Review: Waterworld (1995)

Composer: James Newton Howard

Label: MCA Records

Catalogue Nr.: MCD 11282


One can't say that Waterworld is a great movie but a somewhat enjoyable one (at least it was for me). There were actually two things which made it enjoyable: A hilariously evil Dennis Hopper (who obviously had some fun) and the great adventure score. Before Kevin Costner took over to direct the at the time most expensive film ever made with a budget of 175 million, director Kevin Reynolds was in charge and thus Mark Isham was considered as the composer but he was not able to write a note since Kevin Costner insisted on having James Newton Howard on board. Newton Howard had previously worked on the Costner vehicle Wyatt Earp (1994) so it was natural that Costner would insist on keeping a continuity in the sound.

The score:

The Waterworld score can be described as James Newton Howard's most thrilling and exciting compositions, if not his best. It is a must-have score that no real film score lover should miss in his collection. The composition consists of an exciting heroic main theme for brass and synthesized drums (Hans Zimmer reportedly supported his friend James Newton Howard with a few samples) but also has a lot of new age elements. There are few tracks which are entirely synthetic while the Synths have a liquid sound to represent the water. Other tracks feature some interesting orchestration with native Australian instruments.

This kind of orchestration starts the album in the exciting "Main Titles" for percussion, choir and ethnic instruments, introducing a drum motif for the Mariner character. The choral accompaniment in the track is a signature which can also be found in other James Newton Howard scores. This piece is along with other tracks from this score one of the most used pieces for television programs. "Escaping the Smokers" is introducing the thrilling heroic main theme. You can hear beautiful variations of this great piece in "The Skyboat", "Helen Frees The Mariner" and "Main Credits". The melody is very catchy and highly memorable, you will be able to hum it even days after you have heard it. It is also interesting how James Newton Howard transformed the movements of the Mariner on his ship into the music. Whenever the character is doing something on the vehicle you can hear a statement in the music.

The cue "Swimming" is another really great piece: it consists of glass percussion and synthetic sounds, creating a liquid and transparent feeling for the music which makes it a very relaxing counterpoint to the thrilling action pieces. "Half An Hour" features an amazing build up during the second half which goes into a dissonant choral outburst. "Deacon's Speach" is a piece of epic proportions with a nice rhythm, big fanfares and choir. Another track with native australian instrumentation is "Haircuts".

This is a score which hardly suffers from anything. The only thing which is somewhat annoying are short passages of loud dissonant music here or there.



Score as heard in the film: 89%

Score as heard on CD: 87%

TOTAL: 88%


The presentation:

The album is pretty nice for a regular release, featuring a wealth of score at a length of 68 minutes. It does not even bother that the cues are not presented in film order because each cue stands so perfectly on its own. The booklet contains detailed album credits and some pictures from the film. There is only one big problem: It's out of print and becoming extremely rare which results in a lower presentation rating. If you can find a used copy for less than 25 euro (which is the prize I paid and I don't regret it), pick it up immediately because you won't be disappointed with this score.

Presentation by the Label: 52%



The score is highly recommended for all fans of action music. If you love heroic music with exotic instrumentation and epic choir you can not go wrong with Waterworld. Those who are unfamiliar with the work of James Newton Howard and want to explore his music should try to get this score. If you are looking for a more tender and romantic entry into the world of James Newton Howard's music without any synth accompaniment you should get Wyatt Earp instead. Sadly, the MCA album of Waterworld is out of print and hard to find. A straight reissue would be welcomed but since this is a Universal film we might never see a re-release of this album. Very sad!

Review by Andreas Creutzburg



01.   Main Titles 4:43

02.   Escaping The Smokers 3:49

03.   The Atoll 1:42

04.   Prodigal Child 1:54

05.   Smokers Sighted 2:10

06.   Swimming 4:15

07.   The Skyboat 3:54

08.   National Geographics 1:46

09.   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