Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Skyfall (2012) | Music

During production of Skyfall, regular Bond composer David Arnold was working on the music for the 2012 Summer Olympic ceremonies, but he contends that it was something else that lost him the Skyfall job. And he's probably right. Director Sam Mendes had worked with composer Thomas Newman on every one of his films except Away We Go, which used original songs by singer Alexi Murdoch. It made sense that he'd want to work with him again on Skyfall, and indeed Newman has also written the score for Mendes' SPECTRE.

For the theme song, Sony recommended Adele to Eon Productions. They agreed and Adele wrote the song with Paul Epworth, who'd produced her 21 album. The music is oh so cool and sinister, but Adele's voice and the lyrics turn it into a positive song about two people - Bond and M, in the film - who help each other overcome their obstacles. It's cool, it's sexy, it's uplifting. I've been dreading the decision about whether to let it bump "View to a Kill" from Number One on my list, but now that I'm here, I have no problem doing that.

Daniel Kleinman is also back in top form after a lackluster credits sequence in Quantum of Solace. As Bond - wounded in the teaser - goes over a waterfall and sinks to the bottom of a river, the theme song starts and a hand grabs Bond. It then becomes a giant hand, pulling Bond into a hole of swirling sand.

The rest of the credits could be a dream Bond has as he's dying. There are images of him as a shooting range target with blood pouring from a hole in his shoulder. Later, the same Bond-targets are on fire, burning into nothing.

But there's a cool narrative through the credits sequence, too. Image leads to image, so we're underwater with some women and guns are falling around us, then we move through the cloud-like sand and the seaweed becomes a forest of trees with a cemetery and falling daggers. The cemetery leads us to the gate of the Skyfall estate, which leads us to the house, which has a crack in it, which is filled with Bond's face, and then we zoom into his eye. And on and on. The whole thing is weird and beautiful with some images - like the targets and the Skyfall house and gate - reappearing as the drowning Bond's mind returns to them.

I can't quite explain why he's hallucinating about Chinese dragons, but that country does figure heavily into the movie and the dragons look great, so who's complaining.

I loved most of Arnold's stuff on the movies he did, but Newman is great too. He's certainly a lot more free with the Bond Theme than Arnold was on the last two films. That's appropriate though, since Skyfall is getting the series back to basics.

The fanfare to the Bond Theme pops up by itself a couple of times: when Bond catches the train during the cold open and again at the end when Silva blows up the Aston Martin. There's also a nice, acoustic guitar version playing as Bond leaves the casino in Macau.

The first time we hear the full Theme is when Bond's air support shows up at Silva's island. That seems like a curious place to put it, since Bond isn't doing anything cool at the time. But then I thought about how Skyfall is reintroducing the idea of any kind of support to Bond's world. After lone-wolfing it for two movies, Bond now has a team to work with: particularly Moneypenny and Q. Playing the Bond Theme as he's being rescued then becomes a subtle way to reinforce the idea that he's really not Bond without his friends.

The other two times we get the full Theme are total nostalgia blasts: When Bond takes the Aston Martin out of storage and when he faces his new M in the new (old) office. That last time leads into the closing credits which feature a David Arnold remix of the Bond Theme that then leads into a medley of Newman's various pieces for the film.

Sadly, the gun barrel sequence is at the end again for the second film in a row. I don't have really strong feelings about that, but I also don't see the point in moving it. It's starting to annoy me.

Top Ten Theme Songs

1. Skyfall
2. A View to a Kill
3. "Surrender" (end credits of Tomorrow Never Dies)
4. "You Know My Name" (Casino Royale)
5. The Living Daylights
6. "Nobody Does It Better" (The Spy Who Loved Me)
7. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
8. Diamonds Are Forever
9. You Only Live Twice
10. From Russia With Love (instrumental version)

Top Ten Title Sequences

1. Casino Royale
2. Skyfall
3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
4. Dr No
5. Thunderball
6. Goldfinger
7. GoldenEye
8. From Russia with Love
9. The Spy Who Loved Me
10. Die Another Day

1 comment:

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

In addition to recognizing the On Her Majesty's Secret Service music in the Spectre trailer, your retrospective also came to mind when I learned that the new film's song is titled "The Writing's on the Wall". I don't know if I'll be able to chunkle at Bronson's quip in "Goldeneye" the same way again.


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