A not-so-shameful confession: when not working or updating The Second Disc, your humble catalogue correspondent’s free time has been occupied by playing the new Wii game GoldenEye 007, a re-imagining of the Nintendo 64 game updated for the present with a newly retooled storyline by original co-writer Bruce Fierstein and featuring current James Bond star Daniel Craig as the British spy. Though my own hardcore gaming days are largely behind me, I have no qualms saying the game is perhaps the best title for Wii without one of Nintendo’s flagship characters in it. It’s a taut, action-packed game that, along with the new 007 game Blood Stone, will nicely fill the increasingly long wait time until another Bond film is made.
Every attempt is made to make GoldenEye 007 feel like an actual film, including the score personally overseen by current Bond composer David Arnold. Many fans will see this as a godsend, since it means none of Eric Serra’s music for the original film makes the cut. While this is true, it provokes an unpopular opinion from this writer: while many Bond fans and film score geeks absolutely despise Serra’s GoldenEye score, I…actually think it’s not that bad.
For today’s Friday Feature, you get a discussion of the merits of GoldenEye as a film and soundtrack, after the jump.
For a number of reasons, there was a lot of unconventional things about the making of GoldenEye. The film was the first 007 adventure in six years, the longest stretch of time between Bond films in the franchise’s history. In that time, distributor MGM/UA had been sold to another international corporation and sued by the rights holders to the Bond series, a legal proceeding which went on for several years. The film was delayed several times between 1991 and 1994, prompting Timothy Dalton decided to end his tenure as the spy. In his place came Pierce Brosnan, the dashing star of the small-screen spy series Remington Steele (he was in fact picked as Bond after Roger Moore left the role in 1986, but was not allowed by the producers of Steele to take the role). Brosnan perhaps became the first Bond to appeal to both genders and multiple generations; those who enjoyed Sean Connery’s rugged good looks and drag-out action sensibilities could enjoy him as much as those who enjoyed Roger Moore’s romantic, semi-comedic approach to Bond.
GoldenEye also became an interesting film in the series due to real-life historical events. Just a few years prior to production, the Soviet Union had been broken up and the Communist government had collapsed. Soviet spy groups had been one of Bond’s main antagonists since the writing of Casino Royale in 1953, and the film directly tackled the fall of that empire. With the real-life naming of a woman to head England’s military intelligence branch, beloved actress Judi Dench was cast as Bond’s prickly supervisor, M.
What makes GoldenEye easily the best of the Brosnan-era films, though, is its plot: for the first time on film, a subject is dealt with that was touched upon in Casino Royale – the betrayal of Bond by a trusted ally – is addressed. As former 006-turned-criminal-mastermind Alec Trevelyan, Sean Bean was the perfect foil for Brosnan. Both actors’ work elevated a cast comprised of interesting supporting members (including Famke Janssen and Alan Cumming in early co-star turns) and a project full of exotic locales (St. Petersburg, Monte Carlo and a climax filmed in Puerto Rico doubling for Cuba).
For the film’s score, producers turned to Eric Serra, a French composer whose avant-garde work for French action films La Femme Nikita and Leon (known in America as The Professional) made him a hot property. What worked in those films didn’t necessarily translate to a winner to the ears of many. Serra’s pulsing, synth and sample-driven score was harsh to traditional fans, and even the producers seemed to have judged that the score was too modern, hiring another composer to rewrite a John Barry-esque cue for the tank chase sequence. But the film’s slinky, seductive moments are properly accompanied – I’m not sure a traditional orchestral score would have worked – and some of the action cues are just long enough to be catchy. (“Run, Shoot and Jump” is one of the best examples of GoldenEye‘s mood music.)
The film also benefitted from a classy title track. Tina Turner sang “GoldenEye” excellently, but the most intriguing thing about the song may be its writing credits; Bono and The Edge of U2 wrote the tune, though it’s unknown if U2 ever intended to perform the track. (All that exists is an unreleased demo.)
- GoldenEye – Tina Turner
- The GoldenEye Overture
- Ladies First
- We Share the Same Passions
- A Little Surprise for You
- The Severnaya Suite
- Our Lady of Smolensk
- Whispering Statues
- Run, Shoot, and Jump
- A Pleasant Drive in St. Petersburg
- Fatal Weakness
- That’s What Keeps You Alone
- Dish Out of Water
- The Scale to Hell
- For Ever, James
- The Experience of Love – Eric Serra