Let me be the next to jump on the bandwagon for James Newton Howard's, The Last Airbender. This is a beautifully realized score that simply glides from track to track, offering the type of listening experience we were treated to with regularity when giants like Williams and Goldsmith were churning out the hits. Though a new experience, The Last Airbender brought back a lot of good memories for me in an intangible way.
This is a score that has a good bit of complexity to it, though that doesn't take away from the ease of its enjoyment factor. In fact, it is its depth that will prolong the life span of this score far after the film has faded from our memories. I found that no matter the amount of times I listen to it, The Last Airbender holds up sturdily and I find equal enjoyment each time out.
As far as collaborations go -- this one is the best of the lot between James and M. Night Shyamalan. Though the main theme from The Lady in the Water is still unrivaled, the overall experience of The Last Airbender will simply win you over without reservation. The ebb and flow from underscore to memorable thematic statements was simply a joy to listen to and the action music complimented this with its sharp momentum. There is also a superb use of percussion throughout the album, which resonates nicely with the characters and their special combat skills.
Though the soundtrack only has 12 tracks on it, the cues are generous in length and the running time is quite satisfactory (over 1 hour!). My only tweak would have been to move the suite that kicks off the album and make that the final track. It would have served as an end credits type of sequence from an album perspective. Another notable point is with the reported removal of some of the choral overlays which would have been interesting to hear in the score. I relish the thought of how epic the scope of this album could have been if there were indeed a larger choral influence associated with it. I suppose that can simply be an easter egg for soundtrack fans when the movie debuts.
Final Score: In all, what I most appreciated from this outing is that the music from The Last Airbender enables the listener to become immersed within the story; whether the film works for you or not, there is a tale to enjoy here and James Newton Howard enables this storytelling through his own composition. The Last Airbender is the best score I've heard in quite some time.