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Section Header
Composed and Co-Produced by:
James Newton Howard

Conducted by:
Artie Kane

Orchestrated by:
Brad Dechter
James Newton Howard
Robert Elhai
Chris Boardman
Jeff Atmajian

Synthesizers/Drums Programmed by:
James Newton Howard
Steve Porcaro

Co-Produced by:
Michael Mason

MCA Records

Release Date:
August 1st, 1995

Also See:
Cutthroat Island

Audio Clips:
1. Main Titles (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

10. The Bubble (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

17. Deacon's Speech (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

22. Dry Land (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.


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Buy it... if you normally fall victim to guilty pleasure scores with generic, but well rendered action ideas for orchestra, synthetic percussion, and sizable chorus.

Avoid it... if you'd prefer a dash of intelligence and a pinch of originality in your other-worldly blockbuster romps.

Waterworld: (James Newton Howard) What could $200 million buy you in 1995? If you were Universal pictures, it bought you the pounding and immense headache known as Waterworld. Plagued by production problems ranging from sinking sets to a disgruntled crew, the futuristic Kevin Costner sci-fi adventure on the high seas was in the news for all the wrong reasons. It wasn't even immune to rumors of Costner's infidelity with a cast extra on the set. Visually and conceptually, Waterworld had some intriguing ideas; its premise was based on a "Mad Max on the ocean" scenario in which the land masses of the world have been mostly swallowed up by rising seas. Humanity lives on boats and atolls on this vast expanse, mostly unaware of the remnants of great civilizations on the bottom of the relatively shallow waters. Costner's "Mariner" character is the first human to evolve and use gills to breathe underwater, and he becomes a somewhat unwilling participant in the search for dry land. Like any really stretched action flick, however, Dennis Hopper and his oil tanker full of baddies pillages and maims on the high seas, giving Waterworld a distinctly dumb side to its otherwise nifty concept. One of the many problems with the project was Mark Isham's score, which took an introspective and restrained approach to the bleak futuristic setting. With an opening date fast approaching, Universal threw out most of Isham's music (the music box source material heard in the film is his, though) and commissioned James Newton Howard to write an emergency score for the project. With time scarce, Howard managed to assemble enough of an ensemble of synthetic, orchestral, and choral musicians to record a score far more common to blockbuster expectations. The science-fiction elements of the story would be addressed by Howard's collaboration with the Porcaros of Toto fame, creating a variety of synthesized percussion noises to populate the film. Structurally, it's probably not surprising that Howard's score is rather simplistic, relying in cliches in the film scoring business to provide what Universal needed on short notice. The resulting score is predictable to some extent, but has enough guilty pleasures in its ranks to exceed expectations.

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It is ironic to think that Waterworld was considered one of Howard's top scores at that point in his career. As diverse and thematically entertaining as the score may be, its eclectic moments are too few and its action is a tad anonymous. But it still works, and the reason it makes for good compilation consideration is because of its abundance of individual highlights. Two themes service the score sparingly. First, the theme for the "Mariner" debuts during his escape from the atoll and appears again in "Helen Frees the Mariner" before sending us off with the happy ending in the final two cues. The second theme represents both the little girl containing the map to dry land and the land itself; performed often by solo woodwind, this theme matures in "Dry Land" with a remarkably satisfying full ensemble treatment. A synthetic rhythm is used several times for the mystery and technology of the story, blasting its percussive and flute-blasting motif with significant bass power at the very outset of the film and in "Speargun." An electric xylophone effect is altered for a wet, underwater sound in several ethereal cues, accompanied by a layered solo female voice in the soothing "Swimming" cue. Perhaps the most impressive moments of the score can be attributed to the accompaniment by the chorus. Its sense of wonderment in the underwater exploration scene (heard in "The Bubble") mirrors the majesty of a handful of cues in the later Atlantis animation score. The choral outbursts in Waterworld are few and far between, but when they occur, they pack a punch equivalent in depth to the concurrent Cutthroat Island by John Debney. The straight orchestral action pieces are somewhat generic, with short noteworthy bursts begging for rearrangement into a suite. The snare-driven rhythm at the end of "Arriving at the Deez," extending into a rambunctious string variant and brass subtheme in "Deacon's Speech," is a highlight. Overall, however, Waterworld suffers from lengthy sequences of electronic monotony and uninteresting orchestral meanderings, and outside of the final eight minutes, you'll need to cut and paste sequences into your own suite to make for twenty or so minutes of top notch, guilty pleasure fun. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For James Newton Howard reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.35 (in 56 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.34 (in 62,065 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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   Music from King Kong - Waterworld
  Big Time Filmmaker -- 3/17/08 (9:32 a.m.)
   Half an Hour (Track 14)
  Jeremy -- 3/11/08 (12:34 a.m.)
   Brass Section (Hollywood Studio Symphony)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 68:39

• 1. Main Titles (4:43)
• 2. Escaping The Smokers (3:49)
• 3. The Atoll (1:42)
• 4. Prodigal Child (1:54)
• 5. Smokers Sighted (2:10)
• 6. Swimming (4:15)
• 7. The Skyboat (3:54)
• 8. National Geographics (1:46)
• 9. Speargun (1:44)
• 10. The Bubble (3:23)
• 11. Helen Frees the Mariner (3:27)
• 12. Helen Sews (0:50)
• 13. Slide for Life (4:51)
• 14. Half an Hour (4:36)
• 15. We're Gonna Die (2:02)
• 16. Arriving at the Deez (4:28)
• 17. Deacon's Speech (3:52)
• 18. Haircuts (1:32)
• 19. Gills (1:59)
• 20. Why Aren't You Rowing? (2:38)
• 21. Balloon Flight (0:48)
• 22. Dry Land (1:48)
• 23. Mariner's Goodbye (3:15)
• 24. Main Credits (2:18)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert notes include extensive credits, but no extra information about the film or score.

  All artwork and sound clips from Waterworld are Copyright © 1995, MCA Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/25/98 and last updated 5/13/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.