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ScoreKeeper Previews James Horner's Score for THE KARATE KID!

Greetings! ScoreKeeper here at the big party looking around and...Hey!...Is that little James Horner sat there in the corner? Get away from that puddin' pie and come join us! Where the hell have you been all these years!?! James Horner is a difficult composer to get a pulse on. He has composed some of the greatest dramatic underscores in cinematic history yet manages to consistently segregate fans with his bewildering penchant for recycling material (both original and borrowed) and a seemingly lackadaisical approach to some of his scores. I'm not a Horner apologist but you do have to count me amongst his admirers. He has written too many spectacular scores to discount. In the past decade or so I've been less enthusiastic about his work. He's certainly composed some nice music with a few exceptional efforts peppered in there; however, he hasn't quite been able to recapture the depth and breath of his signature dramatic sensibility which I believed peaked in 1994 or 1995. So when I heard that he was scoring the upcoming THE KARATE KID (2010) remake I was as ambivalent about it as I was the film. Perhaps another middling score to add to the pile? Hold on to your kung-fu! This is not the same Horner score that we've come to expect in the last fifteen years. This is something quite different...yet, strangely familiar. Not because there are particular motives or themes that we've heard dozens of times but because it breathes that signature Horner sensibility. Here's the track listing for the album:
01. Leaving Detroit (02:54) 02. Looking For Mr. Han (01:29) 03. Kung Fu Heaven (01:19) 04. "I Want To Go Home" / The Forbidden City (04:29) 05. The Lunchroom (02:29) 06. Backstreet Beating (03:34) 07. Han's Kung Fu (01:39) 08. Ancient Chinese Medicine (01:25) 09. Beijing Valentine (01:34) 10. Mei Ying's Kiss (03:22) 11. Jacket On, Jacket Off (02:32) 12. Journey To The Spiritual Mountain (08:49) 13. Hard Training (01:20) 14. All Work And No Play (01:40) 15. From Master To Student To Master (10:33) 16. Dre's Gift And Apology (03:07) 17. Tournament Time (05:09) 18. Final Contest (06:47)
There are definitely Asian influences spotted throughout but it doesn't saturate the score. Even the few utterances of the shakuhachi is a welcome throwback to classic 90s era Horner. Surprisingly enough, it doesn't feel cliched or forced. There is also a delicate reliance upon electronic textures, mostly in the form of loops, during some of the action cues. The real showpieces of the score are, without a doubt, the dramatic sequences ("Kung Fu Heaven," "I Want to Go Home - The Forbidden City," and "Dre's Gift and Apology" are a few of the standouts). "Journey to the Spiritual Mountain" and "From Master to Student to Master" are two exemplary cues which tap in to the essence of this score and reveal that vintage Horner I've been referring to. They exhibit the same eloquence and tenderness that Horner had been known for: long and strong melodies, inevitable harmonies, and a broad dynamic range that feeding the emotional beasts within us. What's absent from this score, as far as I can tell, are the ubiquitous Horner cliches that seem to rear their heads in every score he's done in the past two decades. It may be one of the most original Horner works I've heard in a long while (although the first track does open up with an almost direct quote of the finale theme from THE FIREBIRD by Stravinsky, what's that about?). It sounds like quintessential Horner without opening up a bag of old magician's tricks. If you're a Horner fan and always have been, look out for this one. I believe this one will hit you right where it feels best. If you're a former Horner fan, this may be the one you've been waiting to reunite you with this seasoned master dramatist. I don't often review scores without experiencing it within the context of the film so I reserve the right to change my initial opinion once I have done so. I'm jumping the gun here because my radar for great dramatic Horner scores has been a little quiet in the past fifteen years and it's wholly refreshing to hear what I'm hearing from the score alone. Is it as good as some of his classic scores of the 80s and 90s? I'm not sure and won't know for sure without seeing the film. I can say that it single handedly will put me in the theater opening weekend to see this movie. If the drama on-screen can come close to the drama Horner captured off-screen with his music, we may be in for a truly remarkable ride.

THE KARATE KID is scheduled for a digital only release and will be available for download on iTunes on June 15, 2010.


Readers Talkback
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  • June 3, 2010, 10:13 a.m. CST


    by Madmacks

  • June 3, 2010, 10:15 a.m. CST


    by DangerDave

  • June 3, 2010, 10:17 a.m. CST

    Merrick you will NEVER live that shit down.

    by DangerDave


  • June 3, 2010, 10:24 a.m. CST


    by Hari_Seldon

    This is one of the most unnecessary ramakes ever

  • June 3, 2010, 10:24 a.m. CST

    you mean the KUNG FU kid

    by RedBull_Werewolf

    i'll forgive yours and the producers typo

  • June 3, 2010, 10:36 a.m. CST

    you mean the Gong Fu kid

    by Those_arent_pillows

    Goddamn Wade-Giles transliteration

  • June 3, 2010, 11:02 a.m. CST

    I loved his Avatar score

    by kwisatzhaderach

    certainly miles ahead of Giacchino's Trek score.

  • June 3, 2010, 11:16 a.m. CST


    by thommcg

    The bootleg releases of the Avatar score are indeed awesome.

  • June 3, 2010, 11:26 a.m. CST

    Yes but what does Geek Padre think about the score?

    by ricarleite2

    His opinion matters the most.

  • June 3, 2010, 11:26 a.m. CST

    I wish will smith's kid was john travoltas kid

    by RedBull_Werewolf

    just sayin amirite?

  • June 3, 2010, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Unlike his work in Aliens....

    by Stalkeye

    ..I found the Avatar score to be underwhelming.i.e. forgettable.

  • June 3, 2010, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Agree with Stalkeye...not just forgettable either...

    by Darth Macchio

    It also had some blatant repetition elements from other ST's he'd done.<p>His own in Aliens and Titanic (I'm actually not sure he did Titanic but with the similarities, I'm guessing it's the same guy) but he also repeated, almost exactly, that 4 note primary melody in his theme from 'Brainstorm'.<p>Between those repeated soundtrack elements and Cameron's ripping off 76's 'King Kong' for the animal sounds of that lizard-panther thing, it was a bit distracting with respect to the soundtrack and certain effects.<p>Though, a wilhelm here or there never hurts!<p>Horner's done amazing stuff obviously but it seems like he's quite one-dimensional when working with Cameron.

  • June 3, 2010, 12:34 p.m. CST

    Yes, Darth Horner did score Titantic.

    by Stalkeye a matter of fact, he was responsible for that wretched Celine Dion song; My heart will go on.It's funny how often I heard that James plagurizes his own works.(Commando and 48 Hours sound a wee bit too simular.)It seems that he has apparantly ran out of steam/ideas.

  • June 3, 2010, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Avatar/Khan Cues

    by BoggyCreekBeast

    Horner copies himself so much he ought to change his name to Xerox!

  • June 3, 2010, 1:30 p.m. CST

    I love that track list..i dont have to se this POS now.

    by EddieMurphysLaugh

  • June 3, 2010, 2:06 p.m. CST

    point or no point..youre dead meat.

    by Six Demon Bag

    yer dead meat.

  • June 3, 2010, 2:44 p.m. CST

    I hope this crooked crapfest tanks

    by Kal Reeve

    It would be a shame if Smith profited by stealing the title from an iconic classic.

  • June 3, 2010, 2:46 p.m. CST

    Can't touch the spiritual depth and power of Conti's score

    by Kal Reeve

    Bill Conti's score for The Karate Kid Trilogy is without question one of the greatest ever.

  • June 3, 2010, 2:56 p.m. CST

    No Joe Esposito, no peace!

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

    Hah. Really though, I'd love to see Scorekeeper take what he feels are the key musical sequences from the remake and compare them to key musical sequences in the original film. <p> In fact, I challenge him to do that with other remakes, too. I think that would be a REALLY cool series of articles.

  • June 3, 2010, 3:14 p.m. CST

    i just wanna see jackie chan beat the shit outta children.

    by Six Demon Bag

    by making daniel and the bullys younger, they negate a crucial scene in the original.<P>whereas miyagi owns all of johnny and dutch and bobby and the others, in the new one hes just gonna defend hisself.<P>weak.<P>ass.

  • June 3, 2010, 3:42 p.m. CST

    Horner is excellent

    by Hipshot

    And I look forward to this movie. It is more legitimate to have a twelve year old "kid" than a twenty-eight year old "kid." The original movie was excellent, but if you didn't notice that Danial-san couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag, you weren't paying attention. Ordinarily, you guys actually care about the quality of martial arts in a...wait for it...martial arts-themed film. Suddenly, that doesn't matter? Chan is a better martial artist than either Morita or his stunt double Fumio Demura (who is an excellent karate man) but they shouldn't hire him? And a far, far bigger international star than Morita could have dreamed of...but you don't think that, given a chance to express his culture, there is no chance he will deliver a fine performance? Hard for me to believe how you guys are crapping over this movie before anyone has seen it. Jaden was excellent in "Pursuit of Happyness" and NO ONE was any good in "Day The Earth Stood Still." Why all this hate?

  • June 3, 2010, 3:50 p.m. CST

    Plant Fu!!!!!

    by I_shot_Cyrus

  • June 3, 2010, 5:41 p.m. CST

    What, no Jay-Zor Black Eyed Peas remix of "You're the Best?"

    by Triple_J_72

    I'm disappointed. <p> ;-)

  • June 3, 2010, 5:44 p.m. CST

    Asian influences?

    by Triple_J_72

    Please tell me there's not an abundance of flutes and woodblocks. Jeez...

  • June 3, 2010, 5:50 p.m. CST


    by Second Try

  • June 3, 2010, 8:44 p.m. CST

    The second coming of Bruce Leroy! Sho nuf!

    by FatMexicanDwarf72

  • June 4, 2010, 6:29 a.m. CST

    Here's the family tree:

    by brodiebruce_405

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