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Soundtrack review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 (James Newton Howard – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 (James Newton Howard – 2015)


So it’s finally here. No, not the movie which epically concludes the “Hunger games” visual saga, but the score that concludes James Newton Howard’s work on the franchise. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies yet but I have enjoyed the musical journey and besides this is the first JNH release since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing his music performed live in Vienna and shake the man’s hand. “The Hunger games: Mockingjay part II” finishes the story: As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

Not being invested in the story my expectation about this score are only composer related. They are incredibly high, of course, but the level of trust I have in James Newton Howard sets my mind at ease. I am just drooling with anticipation when I look at the track list and see three cues longer than 8 minutes.

This is a composer who knows darkness and how to explore it and it’s clear from the opening of the score. I always imagine Newton Howard as a mad genius with a button pad in front of him in his dark tower; there’s a button for each emotion known to man and he needs only press it and a cue like the choral wonder “Send me to District 2” comes. This one comes close to my yardstick for any JNH fantasy score, “The last airbender”. That’s the score I measure all others by.

I like this score because it offers variety. It’s already the fourth in a series and James Newton Howard has mapped his themes already and he can now explore whatever he wants. There’s darkness…there’s action bordering with horror (“Sewer attack” should be taught at film music school)…and there’s a sublime string theme like “Your favorite color is green” in which I recognize shadows of “The hanging tree”. Sometimes a cue like this is all I need.

I think that with “Mockingjay part II” the composer went to a complex but subtle atmosphere creating score. There’s a vision in this score and a story. The music flows together like a tense adventure; every cue is a step in this journey. As I write this review I realize that I should have listened to the first three scores again before, because this album truly feel like part of a bigger plan. It feels like a phrase written between two sets of “…”, leaving doors opened both before and after.

I also think that I could appreciate more in the context of the franchise and even the movies cues that in the standalone listen seem to be fillers. There are moments this score could have done without. Cues like “Your next step”, “I made it up” or “Go ahead shoot me” didn’t do a lot for me.

In the end, “Mocking jay part II” is a solid score with a few brilliant moments that make it well worth while even for people who only care about the music.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 74

Album excellence: 45%


Send Me To District 2

Your Favorite Color is Green

The Holo

Sewer Attack

Rebels Attack

Snow’s Execution

There Are Worse Games To Play /Deep In The Meadow / The Hunger Games Suite (feat. Jennifer Lawrence)

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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