The first time I heard the score for the original How To Train Your Dragon, I was completely floored by composer John Powell’s masterful aural depictions of the world of the film. It was the first soundtrack score I’d heard in a long time that was truly thrilling in it’s own right, filled with propulsive and rousing tracks that never felt bombastic. Intermixed with tracks of subtle beauty, this quickly shot to the top of my list of favorite scores. So it is that I sat down to listen to the eagerly awaited follow-up, How To Train Your Dragon 2. I found myself genuinely excited to revisit the themes I have come to know so well, eager to discover if Powell was able to build upon them and manipulate his own work into something new while retaining the essence of the original. It took about 30 seconds for me to realize that he not only succeeded in recapturing the magic of the original, but improving on it in every way.
There is not one element of this soundtrack that doesn’t work. Every theme previously introduced is brought back, and yet it never feels like he’s repeating himself. Constantly building and layering the tracks upon each other, he has created a film soundtrack that occasionally borders on operatic. I haven’t yet seen the film, but if Powell’s work here is any indication, the scope is enormous.
At the same time, he has crafted some powerfully simple moments. These quiet beats reek of atmosphere, whether it’s a moment of mystery and darkness, or a moment of simple elegance. These moments are perfectly placed, allowing the listener a respite from the power of the surrounding tracks. I know the order of the tracks follows the narrative of the film, but the way these moments are mixed with the propulsive nature of the faster paced tracks make this a completely satisfying listening experience.
Having not had a chance to see the film yet, I can’t really attest to how the soundtrack plays in relation to the action on screen. However, in terms of creating a mood and an atmosphere, he has captured what I’m sure is the essence of the story. He conveys the grace and majesty of what it must feel like to live in a world in which riding dragons is an everyday occurrence, and the open-ended nature of a world waiting to be explored.
Now available everywhere, you can also pick up the ZinePak edition of the soundtrack, exclusively at Walmart. This features the 19-track CD, a 64 page magazine, along with a collectible dragon insignia patch and poster. Regardless of what edition soundtrack you get, this is a must-own for any soundtrack aficionado. The first soundtrack got Powell his first Oscar nomination, and I will be shocked if this doesn’t earn him his second. Having scored over 50 other films, this is the one I will remember him for. He’s done amazing work before, but this is his masterpiece.