In the world of Director/Composer collaborations the Shyamalan/Howard connection is a huge one. James Newton Howard has had the privalage of scoring every single one of M. Night Shyamalan’s feature films. With The Last Airbender Shyamalan finally breaks from his comfort zone and goes for the lavish Hollywood blockbuster. James Newton Howard is no stranger to the genre so what was the end result?
The Last Airbender is a very good score. It’s such a string heavy score so the sweeping orchestrations truly wash over you and carry you on a mystical journey. It carries a heroic presence yet manages to stay away from a “superhero” formula. The score also flows very nicely. It evokes the imagery it sets out to accompany and in the end makes us feel like we did in fact complete a heroic journey. "The Blue Spirit" is a fantastic track that propels action and is percussion heavy. It really adds a rhythm to the score and is a great standout track.
The score does have an identity and there is no doubt about it. I was able to identify a couple of reoccurring motifs that for me adequately pulled everything together. There is a theme and it echoes James Newton Howard, but it doesn’t stand out. Whether that’s a good or bad thing I think is entirely up to individual opinion. Personally I don’t need a big boisterous theme leading the way if the score is still able to have an identity with identifiable motifs. James Newton Howard is a master of his craft and while it’s been a while since we’ve heard a score from him this is a grand welcoming back into action.