Soundtrack Review: ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ (2010)


John Powell. Man oh man. When will you finally get the recognition you deserve?

If there was ever any proof needed that a single soundtrack could make one a fan of the composer for life – it’s John Powell’s Oscar-nominated soundtrack to the 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon.

I’ll start off by saying this – How to Train Your Dragon is my favorite animated film of all time. Yes, while most cinephiles will likely cite a Pixar film or a Disney film as their favorite (heck, I’m one of the few people that felt this movie deserved the Oscar over Toy Story 3) to me this film is the perfect embodiment of the term ‘movie magic.’

One of the major reasons is this absolute gem of a score.

How this failed to win the Oscar in 2010 remains a mystery.

Oh yeah! Now I remember. Everyone was slobbering over Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network. No offence to those two gentlemen, their score fit their movie, but the Academy seriously picked the wrong year to reward the ‘hip, techno’ score. This was a year that Powell’s traditional music deserved to take home the gold. (Here’s hoping both Powell and HTTYD3 win the Oscar in 2018)

I find is hard to think of a single soundtrack off of the top of my head that has had so many memorable pieces laced throughout besides some of John Williams’ catalogue.

There’s ‘Forbidden Friendship’, which accompanies what I consider to be one of the single most beautiful scenes in any film ever.

(seriously, watch this scene. In my opinion it’s even better than the opening to ‘Up’)

There’s ‘Test Drive’ which I don’t play in the car solely due to the fear of speeding.

There’s the majestic ‘Romantic Flight’.

There’s ‘This is Berk’, which has the most resemblance to Powell’s other scores. Still I love it, even if it is eclipsed by some of the other pieces above.

A somewhat ignored, but in my opinion awesome piece, is ‘See You Tomorrow’.

I could go on and on, but I think my point has been made. What makes this soundtrack so brilliant is not just the high quality of the music, it’s the variety of it. The ‘This is Berk’ theme carries throughout the film, yet the best-known pieces all sound so different from each other, which is a breath of fresh air in the current cinematic world where soundtracks tend to either be bland, or have tracks that show no character or individualism from each other.
Yes, I am a fanboy, but please take my word for it. Besides seeing the movie (if you haven’t yet, why not?) you need to listen to the soundtrack. Also see the sequel and hear its score. Both are living proof that there exists high quality animated cinema outside of Pixar and DreamWorks (especially in regards to the technicalities – film music, cinematography, detail to animation, etc), and also how much promise DreamWorks shows if they focus on more epic, grand-scale animated films.

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