Avatar


For being around 78 minutes in length, this CD is a big disappointment - at least for me.  However, don't leave yet.  I do believe that other people not as soundtrack-minded as myself will have a grand time with this CD, and for that reason it's garnered my original Epinions recommendation of 4/5 stars, as well as my attempts not to thrash it too much.
James Horner is beginning to let me down, and he's always been one of my favorites.  Braveheart ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite soundtracks, after all.  So I expected a lot out of him.  Yet while watching the movie, I wasn't all that thrilled.  I didn't buy this CD, my sister did.  After listening to it, I'm glad I didn't buy it.  But she enjoys it, and I know that you may easily love the music that you hear.  My problem is that I've listened to too many soundtracks.  Still, keep reading and then go sample a few tracks somewhere to see if you like what you hear.
1.)  You Don't Dream in Cryo...  (6:09)  Not a bad start, but for something that's 6 minutes long, it's relatively quiet without much for me to mention.  In fact, I tend to forget it's playing and then suddenly realize I'm at the next track.
2.)  Jake Enters His Avatar World (5:24)  Still relatively quiet with just a few windups that sort of fall off into nothingness.  It isn't until about halfway into the song that things take a drop into the dangerous wild side, with a lot of dark sounds and percussion.  It dips back up near the end to give you a fun taste of the overall Avatar theme.  But just a taste.
3.)  Pure Spirits of the Forest (8:49)  Another quiet track without too much going on as Jake tiptoes (and occasionally stumbles) through the forest of Pandora.  Percussion and shrill flutes give it that colorful, exotic feel.  At least, until things suddenly get mystical thanks to faint strings and a lonesome violin somewhere in the brush, along with little sparkling drops.  Then it's back to a quickish, skeletal version of the main theme before more of the marching darkness of the previous track.  Still though, nothing truly magical for me, and easily skipped, especially since the last two minutes are pretty well non-existent.
4.)  The Bioluminescence of the Night (3:37)  By far the best track on the CD because it is the Avatar theme in full bloom.  It was this theme that encouraged my sister to get the CD, and only one of three left standing in my MP3 player list.  Though painfully short, the main Avatar theme really is powerful (despite the first two notes initially making me cringe in thinking of the Titanic theme).  I'm a particular fan of the piano and the bells.
5.) Becoming One of the People/Becoming One with Neytiri (7:43)  Second favorite track on this CD because of the pick up in the pace, as well as a more fleshed out bit of theme with some fun added into it.  It's brighter, it's prettier, and isn't easy to gloss over like the previous tracks.  It snaps up the culture (if possible) of the Na'vi people and takes the sound of Pandora to you with knocking percussion and (thank God) a live vocalist.  This may actually be the favorite of many listeners.  It has a nice openness to it with a lot of different moments to enjoy during its 7 minutes.
6.)  Climbing Up Iknimaya -- the Path to Heaven (3:18)  Another good one, it's fun and bright and with a great flourish at the end with plenty of sparkles and trumpets.  Very triumphant and fitting for the floating mountains of Pandora.
7.)  Jake's First Flight (4:49)  A slow start, it soon opens up with more vocals and moves back and forth from relatively slow to more upbeat.  Eventually it winds down into a single vocalist at the end as Jake soars through the sky - my favorite part, in fact.  Too bad it's so short.  It's so expressive...
8.)  Scorched Earth (3:32) Probably my least favorite on here due to the synthy vocals.  Too sharp and too fake for my taste.  This is one of those "Oh no!" tracks where the notes are flat (or sharp) to give that sense of impending or current disaster, done mostly with the main theme, of course.
9.)  Quaritch (5:01) Surprisingly slow for a 5 minute track, it's all sneaking around and low notes as everyone realizes the potential danger they're in.  It picks up a little bit near the end with more of the war coming on and tensions rising.  With the vocals, of course.
10.)  The Destruction of Hometree (6:47) If an orchestra could worry, worry, worry, this is what it might sound like.  It works its way up high, winding the tension before spiraling down in dramatic fashion, just like the massive Hometree on Pandora.  Then simply ends on a low note.
11.)  Shutting Down Grace's Lab (2:47) Slow and sad, with some real live vocals that actually sound good.  Essentially a lament.
12.)  Gathering All the Na'vi Clans for Battle (5:14) Slowly but surely, things get rolling as the time for an all out war approaches.  However, it isn't until around minute 3 that things really get moving in true tribal fashion.  Enjoy some of the sounds offered up here, as well as the real vocals while they last.  I do love the way it wraps up at the end though, with a hopeful, triumphant flare.
13.)  War (11:21) Due to the way some other tracks sound similar, it's easy to forget that you're in (or about to be) a war.  It takes some time for the two sides to meet up, and when they finally do, things kick up a notch.  While it's not quite as fantastic or awesome one might think it should be, it suits the needs of the movie, with action, theme-toying, sharp notes, and plenty of unique sounds and percussion to remind you where you are.  The real vocals give it more power as well.  And it ends on a sweet side once the battle is won.
14.)  I See You (Theme from Avatar) (4:20)  The weird thing is that the first time I heard this song, I rolled my eyes in a big way and grumbled about the lameness of pop songs stuck at the ends of soundtracks.  How they take the main theme and shove words into it.  I stick to that assertion, but I admit, this song has grown on me.  I do still maintain it has a kind of cliché tackiness to it, but I love the main theme and it's not completely lame and get easily get lodged into a person's brain for humming.
Normally in other composer's music, I can hear just the elements of their style.  Their musical fingerprint, if you will.  But other times it's as though the composer has forgotten they've used melodies in the past and recycles them again in another soundtrack.  Last time in Troy, I could hear Willow.  But here, while there are plenty of new elements, I'm almost embarrassed with Horner's lack of originality.  Why?  Because I can hear no less than three previous soundtracks in here; Troy (see minute 5 on track 10), Titanic, and Braveheart (see minute 6 on track 5).  It's kind of messed up, and for someone like me, it's also kind of annoying and even on some miniscule scale, insulting.  I've heard this already thank you.  Please come up with something new.  This makes the Willow elements recycled twice, and I cringe upon hearing Titanic involved. (And when I came back to finish this review and thought, "That sounds like Glory" and then remembered that Horner did Glory too.  Geezo.)
That is one of two things that bothered me to no end.  The other is the annoying reliance upon obviously synthesized vocals and some sounds.  I don't mind synth stuff as a whole.  In fact, sometimes it's downright awesome.  Sometimes though, here it was just too...non-organic I think might be the best way to put it.  Ironic given the theme of the movie.  But the vocals, oh the vocals.  I didn't buy this CD myself simply because I heard 30 seconds of one track on Amazon, full of the synth vocals.  Immediate let down.  To me, it sounds awful.  Where are the real people?  You can get this sort of sound with real people, you know.  Not a fan. (and if they are real, then they certainly sound like they've been toyed with).
However, despite all my naggings, all my disappointment, and all my criticism, I still gave this CD 4 stars.  Why?  Because not everyone is a soundtrack junkie like me.  Not everyone will pick apart the CD like this.  Because I know there are people out there who loved the movie and everything about it and will have a blast.  People who haven't heard the other soundtracks I mention will truly enjoy this CD for many of the things it has to offer.
NT

Originally posted on Epinions.com

0 comments:

Post a Comment

 

Sample This Month's Soundtracks

Twitter Updates

Meet the Author

My photo
I am an author, I sell books for a living, and I love music like there's no tomorrow. I've experienced much of this country, from forested hills of the East, to the golden plains of the Midwest, the sandy beaches of the Southeast, and the oh-so-majestic mountains of the Rockies. And when all else fails, eat chocolate.