"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
Score Album Soundtrack Review
29 Tracks/Disc Time: 74:58
Early last year saw the blockbuster success of "The Hunger Games" which was based on the hit series of novels by author Suzanne Collins and instantly made stars of Jennifer Lawrence, who would go on to win a well deserved Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook", Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth who would go on star in Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables 2" along with returning stars Woody Harrelson ("Out of Furnace"), Donald Sutherland ("Animal House"), Elizabeth Banks ("40 Year Old Virgin") and Stanley Tucci "Margin Call") to offer them great support. After Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) won the 74th Annual "Hunger Games", a year later must go on what is known as the Victor's Tour wherein they visit all the districts. But before they depart, Katniss is visited by President Snow (Sutherland) who fears that Katniss defied him a year ago during the games when she chose to die with Peta, declaring them the winners and fueling a possible uprising. He tells Katniss that while on tour she better try to make sure that she puts out the flames or else everyone she cares about will be in danger. But unfortunately she fails to do that. So Snow decides to enact what is known as the Quarter Quell, the right to make a change to the Hunger Games, which he is allowed to do every 25 years. He decides to hold an edition of the Hunger Games wherein previous winners will compete again and their mentor Haymitch (Harrelson) advising them that their best way of surviving this round is by joining forces with some of the past winners. The film has been a huge success at the box office performing both critically and financially than the original film.
After a change in directors where "Hunger Games" director Gary Ross left the franchise after setting the tone, "I Am Legend" and "Water For Elephants" director Francis Lawrence was brought in to continue the series after having success with his previous films critically and visually. What both Ross and Lawrence have in common together is that they've had the work of Oscar nominated composer James Newton Howard accompany their work in the past. Howard wrote successful memorable scores for Lawrence's "I Am Legend" and "Water For Elephants" and wrote the score for the Ivan Reitman directed "Dave", the very intellegent comedy written by Ross that starred Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. Howard's music for the first film was pretty low key, but it was definitely one of his stronger scores in quite sometime after working on Christopher Nolan's "Batman" films in which he took a bit of a backseat to the music of Hans Zimmer. Howard is a gifted and exciting composer when he's really on his game and with this score, it does bring back the memories of the JNH that did exceptional work during the 1990's.
Howard opens the album with a reprise of his theme for Katniss ("Katniss") scored for flutes,strings and a solo fiddle that has a Southern feel to it and also associates her with her upbringing in the wilderness which also had a solo vocalise that is brought back to life in the next track "I Had To Do That" as well as the touching and suspenseful "Katniss Is Chosen" and "Treetops." This score has a bit of a darker tone to it at times that was introduced in the original and adding layers of suspense in "We Have Visitors", "Introducing The Tributes", "Peeta's Heart Stops", "Let's Start", and "The Games Begin", which are very solid and engaging tracks and in particular, "The Games Begin", which has the flavor of the 90's Howard which people came to love and enjoy with a touch of his more current state musically. but also keeps the essence of the original one in the tracks "Just Friends", "I Need You", "We're A Team" and "Arena Crumbles" that spinoff Katniss' theme with the influence of cellos, keyboard and fiddle as the main instruments to showcase some tender and lush moments between the action driven material in the finale of the album "The Fog", "Monkey Mutts", "Broken Wire" and Jabberjays", which are excellent standout tracks that really do have a nice musical pulse that made me a little giddy listening to them because this is the JNH that I grew up listening to and I'm glad that the he really reverted back to that sound for this one to which I hope he really sticks with from here on out. The album ends with a bit of a musical cliffhanger in "Good Morning Sweetheart" that starts out ominously and switches to an even darker tone channeled by a chorus to signify and guarantee that there will be a another "Hunger Games" to follow.
This album is packed full of solid music and has a more developed feel than the first score which was very solid and this one is just as better. Plenty of music packed on a nice 75 minute disc that is the longest he's produced since "King Kong" which was a nice replacement score. What I particularly enjoyed most about it is that Howard's sound reverted back to the way he used to compose in the late 80's and the 90's: a melodic and thematic sound that really stood out in its' orchestrations and it also had a grand feel to it which made his work popular. This album is one that fans of JNH will definitely enjoy for it as well as fans of the film and the books. Howard has really done a pretty solid job on this one all around. Solid thumbs up!