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Empire of the Sun
Album Cover Art
1987 Warner Brothers
2014 La-La Land
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Orchestrated by:
Herbert Spencer
Alexander Courage
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Warner Brothers Records
(December 9th, 1987)

La-La Land Records
(June 24th, 2014)
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The 1987 Warner Brothers album was a regular U.S. release, still available in the late 2000's for under $10. The expanded 2014 La-La Land Records set is limited to 4,000 copies and available primarily through soundtrack specialty outlets for an initial price of $30.
Winner of a BAFTA Award. Nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you seek a wide range of emotions from John Williams in one score, a work straining in its turbulent, sometimes sparse suspense material but redemptive in its famous theme and wondrous fantasy half.

Avoid it... if you require a strong sense of continuity and flow in your soundtracks, because the film's indecision about balancing the horrors of war and a boy's imagination translate directly into a disjointed listening experience.
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WRITTEN 8/11/09, REVISED 8/10/14
Empire of the Sun: (John Williams) So much potential went unrealized in Steven Spielberg's 1987 World War II film Empire of the Sun that J.G. Ballard's autobiographical story largely wasted its chance to make a significant impact as a whole on audiences. Like all of Spielberg's films, there are moments of brilliance in his grasp of psychological perspective, and in Empire of the Sun, these highlights come early. A young British boy (played by newcomer Christian Bale on his way to a career of stardom) lives a life of privilege in Shanghai with other Westerners just prior to the Japanese invasion at the war's start, and in one of the director's most compelling and frightening scenes (once again dwelling upon child and parent separation issues, major hang-up for Spielberg throughout his career), he is separated from his family inside a mob of frantic evacuees. From there, the boy ends up in an internment camp for foreigners, learning all the methods of stealing and scamming his way to likeability and survival. The key to his positive mental outlook is his fascination with the sky and airplanes, fantasizing about aircraft battles and maintaining good knowledge of the vehicles. The story lives through his imagination, which is both an appealing element and, unfortunately, the film's downfall. Empire of the Sun went on to several academy award nominations, all in technical fields, and the reason it did not attract better accolades or particularly strong reviews at the time was due to Spielberg's inability to reconcile the imaginative side of the plot with the necessary horrors of war depicted throughout. Because Spielberg presents the boy's life in a series of episodic scenes, Empire of the Sun loses its sense of direction and ultimately concludes without having delivered a clear, consolidated message. This fault is unquestionably reflected in John Williams' music for the film, continuing a fruitful collaboration that occasionally suffered minor hiccups. While veteran collectors of Williams' scores stand by Empire of the Sun without fail, some even proclaiming its greatness, the fact remains that it suffers from the same split personality as the film. More intriguing is the fact that Williams' music for the project suffered from the whims of the director during the editing process, representing one of the only major times when the composer clearly did not see the same larger picture as the director in their lengthy collaboration.

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Average: 3.42 Stars
***** 103 5 Stars
**** 137 4 Stars
*** 125 3 Stars
** 73 2 Stars
* 34 1 Stars
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Underated score...
mikioma - September 1, 2009, at 5:10 a.m.
1 comment  (1846 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1987 Warner Brothers Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 54:29
• 1. Suo Gan* (traditional) (2:19)
• 2. Cadillac of the Skies (3:48)
• 3. Jim's New Life (2:33)
• 4. Lost in the Crowd (5:39)
• 5. Imaginary Air Battle (2:35)
• 6. The Return to the City (7:45)
• 7. Liberation: Exsultate Justi (1:46)
• 8. The Brtish Grenadiers (traditional) (2:25)
• 9. Toy Planes, Home and Hearth (adapted from Mazurka Opus 17 No. 4 by Frederic Chopin) (4:37)
• 10. The Streets of Shanghai (5:11)
• 11. The Pheasant Hunt (4:24)
• 12. No Road Home/Seeing the Bomb (6:10)
• 13. Exsultate Justi (4:59)
* featuring The Ambrosian Junior Choir and soloist James Rainbird
2014 La-La Land Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 108:07

Notes Icon
The 1987 Warner Brothers album's insert includes no extra information about the score or film. That of the 2014 La-La Land set contains extensive notation about both.
Copyright © 2009-2020, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Empire of the Sun are Copyright © 1987, Warner Brothers Records, La-La Land Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/11/09 and last updated 8/10/14.
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