February 13, 2008

CD Review: The Spidewick Chronicles - Original Motion Picture Score: Composed by James Horner

The Spiderwick Chronicles is the latest fantasy tale set to be unleashed in film form upon an unsuspecting populace. You see, they truly do not know what awaits them. Then again, neither do I. I am neither familiar with the novel, nor have I read up on the film itself. That said, it appears to be in a vein that will be appealing to an audience similar to the one for films like the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia. Beyond those clear influences, it seems to be targeted towards the same filmgoers who flocked to Bridge of Terabithia, and so making that one a hit. On top of that, the trailer brings strong memories of The Neverending Story without feeling anything like a duplicate. I must say that the trailer makes a strong case for the film.

Not having seen the film yet, it is a bit difficult to see how the music is going to blend with the visual story, but I must admit to genuinely enjoying what I hear. Of course, it is hard to go wrong with James Horner. He has been around the block a few times and has composed for a large number of features, great and small, and has been nominated for nine Oscars, including a pair of wins. In short, he is a composer who knows his way around a studio and has a strong grasp on how to most effectively use music to heighten the film.

His score for this film is filled with subtle beauty and calm, elongated string sounds. The score never goes for unnecessary bombast. Where some composers may be tempted to go big with the sounds, building to roaring crescendos, Horner reigns the music in, allowing it to flow much more softly. I can only imagine how well it works to underscore the magical sense of discovery and excitement on screen. This has the appearance of flavor adding music that will not draw attention to itself, rather accentuate the visuals, combining to build the wonder and thrills as they play out across the screen.

Now that sounds kind of boring, doesn't it? I know while I enjoy music that allows the story to be told rather than overpowering the stimuli, I do enjoy a little bombast and excess in my movie music (evidenced by my inclusion of Steve Jablonsky's Transformers score in my best of 2007 recap). Far be it for James Horner not to supply a little excess. It is true that the majority of the score is quiet and understated, a few tracks rise above the rest to deliver a little sonic excitement.

Among the excitement bringing cues is "A Desperate Run Through the Tunnels." It begins innocently enough with strings cycling up and down with a snare drum in the background, only to be joined by brass and woodwinds and a building sense of immediacy. The cure breaks out with a sense of wonder followed by the brass section signalling a darker more immediate turn. There is a great building of tension throughout the cue, which also incorporates some harpsichord in the background, which adds a touch of the otherworldly to the proceedings.

"Lucinda's Story" adds a touch of bombast of its own. It is rather sedate for much of its time, but builds to a violent crescendo in its final moments. This is followed by "Flight of the Griffin," another cue that brings the sound level well above a whisper. There is a bigger sound to the cue, but it is not one bringing tension, rather it heightens the magical wonder that I hope to get from the film. It flies and soars over the treetops, sounding much like what could play when that dog-creature is flying in The Neverending Story.

On the other hand, the bulk of the score is understated, floating on the use of strings. Among the standout cues on this softer side are the opening track, "Writing the Chronicles," with its musical introduction to the world, and the subsequent wonder in "So Many New Worlds Revealed."

Both of these sides come together towards the end with "Jared and Mulgarath Fight for the Chronicles" and the triumphant wonderment of "Coming Home." These two tracks encapsulate much of what went on throughout the score and, presumably, the film.

Bottomline. This is a very enjoyable score that keeps everything reigned in. It is never loses control of itself and is never over the top in its execution. James Horner has crafted a magical score created out of subtlety and wonder.


Track Listing:
1. Writing The Chronicles 3:03
2. So Many New Worlds Revealed 5:12
3. Thimbletack And The Goblins 5:16
4. Hogsqueal's Warning Of A Bargain With Mulgarath 5:16
5. Discovering Spiderwick's Secret Workshop 3:25
6. Dark Armies From The Forest Attack 3:06
7. Burning The Book 2:44
8. A Desperate Run Through The Tunnels 4:47
9. Lucinda's Story 6:02
10. The Flight Of The Griffin 6:56
11. Escape From The Glade 4:45
12. The Protective Circle Is Broken....! 2:08
13. Jared And Mulgarath Fight For The Chronicles 4:17
14. Coming Home 6:18
15. Closing Credits 8:23
Total Album Time: 71:38


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