Friday, July 25, 2014

Thoughts on the Soundtracks

I'm going to give just a few opinions on the soundtracks. This may include spoilers, so I'll use a read more. Please, those of you who are musically talented (which I am sure pretty much ALL of you would know your music better than me), be merciful to me! I'm just gonna try and give an opinion.

I have to say that the first movie had a truly, truly fantastic soundtrack! If I was still doing those old posts on why HTTYD is my favorite film of all time, I would make an entire post just praising the first films soundtrack. On my iTunes, the top five songs played are from the first HTTYD movie, and I have many more soundtracks to pick from. 

The first movie's score really is just lovely, and it fits the first film so well! It's bold and big and sort of brash at times, it reminds us that Hiccup is in a world that is as big as the idea of Vikings and Dragons. It has some incredibly triumphant themes as well... Test Drive is a good example of that. It also has a nice mix of vocals, drums, and wind instruments... particularly its use of pipes and whistles. And then, unlike many, many soundtracks I have purchased, HTTYD has a wide range of themes. You have the bold Viking theme, you have the cheery See You Tomorrow, you have the utterly victorious Test Drive pieces, you have the terrifying, thumping, crushing sounds of the Red Death's music, you have that soul freezing music it plays when Toothless has Hiccup pinned at the beginning, and then you have the sheer beauty and love portrayed so well in pieces like Forbidden Friendship and Romantic Flight. I own a lot of soundtracks that just repeat one good theme over and over, but in HTTYD it felt like John Powell really wanted to stand out and give us a rich score. Themes are reused enough to be familiar, but then not used so much that they become monotonous. He had a piece of music fitting for every mood, and every one of them felt well crafted and thought through... not just like a random clanging of angry instruments in an action scene or shrill violins at every scary point. The music didn't just have a mood, it had melodies, and I can hum and whistle almost all of those to myself. It really is such a great score, and it helped make the movie as magical as it was. Can you imagine scenes like Romantic Flight or Forbidden Friendship without their scores? It is a glorious cycle. HTTYD was a great story, so John Powell needed to write great music to compliment that tale, and in doing so he made HTTYD even better.

But, that's the first movie, and that has been out for a while. If any of you are HTTYD fans and haven't listened to the first movies soundtrack a lot, I'd be a little surprised! Now we'll move onto the tracks of HTTYD2. I've heard some complaints about it, but one hears complaints about everything. Let me just give you the answer I've got right now: I like the second movies score every bit as much as the first films... maybe more. I'll give some clarity to that statement now. I think the second movie's score is, in almost every case, deeper and richer than the first films. It uses it's instruments more subtly, but it has more of them and more variety. It brings back some haunting melodies from the first film, gives them new life, while also introducing some really fresh themes for the second film itself. I would say that if someone asked me which score I preferred, I'd say the second movie. It just feels more mature, and I little less blaring, BUT I do have something to add to that. I think that HTTYD has one song that HTTYD2 can't top: Forbidden Friendship. That is personally my favorite piece, and nothing in the second film came close to it. Why? I don't think it is John or Dean or Jonsi's  fault. It is just that the scene Forbidden Friendship is long and beautiful. It is a scene in which the music defines a lot of the action. Ha, if you watch the camera work in the scene, at the end it keeps spinning to the right (I believe) and it gives you this feeling of dancing motion. That sequence and it's music are just beautiful, magical, in a way that nothing in the second movie quite was. It was just such a quiet, beautiful, subtle thing, but at the same time it was Hiccup changing the world. I think John Powell struck gold with the track, and it really sold the scene. I've listened to it over 2000 times now, and I can listen to it while doing almost anything (except writing or drawing really awful stuff...). So, I do think the first score can never be replaced, but the second one is, as a whole, probably a better work.

And let's delve into some reasons why they are so different. I think HTTYD2 had deeper drama, and that is CLEARLY displayed by tracks like Hiccup Confronts Drago and Toothless Found. Those two tracks alone took themes (Like the theme of the Red Death for instance) and made them so much more terrifying, so much more dramatic. Not to insult the first movie, but the second movies use of those themes makes the first film's versions feel almost overly simplistic and childish. HTTYD2 was a more emotional plot. We had higher highs and much, much lower lows. Because of that, the music had to keep up. Pieces like Flying With Mother were truly beautiful, and they were totally new and fresh musical themes. I, at first, thought it was strange to not be hearing Test Drive in scenes like that, but in the end it really does make the second film stand apart from the first one. They aren't the same story, they aren't supposed to be. The second one is supposed to grow off of the first, and it did, both in the soundtrack and the story. HTTYD2 isn't better than HTTYD, it's not, but I also dare to say that it isn't worse. They are two stories, two steps in Hiccup and Toothless's journeys, and two stories in which we see them truly grow. Because of that, I liked seeing new themes put into the second movie. Oh, and the use of bagpipes in the song Hiccup Confronts Drago was just sickeningly scary. That is just one prime example of how the second movie used its instruments so well. Suddenly now I feel that bagpipes are terrifying!! 

And then the second movie had songs in it! Haha, For The Dancing And The Dreaming deserves its own post! It really does! We got a sung song in HTTYD, but it was so different from songs in most animated kids films (*cough* I'm looking at you Disney *cough*). Then Where No One Goes was glorious! It has such a free, triumphant, almost airy feel to it. I'm glad Jonsi is sticking around for all three movies. It gives them a feeling of continuity, and his stuff really has started to fit quite well into the HTTYD story. Oh, and that's another thing... I personally think his song for the second movie is better than his song for the first. That is completely opinion and I have no real supports to add. I just like that Where No One Goes gave us lyrics to a much loved HTTYD theme! That was just so cool, and the lyrics even apply to Hiccup and Toothless! I just love that song.

So, in the end, both soundtracks are truly phenomenal. The second one is more dramatic, covers a wider field of emotions, and has more themes, BUT the first film's score is certainly worth buying if you haven't because it has themes (like Forbidden Friendship, Test Drive, and Romantic Flight) which you really can't replace and which the second movie wisely didn't even try to!

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