With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald in cinemas, Watertower Music have released the full movie soundtrack from composer John Newton Howard, available to buy now.
We had the opportunity to listen the soundtrack ahead of the film’s release, meaning this review is written from the perspective of having not seen the film yet. However, a mild warning for potential spoilers as the track titles may give hints about the plot…
John Williams’ classic theme for the Harry Potter films was as integral to bringing the magic of JK Rowling’s books to life as the performances, direction and dazzling effects. And when that cinematic universe continued with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them in 2016, it was up to John Newton Howard to continue in the tradition of Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hopper and Alexander Desplat in bringing audiences back into the absorbing world of wizards and muggles.
Newton Howard’s score was enchanting if a little subdued, perhaps reflecting the simpler tone of the first film. However, his score to the sequel is a much more dramatic affair, reflecting the epic narrative of the sequel delves into the wizarding war that will continue through three further sequels. That epic tone is keenly felt in the opening track ‘The Thestral Chase’, which starts with haunting choral tones and strained strings, full or atmosphere and tension. This unnerving piece builds captures the dark, insidious feel of some of Newton Howard’s other work, most notably the dark motifs of his King Kong soundtrack. Bombastic heavy percussion beats and rising strings create a sense of unease and tension that builds to grandiose, gothic John Williams-esque dramatic pending beats, frantic strings, magical harp, heavy chants and thundering beats. This is a superb opening.
The second track, ‘Newt and Lera,’ is playful and gentle, and a more emotional piece making lovely use of gentle strings, wind and harp, while ‘Dumbledore’ has a very John Williams feel. It is a gentle, epic score, with grand, earthy tones of the oboe mixed with more ethereal strings. There is a rousing sense of beauty and adventure in the thundering percussion, soaring strings of fourth track ‘The Kelpie’, which finishes with a slow, soft, and mournful climax.
Track five, ‘Newt and Jacob Pack for Paris’, has a really playful tone, capturing the magic and majesty of this wizarding world with the rise and fall of strings and flute. However, the slightly spoilery ‘Nagini’ is something altogether different, with a gothic choir that wouldn’t be out of place in a Danny Elfman piece, building into grandiose soaring orchestral piece full of danger and majesty. And then we’re back to magic and adventure in ‘Newt Tracks Tina’ with racing strings and a burst of percussion beat that feels magical and dangerous; Newton Howard also manages to make a track that feels mysterious and suspensful, while the hint of the main theme from Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is lovely.
The next three tracks are much more sombre, haunting pieces. ‘Queenie Searches for Jacob’ has an ethereal choir motif that is beautiful and enchanting, while ‘Irma and the Obscurus’ builds into a cataclysmic, thundering heavy piece of music, gothic chanting and heavy chords creating a real sense of danger and menace. ‘Blood Pact’ meanwhile is lighter, with a beauty in its simplicity.
Then we are back to racing strings and percussion beats in the eleventh track ‘Capturing the Zouwu’. The lifts and falls are fun, rising into a gourgeous, sweeping orchestral piece, light playful moments mixed with an epic sweeping score that is just magical. ‘Travelling to Hogwarts’ hints at the original Hogwarts theme amid racing strings while ‘Leta’s Flashback’ is another lovely emotional piece, hinting at something sorrowful but utterly beautiful in its gentle tone, as is ‘Salemander Eyes’ with its gentle piano motif and ethereal choir.
Track 15, ‘Maggots’, is another dramatic standout, with heavy chords and strained strings; an ominous and forbidding start builds into horror movie-esque thundering beat before transforming into an adventurous, rousing, heroic theme that is fun and daring. ‘Your Story is Our Story’ is another atmospheric, slow and ominous piece with Newton Howard making use of a solo horn and a ticking clock motif that creates tension. While just as atmospheric, there is something uplifting and beautiful about ‘Leta’s Confession’ with its haunting choir and rising strings that create something beautiful and forbidding.
‘Vision of War’ is equally dark and foreboding; the heavy string movement and eerie choral backing builds tension. This is followed by track 19 ‘Spread The Word’, a majestic track that leads into soaring choir and repeating strings. This really is a gorgeous, sublime piece full of wonder and grandeur. Just as epic is ‘Wands into the Earth’, with its feathered strings, subtle percussion and gothic choral chants, rising into another soaring, majestic piece; the fanfare of horns is full of triumph and hope. The final six minute track from the main film ‘Restoring Your Name’ is a sombre and reflective piece, the military horn and choir lead into a beautiful rise of strings, building into gothic, thundering climax. Meanwhile, the end credits theme is adventurous, warm and playful.
Finally, the album ends with three gourgeous piano versions of tracks from the soundtrack, all elegant and sublime in their own way.
James Newton Howard’s score for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is a work of passion and grandeur. These are moments that are dark and gothic, others exciting and uplifting. It is a brilliant piece of work, one that I hope the film measures up to.