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Comments about the soundtrack for Goldeneye (Eric Serra)
Like or loathe

SlimeyDave
<Send E-Mail>
(78.150.18.27)
Like or loathe   Monday, August 25, 2008 (2:18 p.m.) 

As the ratings heavily weighted towards the extremes would suggest, this is a bit of a love it or hate it score. Personally, I love it.

I've not heard a lot else by Eric Serra, so I can't comment on how much Goldeneye compares to his other scores, but it seems to me to suit the film perfectly. Director Martin Campbell was clearly aiming - largely successfully - for a dark, mysterious tone most akin to that of the relatively low-key thriller that is From Russia With Love. Serra's score seems to me to hit the mark precisely. It would not have been an appropriate score for the lighter and increasingly silly films that would follow, but it fits Goldeneye like a glove, the dull metallic clangs wonderfully evoking the setting of the disintegrating Soviet edifice, the vocal samples sometimes lurking like mist-shrouded monuments of old Russia, sometimes barking warning that the country's military might has not disappeared along with the system that created it.

The question of respecting the musical ancestry of Bond is an interesting one. My sense upon listening to the score is that Serra is having a ball playing about with those famous themes and progressions, though I think it is to his credit that he only infrequently brings them to the fore since they can easily be overused; David Arnold's Tomorrow Never Dies is a terrific Bond score, but his use of the four-note rising and falling chromatic figure does get a little wearying towards the end. Serra's score is different - very different - but also, to my mind, very Bond.

There are problems. I agree that the string playing is a bit bland, which is a shame considering Serra penned some lovely bittersweet passages for the orchestra. Perhaps though the slight coldness of the orchestra to some extent suits the film, which is frequently draped in chilly mist and darkness. The album presentation suffers a little in that the last few cues aren't quite as gripping as those that have gone before, a reflection maybe of the way the film - in my opinion anyway - is just a little weaker in its final quarter when it emerges from its Eastern-European mystery and sets off for the jungles of Central America.

However, the biggest problem I have - though I realise this is by no means universally viewed as a negative - is that A Pleasant Drive in St. Petersburg was not used in the film. This is my favourite piece of Bond action music from any of the films and is an enormous slice of aggressive, tongue-in-cheek fun, in just the same vein as the scene that it was intended to accompany. That the producers should have had concerns about Serra's score is understandable - it is daring in the extreme - but that they should have replaced just this one cue so that the centrepiece action scene's music is entirely at odds with that of the rest of the film is just plain ridiculous.

Interestingly, David Arnold has said that he really likes Serra's score, whilst acknowledging that it was maybe too extreme a departure from the norm - in Bond terms - for some people. I think Arnold did a superb job of more modestly modernising the Bond sound with Tomorrow Never Dies, but I'm glad Serra got his chance before the producers opted for more traditional music because Goldeneye is my favourite James Bond score, without question.

Having said that, I should note that I'm not a huge fan of John Barry's scores; whilst I typically like his songs, themes and general style, I tend to find his underscore very dull and - though I very much like minimalist music - repetitive in an uninventive way. So perhaps I was always more open to a dramatic change of direction, not being quite as enamoured with the benchmark Bond scores as many people.

Whatever the reasons, I find Serra's score to be hugely successful within the film and highly entertaining away from it. Terrific stuff!


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