Sunday, October 21, 2012

A View To A Kill - A Look Back At The Opening Title Themes To The 90s Bond Films

The opening sequence of the James Bond films are some of the most iconic in movie history. With the exception of Dr. No, every Bond movie begins with an action set-piece to set up the story, followed by a montage with the movie's theme song playing. With every upcoming 007 movie, people speculate who will perform the theme to the next movie. Skyfall, the next in movie in the franchise, will have Adele as the performer of the title theme song, as many have predicted. In the early days, the producers went with fairly safe choices to perform the theme song to the movies, choices like 3-time performer Shriley Bassey or Tom Jones (who only did it once). By the mid 80s, the producers decided to get more upcoming artists like a-Ha and Duran Duran to perform the title credits, maybe in hopes to bring in a younger audience. The 90s had a mix of established, safe and interesting choices to perform the theme, more or less in that order. We'll take a quick look at the themes performed for the three 90s Bond films, and take a look at how well they fit in with the series.

GoldenEye - Performed by Tina Turner
Tina Turner is a pop icon, and a well deserved choice to perform the theme to the 1995 Bond movie. The thing here is that the franchise had a six year gap in between films, and the franchise needed to be injected to a new era. While Tina Turner would seem like a safe choice, she's also a performer who very well suits the franchise. The vocal delivery is sultry, and Tina definitely knows how to hit the right notes during the chorus of the song. The instrumentals have a nice lurking pace to them, starting quiet and building up to something more grand in the chorus. It also doesn't hurt that Bono and The Edge (half of U2, basically) had a hand in the theme song. The montage itself is a great depiction of the fall of Cold War Russia, and the use of CGI brings the opening out of cheesy territory of the 80s era films (though the lack of barely visible nip slips will sorely be missed). This was a great way to bring the series out of the 80s and into the 90s.

Tomorrow Never Dies - Performed by Sheryl Crow
I read somewhere that many artists submitted their version of the theme to Tomorrow Never Dies. k.d. Lang would have had the theme to the movie in the form of "Surrender", but the producers ended up going with Sheryl Crow. Her performance of the theme is pretty good, as the whole sound of the song feels like something you would hear in a smoky lounge. It's a mellow paced theme, but it's a theme that really doesn't feel out of place in the 007 franchise. It's also the longest theme of all the films if you go by it's single running time (at nearly 5 minutes). The opening montage mixes it's themes with media (like television and internet), as well as blend in some old themes of 007 past (like the sequence of diamonds spinning around the woman's neck). Sheryl seemed like a very safe choice to do the Bond theme to TND, which is unlike the next artist on the list....

The World Is Not Enough - Performed by Garbage
If you were to ask me what my favorite theme song to a Bond movie would be, it's this one. Yes, maybe I'm biased because I've been a long time fan of Garbage, but it's also one of the best produced songs done for the franchise. Some may have complained that the group really played it safe in terms of the songs production, but I feel like they not only were respectful to the franchise, but also understood what the theme should sound like. The instrumentals are very grand and dramatic, but also play dark when they need to be. You can hear Garbage's production in the instrumental portion of the theme, but it's not as blatantly obvious as their typical music. Shirley Manson's delivery of the vocals have a menacing quality to theme, and as she herself put it, it was meant to be heard from Elektra King's point of view. The montage of the opening titles is heavy on the CG, in some ways too CG to make it look a bit dated today. But there's a lot of play with the oil as the movie's main theme, and it's one of the more colorful opening sequences since "A View To A Kill".

Garbage was one of the last great performers of the Bond title theme until Adele's recent turn as the act to open a 007 movie. Madonna's turn in "Die Another Day" wasn't awful as far as a Madonna song goes, but it didn't really fit in with the franchise. Chris Cornell's theme for "Casino Royale" was respectable, but Jack White and Alica Keys theme for "Quantum Of Solace" was too produced and experimental for it's own good. At least Adele is bringing things back to where things left off in the 90s, and at least it isn't the mumbling mess that a-Ha did in 1987.

1 comment:

  1. Great list. I think Adele's song is great compared to the '87 theme especially. Excited for the upcoming movie!