Tuesday, 1 May 2012

BlogalongaBond #17 - GoldenEye (1995)

(Here is a link to a revised version of my IMDb review of GoldenEye, May 2003)

All new Bond for an all-new Bond. Pierce Brosnan's first outing in the role coincides with the New Labourisation of the franchise, reassuring a conservative fan middle-ground that DB5s are still part of the mix, along with Bollinger, womanising, action and gags. At least in the first post-title scene. With lip service duly paid to the establishment in comes BMW sponsorship, a female M... and the most radical soundtrack to a Bond film since it all began.

√Čric Serra's electro-acoustic experimental/hip hop (yup, you can hear De La Soul in there) score was one of the most controversial elements of GoldenEye on release. A cold, percussive soundworld kicks off from the start with a radical, synthetic gunbarrel, dovetailing nicely with the scale and industrial tableau of the hydroelectric dam that opens the pre-title. In addition to the throwback Bono/Edge-Tina Turner title song which sits oddly against this almost avant garde score, EON, getting cold feet, actually commissioned substitute music for the extraordinary 'tank chase' sequence, hiring John Altman to produce a more traditional orchestral score (which you can see here). There are pockets of romance in Serra's score in the great tradition of John Barry, such as the music that underscores Bond's Cuban downtime before the final act. Here's the DVD special feature - which is typically anodyne - in which Serra speaks about his engagement and which features this romantic interlude:

These relative anomalies aside though the score is startling. It's sci-fi profile uses a predominantly synthetic sound palette with even the choral sections run through various distorting processes. The big themes bubble up from timpani as if escaping from the ore of some cavernous mine. The end result is rather industrial, even martial, conjuring a subterranean space or a different, passed period in time. This is entirely in keeping with the post-cold war setting and subtext. The world of Bond is a 'dinosaur' indeed, as Judy Dench's M puts it.

Additionally, and more to the point, in this most carefully marketed film, the score is an excellent, functional foundation to the music of the video game. GoldenEye 007 for N64 was a genuinely innovative PoV shooter game and a huge commercial success:

GoldenEye isn't a great film but it is a highly professional vehicle for almost every element fans old and potential might want from the franchise. Serra's score is a particularly acute example, which stretches beyond the elastic limit of Bond's aesthetic but in pursuit of an entirely new and crucially, disproportionately large audience base. His involvement is symbolic of a new type of market-driven content - where the content creates a market rather than chases it.

Two years after its release, such innovative, ahead of the curve planning and selling (not to mention a new, young, bouffant-ed leading man) would also win a general election, and Brosnan would go on to play Blair in all but name on screen after both had retired from their most high profile positions.

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