Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them / O.S.T.
Review Text Making his debut in the J.K. Rowling wizarding universe, composer James Newton Howard was tabbed to score Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first entry in a prequel series to the Harry Potter franchise. No stranger to blockbuster series, Howard already composed music for members of the Dark Knight, Hunger Games, and Jason Bourne epics, among others. Here, he follows behind such esteemed colleagues as Alexandre Desplat, Patrick Doyle, and the iconic John Williams, the latter of whom created the main musical motifs for the original films, having scored the first three Harry Potter films. Howard pays brief homage to Williams' themes (catch the opening "Main Titles" or "The Niffler") while focusing on his own. He does so within an established soundscape; haunting vocals, harp, bells, plucked strings, and flitting woodwinds tie new settings and characters to the puckish textures of the epic's past. Moving deftly through scenes of action, humor, and danger, he uses styles ranging from jazz combo ("Macusa Headquarters") to keyboard ballad ("Newt Says Goodbye to Tina") and soaring rhapsody ("Inside the Case"). Howard's themes may not be as memorable as Williams' (a tall order), but they do transport and entertain, even separate from the film. ~ Marcy Donelson