00 Saturdays Week #34 – GoldenEye Music Review

“It’s a gold and honey trap
I’ve got for you tonight.
Revenge is a kiss this time I won’t miss
Now I’ve got you in my sight
With a goldeneye.”

It’s time for another 00 Saturdays here at Film Seizure.  This week, we’re discussing the music that opens the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond films, GoldenEye.

Theme Song

Picture this…  It’s 1995 and you are about to bring James Bond back to the big screen.  You need a killer theme song that will be perfect for the occasion.  What do you do?  Well, you ask U2’s Bono and The Edge, two huge Bond fans, to write a song, and they went to Tina Turner to perform it.  What happens next is about as perfect as you can get for your brand new era of Bond.

The use of strings with horn stings absolutely tie this theme back to all those classic themes of the past.  Couple that with Tina Turner’s vocal style and you have something that is the next best thing (and just as good) to Shirley Bassey.  Everyone involved with this song knew exactly what they were doing and from one old Bond fan…  Goddamn it is good.  One of the greatest pop singers in the world singing a song perfectly written by two fans of the series who also happen to be massively popular and influential rock and roll superstars – that’s a recipe for success.

As with the previous film, Bono and The Edge worked independently from the score or other influences.  So it is disconnected from the rest of the movie itself, but also like the previous entry, it doesn’t really matter.  It’s good enough to be on its own.

Interestingly enough, as with many other Bond films, another song was written for the occasion of being the theme song.  It was to be performed by Swedish pop group Ace of Base.  However, their record label, Arista, decided to pull them out just in case the movie bombed and they get negative blow back for it.  Considering Ace of Base was a flash in the pan, two hit wonder (at least here in the States)… Oops.

Score

This is a much derided score, and if I’m being honest, I’m not sure how I really feel about it.

First, John Barry did have an offer from Barbara Broccoli to return as composer, but he claimed he turned it down.  Exactly why he did not get involved is relatively unclear.  With Barry out, producers went to French musician and composer, Éric Serra.  Serra had done a couple really popular French action movies before GoldenEyeLa Femme Nikita in 1990 and Léon: The Professional in 1994.  On the surface, that seemed to be a good choice.  He scored two big European hit films.  He seemed to be good for the 90s.

Why he seemed to be good for the 90s was his more electronic and synthesized sound.  It was a good sound for the decade.  However, it’s hard to say if it is truly right for the Bond series.  Right out of the gate, you hear Serra’s overhauled “James Bond Theme” done with synthesizers during the iconic gun barrel sequence.  If I am being honest, I would have loved to have heard a blaring orchestral or horn-heavy version of the theme to open this new movie, but it’s a modern take and I think meant to represent that new era it was ushering in.

In some of the action scenes, the score does work, though.  I do think it does match the more computerized feel to some of the themes of wiping out computer records in England, using computer programmers to control satellite weapons, etc.  Serra also contributes a nice, slow song for the closing credits called “The Experience of Love” that he adapted from a piece he originally wrote for Léon.

I’ve always liked that song as a nice wind down from the action.  I think it does fit with the previous two films’ closing credit songs that makes for a good exit from the action-packed movie.

There are more traditional pieces created for the movie in the score as well.  For example, a piece called “That’s What Keeps You Alone” is also credited to Serra as a love theme for James and Natalya based on a scene in which she tries to understand Bond’s emotional state having to go up against not just an ally, but maybe his closest friend.  Other more traditional symphonic pieces came from John Altman and David Arch, though they don’t get a great deal of credit for their work.

The Opening Title Sequence

Holy hot damn…  This is my favorite opening title sequence of the entire series.  Maurice Binder passed away in 1991, but title designer Daniel Kleinman is there to save the day.

Kleinman seems almost like an understudy of Binder’s.  Just look at that opening.  The fall of the Soviet Union is shown by crumbling statues, scantily clad women hammering away at the old structures in high heels and tube tops, a two-faced woman (representing Trevelyan’s criminal operation, Janus – which is named for a two faced mythological character), and lots and lots of cleverly hidden nudity.  Holy shit this a sexy opening title sequence and absolutely the best way to bring all the real fall of the Soviet Union stuff into the world of James Bond.

Kleinman has done every opening title sequence, except for Quantum of Solace, since this film.  He’s a wonderful designer and the perfect choice in taking over for Binder.

Join me next week for a look at the film in the James Bond series, Tomorrow Never Dies.

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