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Section Header
Composed and Produced by:
Elliot Goldenthal

Conducted by:
Steven Mercurio
Jonathan Sheffer

Orchestrated by:
Robert Elhai
Elliot Goldenthal

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
February 24th, 1998

Also See:
Alien 3
Demolition Man

Audio Clips:
1. Pandora's Fanfare (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

3. Event Entry 6-21-43 (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

4. The Gift (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

8. Terror Adagio (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Regular U.S. release.



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Sales Rank: 304642

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Buy it... if you would be interested in a compilation of Elliot Goldenthal's unconventional techniques from previous action and horror scores of the 1990's.

Avoid it... if you expect to hear anything radically new from Goldenthal for this throwaway film, or if you expect a well-rounded album presentation of the music he wrote for the occasion.

Sphere: (Elliot Goldenthal) Oh, the distinct smell of rotting failure. Some people claim that there are films so wretched that they actually omit a foul odor in the theatre, perhaps evidence that your body can help you identify bad movies in strange, alien ways. For a film to give you that sense of total disappointment, though, you have to go in with high expectations and the promise of delivery. In the case of Sphere, you could not have concocted a more favorable set of circumstances. Scripts based on Michael Crichton novels were at the height of their success, director Barry Levinson and Dustin Hoffman had just stirred up Oscar nominations for Wag the Dog, and supporting actors Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson, among others, are a joy to watch perform. The story is one of intellectual intrigue as well (an alien spacecraft is discovered at the bottom of the ocean, and the government's attempt to make first contact with its remains --a glowing sphere-- are met with disastrous psychological results), offering the possibility of a scenario where The Abyss meets Event Horizon in a truly intelligent and horrifying fashion. Composer Elliot Goldenthal was causing sensations with his non-traditional orchestral scores at the time, always a fascinating study even if harmonically unlistenable. And yet, Sphere was annihilated by critics and ignored by audiences who chose to continue watching the underwater sequences in Titanic rather than the ones here. Everything was seemingly a failure. The script was predictable and hacked to death. The special effects and sets were inferior. The actors obviously struggled with the material. And the score was a rehash from previous Goldenthal efforts. Levinson made a admirable habit of changing composers for each of his projects, and his match of Goldenthal with Sphere was a smart choice. After providing challenging sounds for Alien 3 and Demolition Man, and adapting those techniques for mainstream action in the Batman franchise, Goldenthal was a perfect choice for the kind of intellectual exploration that Crichton's story promised. What he delivered for Sphere, however, was uncharacteristically stale. Everything down to his synthetic bubble-popping sounds seems too... predictable.

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You sometimes have to wonder if a composer knows a film is going to be a flop, and he therefore recycles his previous material simply to satisfy the requirements of his contract and move on to greener pastures. Goldenthal had established some extremely unique techniques over the previous half dozen years, and he puts them on display without fail in Sphere. If there's a moment of shrieking horns, dissonant string layers, solo harmony over atonal shades of electronics, or adagios and crescendos of these elements put together in a previous effort, you can be sure that you'll hear it in Sphere as well. As such, the score is as fascinating on a technical level as nearly all of his other scores, but if you expect some wild creativity spawned from these ideas, as heard in Titus, then you'll be disappointed. The sudden bursts of dissonant ensemble chords, highlighted in Demolition Man, are featured at the outset of multiple cues. In the selections on the commercial album, Goldenthal's action material from "Water Snake" to the end is surprisingly similar in its staggered rhythms and non-traditional motifs to previous, equally awkward action. The most notable aspect of Sphere is, ironically, the more harmonic side to its earlier cues. From the strikingly poignant solo trumpet introduction of theme in "Pandora's Fanfare" (over the usual dissonant rumblings) to the string arpeggio-driven extension of that idea in "Main Titles" and "The Gift," there's a touch of solace in this thematic material (especially in the trumpet in "The Gift") that reminds of Danny Elfman's more somber tunes at the outset of his career. The piano theme in "Andante" will remind some of Pet Sematary. Goldenthal even acknowledges the influence of Alien 3 on this score with his final two track titles on the album. That album was somewhat of a curiosity because the score was recorded both in New York and Los Angeles. Due to the structures of re-use fees at the time, Goldenthal and Varèse Sarabande were forced to choose the music from only one of the sessions to include on album. The New York half was chosen for its highlights. As a result, some worthwhile music was left off the release, likely including the impressive cue heard in the background during a CNN television story that featured Goldenthal's recording of Sphere in January of 1998. Overall, Sphere is as intelligent as Goldenthal's music usually was in that era, but you've heard it before and the album is badly incomplete. ** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Elliot Goldenthal reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 16 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.07 (in 15,600 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.5 Stars
Smart Average: 2.62 Stars*
***** 63 
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              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: Its a yery good score...
  Jockolantern -- 10/18/07 (5:34 a.m.)
   Its a yery good score...
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 35:38

• 1. Pandora's Fanfare (1:17)
• 2. Main Titles (2:49)
• 3. Event Entry 6-21-43 (0:53)
• 4. The Gift (1:42)
• 5. Sphere Discovery (2:08)
• 6. Visit to a Wreckage (1:58)
• 7. Water Snake (2:37)
• 8. Terror Adagio (3:25)
• 9. Wave (3:18)
• 10. Fear Retrieval (3:48)
• 11. Andante (2:20)
• 12. Manifest Fire (3:49)
• 13. Manifest3 (3:48)
• 14. Their Beast Within (1:44)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Sphere are Copyright © 1998, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/4/98 and last updated 7/22/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.