trainyourdragon2Above and Beyond
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Soundtrack (2014)
Composer: John Powell
100-voice choir conducted, along with the 120-voice orchestra, by Gavin Greenaway
At Abbey Road Studio, London, England
Solo Vocals: Dee Lewis Clay, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonsi, Mary Jane Wells  and John Powell
Relativity Music Group  10290-02035
19 Tracks
Running Length: 72 minutes
*Note: the CD also contains a picture book of scenes from the film, “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
Film director Dean Deblois says this in the CD program notes, “A film score is the keeper of goose bumps and chills.  It definitely can bring an audience to tears or rouse it with fist-pumping inspiration.”  The first 10 seconds of a film score can give you an idea of what follows. If the melody seems off-center, instrumentation not appropriate, then, almost without realizing it, your appreciation of the film may be off, too. That does not happen here.                           
The animated motion picture, “How To Train Your Dragon 2” is a visual delight, plus having a story combining myth, family, villains, exploration, dragons and love. Adapted from the novel by Cressida Cowell, the story is about Hiccup, the mild-mannered son of a Nordic chief, who is more into exploration and invention than being the heir apparent. Finding a rare, but injured, black dragon, the Night Fury, Hiccup helps the dragon to fly with the aid of an artificial appendage, but in doing so, also loses his own leg. By the end of the first film, the village has dragons as pets and life is good. The second film is five years later, when Hiccup has a girlfriend and still goes with his black dragon to explore, only this time, they run into a hiding place for dragons cared for by an unusual woman, meet two villains, enormous dragons and Hiccup must learn to lead and not follow. The aerial gymnastics of people flying on their dragons is downright breath-taking, especially in 3 D, not to mention color, costumes, characterizations, and a believable story. Quite a job for a composer and John Powell makes the most of it.
What John Powell has done when the film begins, is to have a lively racing melody that recurs throughout the film, sometimes up front and sometimes in the background, signifying this is still an energetic place to live. This also shows in the third track, where Hiccup finds he is the heir apparent for the village chief and also there is doom ahead with meeting one of the villains, Drago. The music is solemn and yet behind it all is the “racing theme.” String instruments and horns dominate. In Track 7, we meet the largest dragon ever, the White Alpha and his announcement is with grandeur. Tracks 10 and 11 actually go together, with “Flying With Mother” to go with the aerial acrobatics of dragon flying and it is like standing on galloping horses, which melds into “For The Dancing And The Dreaming” love themes between Mom and her husband. The song “For The Dancing” was written by Shane MacGowan. Tracks 12 and 13 go together, also when Hiccup goes after Drago, and choir, trumpets and touches of the Track 1 theme are in the background. Battle music continues with snare drums as an introduction and ending with an echo as it is finished. Track 15 is a burial at sea, lush, remnants of past music and a penny whistle at the end for a soft farewell. The final tracks deal with conflict, resolution and happiness, using the orchestra like a  palette from snare drum to whistle to choir. The last track is “Where No One Goes” written by Jonsi (lead singer from Sigur Ros’) and performed by John Powell and Jonsi. Exploration continues.
The music for “How To Train Your Dragon 2” could be a symphonic suite by itself. Starting with the lead melody of village life and fun, then blending it through frustration, challenges and longing, to remind that there is always hope. Listening to the music without having seen the film is not a problem. The listener can go with the flow of the music, much as listening to "The Moldau" and enjoying the melodies and harmonies, not realizing it is about a river, or Rachel Portman's "Emma," a sprightly tale of Jane Austen romances. The composer takes the audience by the hand and lets them enjoy the kaleidoscope intricacies of sound.

Copyright 2014 Marie Asner