Wednesday, 16 December 2015


Check it out... if you appreciate well-furnished musical narratives, that offer intelligent exploration of their thematic elements, whilst retaining compositional variation, nuance, and beauty

Skip it... if you demand a predictably triumphant resolution to James Newton Howard's The Hunger Games franchise, for the composer swiftly avoids this by integrating a darker atmosphere, and subtly hinting towards hidden motives for both sides of the film and score's war 


James Newton Howard returns to The Hunger Games franchise for the final time, to offer a resoundingly intelligent, if not relatively anti-climactic final chapter with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. After the shock that accompanied the conclusion to the previous film, Mockingjay Part 1, we find ourselves drawn back into the world of Panem, to witness the climax of the war between the vengeful rebels, led by Julianne Moore's President Coin, and the malevolent Capitol, governed by Donald Sutherland's President Snow. Here, our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is posed a variety of ultimatums as she traverses the length of the Capitol, uncovering secrets that threaten the very balance of the country. But in this installment, not only is she waging a war with Snow's Capitol, but she may just be part of a political conflict that concerns itself with the leadership of the rebel forces, that could lead to their undoing if not properly navigated. The multitude of agendas that permeate the film add another level of complexity to the already densely-populated tapestry of The Hunger Games' musical narrative, composer James Newton Howard now having to take into consideration the film's subversion of conventional war-time roles. In this score, more than any of the others, we are fully subject to the view-point of the visual context's protagonist, as Howard helps to accentuate Everdeen's evolving skepticism on the morality of President Coin's intentions. For those who seek triumphant fanfare with this concluding release, you will be disappointed; Howard does not celebrate mistrust and corruption. Mockingjay Part 2 is a smart, well-orchestrated, highly emotional score, that features a distinct and well-paced narrative, that ends this franchise with a level of cynicism that feels appropriate for its context.  

Saying this, the album still features resolution for all its primary thematic identities as the story wraps up, ideas from all three prior films being granted reprise. On 'Send Me To District 2', Howard returns to the solo vocal melody introduced during Catching Fire's 'Arena Crumbles', as Katniss heads towards battle; during 'Your Favorite Color is Green', the heralded Hanging Tree theme from Mockingjay Part 1 graces our ears for another rousing spin, in an admittedly unnecessary point in the story; and in the concluding trilogy of tracks, 'Buttercup', 'Primrose', and 'There Are Worse Games To Play/Deep In The Meadow/The Hunger Games Suite', we receive finality on all the primary identities for the protagonists. From the rustic elements explored on 'Buttercup' that hearken back to the more subdued Americana from The Hunger Games, to the achingly beautiful final rendition of the love theme for Katniss and Peeta, performed on 'Primrose' (arguably the strongest melodic statement for the franchise at large), to the finale of 'There Are Worse Games To Play', which has Howard go back and remind us of the power behind Rue's theme from the first score. The composer offers appropriate development for as many of the themes as he sees fit, before wrapping them all up in the most beautiful ways possible. So in this respect, Mockingjay Part 2 is perhaps the strongest score in the franchise, the emotion evident in the finale just too poignant to deny. That's not to dismiss the other achievements of this brilliant album, its action grittier and more frenetic than ever before. On 'Sewer Attack', one of the obvious highlights, Howard puts together an onslaught of orchestral aggression, strings and higher-register woodwinds clashing against frantic percussion and bustling brass to produce an action zenith unlike anything this series has seen before. Mockingjay Part 2 adheres to its visual context's narrative perfectly, embedding new perspectives into old melodies, whilst tying everything together with a gorgeous mix, dense orchestrations, sincere character resolution, and genuinely tense action. This is the finale this franchise needed, and whilst it may not receive as much acclaim as its immediate predecessor due to its (necessary) lack of triumph, it offers a story more deeply affecting than any of the prior scores in the series. The finest in The Hunger Games canon, and one of the best of the year. You can purchase The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 on Amazon or iTunes, here and here.



Additional notes about release: the final track, 'There Are Worse Games To Play/Deep In The Meadow/The Hunger Games Suite' features a short passage with vocals from actress Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the protagonist of the series, Katniss Everdeen. This is incorporated into the 'Deep In The Meadow' segment. The iTunes copy also has a digital booklet.

Track Listing

1.Prim Visits Peeta1:25
2.Send Me To District 22:09
3.Go Ahead, Shoot Me4:58
5.Your Favorite Color is Green2:25
6.Transfer Command8:14
7.Your Next Step2:30
8.The Holo3:47
9.Sewer Attack8:00
10.I Made It Up1:28
11.Mandatory Evacuation3:14
12.Rebels Attack5:17
13.Snow's Mansion5:16
14.Symbolic Hunger Games2:08
15.Snow's Execution1:57
16.Plutarch's Letter3:01
19.There Are Worse Games To Play/Deep In The Meadow/The Hunger Games Suite9:41
Total Album Time:73:31