Tag Archives: The Black Hole

The Force is with them: Disney buy Lucasfilm and are set to return to the Jedi in 2015

With the news of the Walt Disney Company buying up Lucasfilm and announcing a brand new Star Wars trilogy it would appear that as Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker at the end of the original Star Wars, and in turn us the audience, ‘the force will be with you…always’. How right the old bearded fella was.
 
You’ve got to feel at least a little bit sorry for all those folk who have only just shelled out for Star Wars (yet again) when it was released on bluray.
 
You’d almost be forgiven for thinking that someone was playing some serious Jedi mind tricks when the news was first unleashed. It was more a case of what Disney? rather than Walt Disney when it was announced last night of the sale of Lucasfilm to the house of mouse for 4.5 billion dollars.
 
That’s more than enough money to fill a sarlacc pit. And that’s not all, laugh it up fuzzball, as Disney then went on to announce that it was slating a new Star Wars for 2015 release, followed by two more after that with Lucas on board as Creative Consultant.
 
As Darth Vader might say: whhhhhhaaaaat!!!
 
Unsurprisingly, that news sent much of the internet and social media into something of a spin and attracted more postings and comments quicker than a death star with its tractor beam on full power.
 
So, was the move by Lucas and Disney right?
 
Certainly, if the stock exchange were open I’d love to see the impact on the Disney share price.
 
They have amassed quite an Empire now, if you’ll pardon the pun, with Marvel, the classic Disney back catalogue, Pixar, and not forgetting The Muppets, all now part of their ranks.
 
Strike them down and they will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine
 
It’s all a far cry from the late 70s when everyone was attempting to jump onto the Star Wars band wagon, Disney itself adding The Black Hole into the mix, which did just that in terms of box office takings, disappeared into a black hole. Other similar sci-fi and fantasy fare from Disney, such as Dragonslayer, Tron and even the animated The Black Cauldron – all with Star Wars undertones in one way or another – all tanked.
 
Certainly its offerings under the Marvel banner, such as The Avengers, have all struck CP30 coloured gold, as did The Muppets reboot, a franchise harking from the late 70s that had also lost its way.
 
But then we come to Disney’s John Carter from earlier this year. In theme and feel it was very much pitched as a Star Wars adventure for a new generation. The till receipts suggested otherwise and it was last seen heading not to Mars but straight into the mouth of that very same Disney black hole.
 
Disney might have a slippery Hoth glacier to climb with fans expectations, but Lucas himself has left the franchise in something of a state and to be fair the quality control rot had been there since…well, a long time ago. You only have to look as far as the Star Wars Holiday Special, The Battle for Endor and Caravan of Courage and of course multiple elements from the prequels, which, rather fittingly, were a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes as Lucas couldn’t see the woods – or should that be words – for the trees.
 
That was the past, so what of the future?

Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels must be sat somewhere waiting for their phones to ring, and who can blame them.
 
In some way shape or form it would be nice if there was a passing of the baton, or should that be lightsaber, from elements of the old cast to the new one. Perhaps even David Prowse might see a way back of sorts, after he and Lucas had a major falling out.
 
It may all be set a long time ago but the reality is that 2015 is not far, far away which suggests that the studio is already some way down the Episode 7 road.
 
Perhaps it will be direct continuation based on the critically and commercially well-received Timothy Zahn novels with followed the Star Wars children as it were.
 
Who knows, Harrison Ford may even get his wish and have Han Solo killed off, just as he wanted in Return.

The purchase of Lucasfilm also raises a multitude of exciting questions and possibilities.
 
What does this mean for the much mooted Star Wars TV series?
 
Does this purchase also include LucasArts and could that mean a Monkey Island film in the not too distant future?
 
For that matter, with Marvel and Lucasfilm under one mouse eared roof could a Howard the Duck reboot be on the cards. I’m not saying it should, just asking.
 
The Henson and Lucas link could of course mean a belated Labyrinth sequel could be a possibility. It has been a long time since the original but look at Tron Legacy and The Dark Crystal follow up is already in the works.
 
Does the Lucasfilm sale have any impact on that other Lucas series, Indiana Jones?
 
The possibilities for related rides etc will be endless at the already well established global Disney parks. It could even be something that emulates the success of the Harry Potter Tour.
 
One other thing, will filming, like it did for the original trilogy, return to the UK?
 
We won’t even mention Jar Jar.

The Return of the Jedi and other characters

Disney might now well be running the bucket of bolts that is star wars but you can be sure, despite the clunky prequels, that this first new film will be no goofy movie (that was Phantom) and that this new trilogy will make the jump to box office lightspeed on, surely, May 4th 2015.
 
Even if it will be without that Alfred Newman 20th Century Fox fanfare, something which has become as synonymous with the franchise as that word crawl, but then moving studios hasn’t done Bond any harm.

Bond and beyond: Remembering John Barry part 2

Dean Newman continues on his musical journey with John Barry expert, Mike Copping, as he talks about two of his favourite Barry scores.

The Black Hole

MC:     The Black Hole for me is one of Barry’s best, although I know a lot of people don’t like it but from a from a Barry fan’s point of view it was one of those scores that seemed to cross over to the people who loved Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams, it crossed that kind of bridge where a lot of his work just doesn’t. Incidently The Black Hole was the first digitally recorded film score with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, by the aforementioned Goldsmith was hot on its heels. Sadly though, because of its rather dubious reputation and it wasn’t quite as successful as the first Star Trek film so the master tapes are perhaps not as well looked after as those stored at Paramount, which is a crying shame.

Goldfinger

MC:     From Bond you would have to include Goldfinger as apart from its impact in the film, that is the album that knocked The Beatles off the number one slot in the US, a soundtrack album knocking The Beatles off number one is just plain crazy, but it happened.

Like many elements of that film the music also pretty much set the standard and was the blueprint for every ensuing Bond adventure since. That was where everything gelled. Monty Norman had written a score for Dr No that Terrence Young (the Director of Bond’s first outing) called ‘mining disaster music’, a phrase which I love, and of course Barry’s total restructuring of the Bond theme firmly established something that had never been heard of before and was completely fresh.”

Although Monty Norman wrote the Bond theme he always credits Barry with creating the definitive arrangement, but my own personal feeling is that Barry created more than just an arrangement, he extended the melody and created the bee-bop section and all that.”

As the title suggests the thing that makes James Bond forever James Bond, over and above everything else, is not the actor, it’s that score.

David Arnold himself, who is obviously Barry’s replacement, has said that without the music it is just another action film. True there are various Bondian elements such as M, Moneypenny, the gadgets and the globetrotting, but so many films do that these days so the music adds tremendously to the whole character and atmosphere of the thing.

We also have to remember that Barry was also responsible for the title track, sung by Shirley Bassey, again creating the quintisential Bond theme that all others are in the long shadow of.

Because of all of that it has to be Goldfinger, but from a personal point of view I would have said The Living Daylights, Barry’s Bond swansong, or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

Musically, at least a lot of the Bonds take place outside of what was happening at the time so Barry was almost working in his own bubble but setting trends at the same time and being very influential because it worked.

Put simply, that is one of the reasons the Bond films are so successful and why they are still making them. The music’s importance should not be underestimated.

DN:     Barry never did return to the Bond franchise, bowing out with an exceptional score to Timothy Dalton’s debut, The Living Daylights (1987), but he did ensure that his musical legacy lived on and helped shape Bond for a new generation  personally recommending David Arnold, who had previously worked on Stargate and Independence Day, to Bond Producer Barbara Broccolli for Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) a score that is largely Barry in tone and feel, something that Arnold, who has helmed the music for the series ever since, has returned to with flashes of Barry in The World Is Not Enough and Casino Royale.

MC:     If you look at his first Bond venture,Tomorrow Never Dies, that is a blatant emulation of Barry in style, especially the pre-credits sequence. Most of that is pure Barry with its blasts of swaggering brass. Since then Arnold has moved away a little from that and given it a bit more punch, a bit more edge adding synth elements and drum machines etc. But it is something he keeps on returning to with for example the ski sequence in The World is not Enough, which is epic and broad, Vespa’s theme in Casino Royale and of course THAT familiar tune at the very end. Bond is only complete when that theme is heard. No theme, no 007, literally.

DN:     What now for the future of film music and what of Barry’s legacy?

MC:     For the latter half of the 90s and the Noughties melody was out of fashion and above everything else Barry was a melodist, he wrote just fantastic melodies and sadly they’ve been out of fashion for a number of years. It’s only recently with people like Alexandre Desplat, New Moon,  and Michael Giacchino, Star Trek, actually creating thematic scores that have been successful, which has meant they have come back to the fore and has seen them create dense thematic scores and not just ambient tonal pieces with no real structure.

DN:     Barry, who crushingly had not completed a score for a film in over ten years, was what was known as one of the four key silver age movie composers, pretty much helping shape and influence the last 50 years of film music, alongside John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Jerry Goldsmith, who passed away in 2004. You can’t help but feel that wherever Williams and Morricone where in the world a part of them died along with Barry as the fantastic four (or should that be score) of film music became an even more select group.

MC:     David Arnold did once say if you are going to bring someone new in as Bond then you want to surround him as much of the Bondian elements as possible. With that in mind, in spirit at least, the music of John Barry will return.

John Barry 1933 – 2011

Bond and beyond: Remembering John Barry

For many the composer, John Barry, who died last month aged 77, helped define James Bond on film more than Connery, Moore or Brosnan ever did. What he did was the provide the glue that not only holds the entire Bond franchise all together but also transcended whoever happened to be playing Bond, whether it be for the seventh and final time, with Roger Moore in A View To A kill, or George Lazenby, for his one and only time, with the rarely equalled On Her Majesty’s Secret Service score.

For me he will forever be associated with 007 but through that association I discovered his other work and scores for films that took in everything from Raise the Titanic and The Black Hole to High Road to China and even Howard the Duck, Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and the Hasselhoff Italian Star Wars cash-in, Starcrash.

Barry won five Oscars, including doing the double on Born Free, taking a gold statuette for both best score and best original song. But he not only never won for Bond, he was never even nominated for Bond, criminal when you think of the powerful and memorable scores to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger.

The latter did have the prestige of knocking The Beatles off the top of the album chart in the US, no mean feat, almost unthinkable when you consider it is a film score. John Lennon may have claimed he was bigger than Jesus, if that’s the case then Barry was the God of film music.

In the first of a two part exclusive interview, Dean Newman talks to John Barry and film score expert, Mike Copping, who is one of the top John Barry collectors in the country, about Barry’s defining movie music moments.

DN:     Barry produced 11 Bond scores, how do you think he felt being so closely associated the series?

MC:     I think he was always grateful to the Bonds and he always thought that they were filmmaking at their highest quality, in terms of technical quality, even if it wasn’t always with the writing in some of the later ones.

DN:     I really love the score to A View To A Kill and think it really raised the quality of a somewhat creaky Roger Moore.

MC:     I’d say that in a good film, most people won’t notice whether the score is bad or not, with a bad film, a good score can actually elevate it, and some films that unfortunately Barry did, the three main science fiction films that he did: Starcrash, The Black Hole and Howard the Duck fall into that category. His musical presence leant a certain class and elegance to the proceedings.

Another film where this was definitely the case was the much maligned Raise the Titantic. The film got universally bad reviews but any review that said anything positive about it more often than not said that one of the pluses was the music. Thematically, elements of the scores to Moonraker (1979), The Black Hole (1979) and Raise the Titanic (1980) are very similar in their tone and feel.

If you listen to the opening bars of Raise the Titanic and listen to the opening frames of the overture from The Black Hole they are very, very or just slightly similar, but so is deep space and the deep ocean as featured in both aforementioned films

DN: What films did Barry win his Oscars for?

MC: With Born Free he won the double, he also took one home for The Lion in Winter, which really foxed everybody as by then everyone pretty much associated him with Bond and didn’t realise that a lot of his training had a lot to do with choral music and big orchestral stuff. And perhaps most famously he won for Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves. (DN: All featuring animals in some way shape or form in their titles or content).

He also received nominations for Mary Queen of Scots and finally Chaplin in 1992.

DN: I find it astounding that he never even received a nomination for any of his work on Bond!

MC: I agree with that very much so, how can you have movie musc that defines a separate genre almost, and is so influential and it doesn’t get a nomination when you get things like For Your Eyes Only (by Rocky composer Bill Conti) and the 70s funked up The Spy Who Loved Me both get nominations.

DN: How can they nominate them but not Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Sectret Service or Diamonds Are Forever?

MC: On Her Majesty’s is just phenomenal. Barry said he pulled out all the stops on that one and I think he felt he over egged it a little but he was over compensating because he didn’t think Lazenby was particularily good so he had to ramp up the Bond elements.

We Have all the Time in the World transcends the film.

DN: In fact the same can be said of many of Barry’s scores, that they transcend the film they were initially intended for and I’m talking beyond Bond here with the likes of the John Dunbar theme from Dances With Wolves and his work on the little seen but well-loved Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

MC: That’s right. Somewhere In Time is technically an SF film even though it’s primarily a love story. Trouble is it’s also widely known as a chick flick, a phrase I hate,

Christopher Reeve projects himself back in time to meet Jane Seymour after falling in love with a photograph of her (her character was an actress) in a Hotel museum devoted to a Play House.

Barry supplied a very romantic score which was more popular than the film, and it has been used at weddings and all sorts of special occasions, and is regarded as a classic.

Next time: Dean discusses two of Mike’s favourite John Barry film scores.