Avatar returns to Cineworld this week in a blaze of big-screen glory. James Cameron's sweeping sci-fi epic is showing in a variety of formats: IMAX and IMAX 3D, 4DX and RealD 3D. The question is this: how will you choose to return to the extraordinary and majestic planet of Pandora?
The nature of the big screen presentation also means that James Horner's lushly enveloping score can also be shown off to its fullest extent. Music is one of the pivotal characters in the Avatar universe, further investing audiences in the world of the tribal Na'vi and the vulnerability of their treasured ecosystem.
The late Horner was Oscar-nominated for his work on the movie, his third collaboration with James Cameron following Aliens (also Oscar-nominated) and Titanic (which scooped the Oscar and became the most successful classical soundtrack of all time).
Check out our list of memorable soundtrack moments from Avatar that demand to be experienced again on the biggest screen you can find.
1. Jake Enters His Avatar World
Initially pensive tones give way to rapturous harmonic celebration as paraplegic Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is effectively re-born in a new body.
Horner's score captures both the unsettling qualities and the euphoric joy of Jake being able to use his avatar legs. Plosive vocal effects (familiar from Apocalypto) and Horner's familiar 'crashing' piano sounds (The Pelican Brief) suggest how Jake gets prematurely excited about the possibilities of his new Avatar body, and the danger this initially poses.
Horner then smoothly transitions to celebratory handclaps and a fulsome orchestral statement of the 'I See You' theme as Jake runs outside to feel the Pandoran grass beneath his feet. It encapsulates Horner's enviable ability to smoothly communicate complex narrative emotions over an extended passage of music.
2. Pure Spirits of the Forest
Horner's score is anchored by the 'I See You' melody, which is adapted into a vocal performance from Leona Lewis over the end credits.
The composer's traditional emphasis on exotic woodwinds and massed strings, familiar from the likes of Legends of the Fall, Braveheart and the aforementioned Titanic, creates a supple, shifting wall of sound that ably communicates the bioluminescent, bedazzling world of Pandora.
Subtle percussive effects, again bearing the influence of Apocalypto and other scores, leap and bound in quietly joyous fashion, mirroring Jake's emergence into the beautiful and dangerous world of Pandora.
3. Climbing Up Iknimaya
For the Avatar soundtrack, Horner adapted the make-believe language of the Na'Vi into his music. The euphoric chanting of 'Climbing Up Iknimaya' (the name for Pandora's sacred floating mountains) bears overtones of his 1989 masterpiece score Glory, fully communicating Jake's new-found freedom as he acclimates to Na'vi traditions.
Horner was one of Hollywood's finest composers at adapting a central melody into a host of different guises. By reconfiguring 'I See You' in a tribal context for this particular scene, Horner not only echoes the spirit of traditional indigenous music but also tacitly acknowledges how Jake's emotional journey is progressing.
One must also credit Horner's orchestrator Simon Franglen for the rich layering of elements throughout the Avatar score. Following Horner's death in 2015, Franglen is now set to score the Avatar sequels, an act of passing the baton that is sure to yield even more musical wonders.
4. Becoming One of the People, Becoming One with Neytiri
Quite possibly the most beautiful track on the score, this eight-minute opus accompanies the montage sequence of Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) introducing Jake to the nuances of Pandora, and the survival tactics necessary to live in harmony with the landscape.
Horner was at his best when seamlessly and balletically weaving together a host of motifs across an extended time frame. This technique was evident in the likes of the animated movie The Land Before Time, which never descended into hitting random cue points but always smoothly emphasis the inner emotional dialogue of a given scene.
'Becoming One of the People...' showcases this Horner signature to its fullest, encapsulating the joyous choir, the tender woodwind solos and the powerful brassy statements that reflect the might of Jake's adopted planet. The final chord as Jake and Neytiri consummate their bond strikes a spine-tingling, awestruck note of purely rapturous beauty, one of the finest moments in Horner's distinguishes career.
The final stages of Avatar descend into all-out conflict as Neytiri's tribe, now spearheaded by Jake as their adopted leader, goes to war with the forces of the fearsome Colonel Quaritch (the scene-stealing Stephen Lang).
Horner's score follows suit, dropping the melodic intimacy of the earlier stages to engage in full-throttle vocal staccato warfare. Once again, the comparison with Glory rears its head in the assaultive and spectacular nature of the vocal arrangements, and elements of Horner's score for Cameron's Aliens are also evident in the powerfully rhythmic pulses for brass, anvil and strings.
Across 12 mighty minutes, Horner cements his position as one of Hollywood's greatest action composers, always adding a new layer of meaning to the scene and deploying the range of the symphony orchestra to his fullest.
Has that whetted your appetite for another journey to Pandora? Then click here to book your tickets for Avatar, on release at Cineworld from September 23.
Don't forget that Avatar is previewing ahead of this December's release of the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. The movie is released on December 16.