atlantis – the lost empire” is the first science fiction film in the beloved „Disney animated features” series. Set in 1914, the film tells the story of a young man who gains possession of a sacred book, which he believes will guide him and a crew of adventurers to the lost city of Atlantis. The story is also inspired from the works of Jules Verne. James Newton Howard is no stranger to fantasy and adventure and any chance to hear one of his works for this genre is a joy for me. This review is part of “JNH Thursdays”.

“The submarine” is the perfect start to such an adventure. The brass instruments take front and center and welcome us into this world. There are some choirs as well and the orchestra is on fire. I am already excited about this score and ready to dive in. This is how adventure music should sound! “Milo’s turned down” is tones down a bit and introduces us to the first trials of an amusing but unlucky character. This cue has all the fun of the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons of old. It’s full of twists and turns and we live an entire adventure in 3 minutes.

Atlantis is a name and subject that’s all about the mystery. This story, this legend has fascinated people for ages and the music has to tell us that. “Atlantis is waiting” plays on that mystery before getting all exciting with a melodic buildup. We are under water already as the choirs tell us towards the end of this cue. “The leviathan” just takes off into one of the moments where James Newton Howard shines at fantasy music. I can hear the different parts of the orchestra coming together and rising like a tide of symphonic wonder. There’s no limit to the imagination of our beloved JNH in this cue. I can picture him with the pen in his hand, smiling and making conductor gestures imagining how this cue will sound. It sounds amazing. Instant candidate for my list of favorite JNH pieces.

“Fireflies” is another magnificent composition, another moment that just transcends music. James Newton Howard just flies with it and this is the spirit we also got in “The last airbender” or “Maleficent”. This cue is just as brilliant as any piece from those scores. It’s adventurous, sparkling and intense. The more I listen to this score the more I am convinced it belongs among my favorite compositions of his. Alongside the marvelous adventure pieces we get the usual JNH sensible and gentle magic like in “Milo and Kida’s question”. “Touring the city” has all the magic Atlantis brings to my imagination.

“The crystal chamber” makes me change my mind again as to which cue is my favorite. Where did it come from? This is more than music and I am grateful to be able to hear it. This are the kind of moments that make your life feel a little bit richer. This a 6 star cue for sure, one to which I will come back to over and over again.

“Atlantis – The lost empire” creates a fantasy world around you and there’s no need to see the movie or know the story to be able to enjoy it. James Newton Howard manages on his own to put all the magic and mystery of this notion into notes. You can create your own imagines when you listen to his music…you can dream your own dreams…this score gently takes you over from the inside and warms all the secret places you have there. It brings a soft light onto the darker corners of your mind and fills them with star dust.

Listen to this score if you haven’t already. There aren’t many like it. And if you know it, listen to it again. I’m sure you’ll discover something you didn’t know yet.

Cue rating: 97 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 43 / 50

Album excellence: 87%


All of it


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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