Sunday, March 28, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon by John Powell (Review)

John Powell is without a doubt one of the most unique voices in film composition. His style is nothing but his own. I have never heard another composer come close to his sound and what he’s able to do with it. John Powell also has the honor of being the best modern day composer of animated films.

How To Train Your Dragon is Powell’s first animated score since Ice Age 3, which I will admit was a disappointment even though I loved his score to Ice Age 2. How To Train Your Dragon is a much more inspired film, and John Powell brought every ounce of effort he had to the table.

The score itself is just beautiful if you had to describe it in one word. There are two themes that Powell uses variations of. The themes themselves are 100% pure Powell. Fans of his may hear a bit of Kung Fu Panda in it with a touch of Ice Age. However, the score as an exercise in storytelling is just brilliant and one of a kind when examined that way. It will gently carry you and lift you up to a level you could never imagine. Beauty emerges from its simplicity and the emotions that grow will remind you for just a moment how unique it is to be a human being and feel these emotions. Tracks like “Forbidden Friendship” and “Where’s Hiccup” will move you in a delicate fashion. Examining moments of fear with curiosity and a growing companionship, or moments of loss and hope and the ability to come back when all seems lost.

Tracks like “Test Drive”, “Romantic Flight” and “Coming Back Around” soar high on human spirit and are just pure celebrations of joy and love and will likely bring you to tears. Powell does incorporate a Scottish sound for one of the themes to add flavor and atmosphere to the setting, but it never outweighs the true identity of the score. The song “Sticks & Stones” is included near the end of the album and is performed by Jónsi who is part of the Icelandic group Sigur Rós. It’s a perfect closing to an amazing album.

Full of Powell’s trademark percussion and signature descending note progression this score is an absolute wonder. It reinforces just how powerful an inspired score can be and what it can do for the film. It’s a beautiful celebration of the human spirit and the bond of friendship. This is a score you won’t want to pass over. I always felt that Happy Feet was Powell’s best score up to this point, but I do believe he has topped himself.


  1. Excellent review! I totally agree. I watched the movie last night and I bought 'Test Drive' immediately. It's so beautiful! My favorite film composer used to be Hans Zimmer but now John Powell absolutely captured my attention. Can't wait to see the movie again and listen to his music :)

  2. Lovely review. Fell out of love with movie soundtracks when far too many were shifting towards modes, but this music not only caught my attention in the movie, it captured my heart and reminded me why film composers are underappreciated essentials to a movie's success and what I've been missing. Powell use of the theme music in various incarnations, hints, ane reimanginations successfully tells the tale of Hiccup and Toothless on screen, but just as successfully carries its own beautiful tale in the soundtrack that easily stands on its own.