Avatar - Music From The Motion Picture CD Review

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Reviewed by Chris McEneany, 24th December 2009
Awesomely moving, tremendously exciting and simply spellbinding in its beautiful evocation of war and revelation on Pandora, James Horner's Avatar is the best score that he has composed in years, albeit one that sounds … well … a tad familiar. Atlantic's CD release is pretty generous to his work, as well, offering 78 minutes of symphonic bliss (don't forget to remove that Leona Lewis tripe from the playlist, though) that provides lengthy cues that Horner and regular producer Simon Rhodes have put together in film-chronological order and with excellent quality. The music works supremely alongside the film, but it makes for a terrific experience on album, too.

2009 was a magnificent year for fans of James Horner. Not only was this phenomenal score well worth waiting for, but, to fill in the gap, we had glorious older titles getting long-overdue complete releases, such as Star Trek II, Honey I Shrunk The Kids and Something Wicked This Way Comes (all reviewed separately) as well as Extreme Close-up, the haunting House Of Cards and the blissfully rustic The Journey Of Natty Gann. Jerry Goldsmith will always be my number-one composer, but Horner is the one who actually broke my action-hungry mindset and taught me to appreciate the intricate beauty of music and, moreover, how to actually feel it. Avatar does this soul-grasping trick with dynamic aplomb and is a very worthy addition to Horner's considerable catalogue.

If you don't like ethnic percussion and female wailing – the combination of which fast became a cliché years ago courtesy of Horner, himself – then this is definitely a score to avoid. If, however, like me, you love this sort of tribal energy and spiritual transcendentalism, then you are in for a real treat. This is how it should be done. Densely thematic, richly layered and thoroughly intoxicating, Horner's score is a winner. Breathtaking cues build and build, sweeping up Cameron's imagery and bathing it in an atmosphere as tangible as the film's own majestic 3D visualisation. There are those who will criticise this score – even without the film it smothers like alien honey – and much of their arguments will be valid in purely name-checking terms as regards Horner's alleged lack of originality, but to paraphrase Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is Cameron's The Abyss, you have to listen with better ears than that.

For me, this is awesome writing and one of the most enveloping and brilliantly produced scores that has come along this year.

Until the second half of Horner's magical swoon gets some form of release this is pretty much perfect for his fans and for lovers of lyrical, emotive music.

Pandora's symphony is a joy and comes very highly recommended.

Read the full review...
I went to see this on Christmas Eve, and it's the score that made it what it is - not the phony-looking 3D effects or CGI. Loved it!


Standard Member
Hate to be a nay-sayer, but tis is just another "Horner rips off his own back catalogue and fails to come up with anything original" type soundtracks that just leave me wondering...Just where did Horner go wrong?

For a long time I saw him as the brave new light in a world of Williams/Goldsmithcentric soundtracks. It did not take me long however to realise that he is very much a one-trick-pony.

When I heard his STAR TREK II offering I just loved it, but now, well, what can I say? The short four note motif that seems to acompany most of the dramatic moments in AVATAR are just a lift from TREK II.

I know that composers enoy little stanzas and motifs that they use and will eventually become much loved trademarks of their work, but this usually only becomes more apparent much later in a composers working life, but Horner does this shamelessly all the time!

Now I am not saying that Williams and Goldsmith(RIP) did not reuse favourite arrangements and motifs, they certainly did/do but to be so blatant about it is quite surprising.

I am a HUGE Williams fan but even he is perhaps starting to slow down due to age (no real surprise) and recycle more. Infact, I think that the last really brilliant piece that Williams came up with was DUEL OF THE FATES from PHANTOM MENACE.

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