GREAT MOMENTS OF FILM SCORING #4: How To Train Your Dragon 1 & 2 – John Powell


Sometimes, life can be quite difficult – at least, if you’re the guy who literally goes CRAZY about film soundtracks while everyone else (your friends!) prefers listening to pop and rock songs. 😉
But whenever people ask me if I could recommend something that would also please the ears of non-film-score-enthusiasts, I’m exactly sure what to say: “How To Train Your Dragon 1&2”, written by the amazing John Powell (seriously, I can’t get over the fact that he didn’t win his well-deserved Academy Award for this one…).
Powell is an absolute expert when it comes to animation: Numerous times, he’s proven that he’s more than capable of writing great scores for this kind of genre, including “Ice Age”, “Rio” and “Kung Fu Panda”.

However, his Dragon scores – a modern classic – are the crowning achievements in his entire career: Powell unleashes giant orchestral and choral forces and puts them together in a consistently coherent score filled with extraordinary themes and detailed orchestrations, providing a wonderful musical narrative. Cues like the adventurous “Test Drive”, the incredibly beautiful “Romantic Flight” (listen to that heartbreaking solo violin!) or the already iconic “Forbidden Friendship” are prime examples of the score’s sheer brilliance with the rest still maintaining that high level.
Since its release date, a suite has been performed numerous times as a program of various film concerts which is only a further proof of the score’s enormous success.
When Powell returned to the franchise in 2014 to write music for the sequel, one of his first reactions in an interview was “Hopefully, I haven’t fucked it up.” Well, I can only speak for myself, but for me, the second one is even better than the first score: Powell excels at the action music (Battle of the Bewilderbeast – now that’s an epic action cue!) while the score is also better rounded in its thematic storytelling – for example, there are new themes for Hiccup’s mother Valka and the main antagonist. Furthermore, he succeeds in something extremely rare: Not only is his music entertaining like nothing else I’ve heard that year (even if the score runs for 70min, there’s not a single filler cue), but it is also very impressive on a technical level.

For me, HTTYD is probably the best score ever written for an animation movie and also one of the best scores EVER written in the history of cinema. Powell’s thoughtful use of the orchestra and his unsurpassed handling of the choir contributes to the two scores being an outstanding piece of art – and I can’t wait to hear what he has in store for the third movie, set to be released in 2018. 🙂



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