The Last Airbender

Composed by: James Newton Howard

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Based on the highly successful animated series, The Last Airbender takes place in a world in which elements can be controlled by individuals known as benders.  Water, Earth, Fire and Air - all can be controlled by these beings, but only one can control them all and he is known as the Avatar Noah Ringer is Aang, the last known surviving member of the Air Nomads, an Airbender and Avatar.  Aided by his friends Katara (Nicola Peltz), a Waterbender, and her brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), a warrior, Aang must find a way to stop the Fire Nation in their bid for supreme rule and bring balance to the universe.

            James Newton Howard once again joins M. Night Shyamalan for what will be their seventh collaborative effort.  Having composed musical scores for The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening, Howard knows exactly what to expect from a Shyamalan film and exactly what is expected from him as far as musical scoring.  James Newton Howard also brings along quite a bit of scoring experience and variety in style, having composed musical scores for such films as Wyatt Earp, Dreamcatcher, Pretty Woman, My Best Friendís Wedding and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

            The Last Airbender is an epic adventure filled with mystical moments and quite a bit of action.  Thus, James Newton Howard has created a musical score that reflects both qualities.  The mystical moments are denoted through the use of woodwinds, percussion and soft strings.  This music is heavily influenced by the Native American style found in quite a few New Age recordings.  I actually suspect that a traditional Native American flute was used to create this very distinctive sound.

            Howard uses loud percussion, horns, cymbals and choral vocals to denote scenes in which action and adventure take place.  There may be a moment or two of subdued violins and percussion followed by a drum beat that makes you jump out of your seat.  The drums will play at a more intense rate and some horns will be added; strings will add some intensity, played at rising crescendos and tempos until the sounds seem to crash against one another like waves on a shore. 

            There is no doubt in my mind that James Newton Howard has created a soundtrack that perfectly intensifies the visual and dramatic effects of the film.  The Last Airbender Soundtrack is a perfect example of what a musical score for an epic action/adventure film should sound like.  Accompanying the movie or as a stand alone album, The Last Airbender Soundtrack is a thoroughly enjoyable experience that should not be missed.  Each track on the album exceeds the next in beauty and intensity.


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