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Customer Review

45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The lost art of film composing......., 29 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Skyfall (Audio CD)
Bringing in a new composer to score a Bond film is invariably risky. Such was John Barry's indelible mark on the series that each new composer, from George Martin to David Arnold, has pretty much been in a 'no win' situation. Make it sound too much like Barry and you're not doing anything original, stray too far from Barry's style and you're not staying true to the musical heritage. My view - one I know won't be shared with everybody - is that the music should sound as close to John Barry as possible; the sound of Bond is as much part of the Bond formula as the pre-title sequence, the exotic locations and the fabulous sets.

So now we have Thomas Newman's score to 'Skyfall'. Firstly, the score DOES work in the context of the movie, in the sense that having seen the film, the score doesn't sound intrusive or out-of-place in the way Eric Serra's music from 'GoldenEye' was. Listening to this album, there are some tracks, invariably those from the Shanghai section of the movie, that are moody and atmospheric. Newman's theme for Severine is also really very Barryesque.

Unfortunately, Newman doesn't bring anything new to the table as regards his approach to the action music, which is pretty similar to David Arnold's method in my view. This is where John Barry tended to excel; just a quick look back at the soundtracks of his Bond scores and one can see track after track where Barry would write melodic and memorable action music: 'A Drop In The Ocean' from 'You Only Live Twice' and 'He's Dangerous' from 'A View To A Kill' are just two (of many) examples. Barry's approach was, in my opinion, much more thematic: one would hear themes repeated and built up over the course of the movie, so that they became memorable.

What we have in 'Skyfall' - and the track 'The Bloody Shot' is a prime example - is just incidental music which one would find in everything from Bourne to The Dark Knight. Although the Bond theme is interpolated into the score well, the rest of the action music (and there's a lot of it) just doesn't do anything. It doesn't go anywhere. And this is a criticism I'd level at Arnold as much as Newman. Perhaps my complaint is as much levelled at most of cinema music today, which tends to be over-produced and generic. Perhaps the era of artists like John Barry has gone forever?

One further thing: the song, performed by Adele, is very good indeed - the strongest opener for years - so why isn't it on this album? Full marks to Newman for incorporating part of it into the score but I wish he had been able to do this more often. Remember, the way the title song used to be woven into the score was a further feature of the early Bond soundtracks in which Barry excelled.

So, to close, this is not a disaster. Some of the tracks - the slower pieces in particular - work very well. And, crucially, it works for the film (by the way, the movie itself is a belter and the best since `OHMSS'). But perhaps a different composer could have a go next time though? For my money, I'd give the gig to Alexandre Desplat. Time will tell....
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Oct 2012 03:13:01 GMT
Pavel Kropac says:
In these days some artists are under contract of one recording company which doesn't allowe them to release the song in other one. Simple as that.

Posted on 1 Nov 2012 17:36:01 GMT
I agree with just about everything you say Big Si. My favourite non-Barry Bond score is Live and Let Die by George Martin which I think is very underrated. For me, it has lots of melody and good variations of the main title theme scattered throughout. Also it maintains Barry's often jazz-oriented approach to scoring for 007.
The problem with David Arnold is he barely wrote a good melody for his Bond scores and this made them, while servicable for the films, a bit uninspiring to listen to on their own. Barry's scores are wonderful pieces to listen to without the visuals. If we apply these criteria, there hasn't been a truly classic Bond score since The Living Daylights.
Thomas Newman's Skyfall has similar problems to Arnold's output. I admire many scores by Newman, but felt he was not an inspired choice due to his approach of using small musical fragments and much repetition. His use of unusual or ethnic instruments is another feature of his style but I feel it overwhelms Skyfall in a way Barry never allowed the cymbalom or japanese instruments (YOLT, MWTGG) to do so in his music.
Desplat, possibly - my favourite contender would be Michael Giacchino after his scores for Lost and his Bond-like score for The Incredibles (taken on after Barry dropped out) proved he could write melodic music of excitement, suspense and emotion.

Posted on 1 Nov 2012 20:29:23 GMT
Andy B says:
I absolutely agree. The composer seems to be searching for a theme to use and never finds one. It lacks that Bond sparkle, it could be any action music to any action film. It certainly isn't Bond. When the old familiar theme does kick in, it's like a breath of fresh air. I can't see myself playing the CD very often.

Posted on 6 Nov 2012 11:33:24 GMT
Silverfox says:
Absolutely, spot-on with your comments on the Bond films music, Big Si. Like Londo, I have to go back as far as The Living Daylights to recall incidental music throughout a Bond film that actually impressed me and stuck in the mind (though I did like the main action theme music in GoldenEye). David Arnold's incidental Bond music has just not worked for me - and someone should be brought in who can match John Barry's talent and style. Shocked that the title song isn't on the Skyfall album! For me, it's the best Bond theme since For Your Eyes Only and All Time High.

Posted on 2 Feb 2013 18:21:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Feb 2013 18:23:43 GMT
Ahantrobus says:
From a personal viewpoint I feel I have to praise the Goldeneye soundtrack music.
It WAS different and perhaps unexpected for a Bond film but I believe it to be very effective.
Goldeneye was in a new style with a new Bond and the music complimented that in a good way and in my opinion
enhanced the film totally.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Apr 2013 12:11:00 BDT
Ian Gamble says:
Indeed this may well be the case, but as the Adele song IS certainly part of, and arguably the strongest characteristic part of the score, it should definitely be included on the album without question.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Apr 2013 12:18:21 BDT
Ian Gamble says:
Yes, there have been some exceptional scores and much of the atmospheric music in the latest Bond films has been quite acceptable, however the theme songs from BOTH Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were just out of place and DIRE!

Thank Heavens someone had the sense to get a good singer involved in writing some excellent lyrics and melody once more, for Skyfall.
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