Javier E. Trujillo ponders Hans Zimmer’s involvement in No Time to Die.
Approximately two months ago, James Bond Radio reported they had heard that composer Dan Romer may be exiting his role on the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die. As has been the case with this production, Eon kept mum and nothing else was heard on the matter, leaving fans to wonder if there was any truth to the rumor. Speculation broke early this year that possibly someone from Zimmer’s company, Remote Control, would get the nod to take the reins if Romer had indeed exited. This led to some championing names like Lorne Balfe or Henry Jackman as good candidates to assume the duties.
Speculation ended on January 6th when Jon Burlingame, no stranger to 007 fans as the author of The Music of James Bond, broke on Variety that Hans Zimmer himself would take over as the film’s composer. Burlingame further states, and without official confirmation, that due to the tight release schedule, he may have to take on help to meet the date. Names have been touted like Benjamin Wallfisch and Lorne Balfe to be possible collaborators. With 85 days until the UK release as of this writing, they’ll have to hurry.
With ten Oscar nominations, including one win for The Lion King (1994), the composer of films like Rain Man, Gladiator, Driving Miss Daisy, Mission: Impossible II, and The Dark Knight Trilogy, had many fans excited at the news. Others, like myself, felt a sense of trepidation that we weren’t out of the woods yet. As heralded as he is, recent scores have felt very similar, with heavy percussion driving the music forward and a few droning notes held and repeated. A very far cry from the sound John Barry defined the series with and David Arnold carried forward into the new millennium.
It’s easy to lump Zimmer’s current musical output with a broad stroke and characterize it a certain way, but it’s not all ominous heavy notes. One only has to look to 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Interviews with Zimmer around that time mention him wanting to get away from the “dark” of Batman and bring more of the “light” to Spider-Man. He also mentions the lack of an iconic theme for the Wall-Crawler. Teamed with “The Magnificent Six”, whose members include the likes of Pharrell, Johnny Marr, and Junkie XL, Zimmer did provide a rousing melody that accompanied several heroic moments in the movie. It’s possible Zimmer could bring familiar Bond leitmotifs to bear, something the film needs after the score for SPECTRE to make 007 fans happy.
No mention has been made yet of the main title song. One would hope that this late in the game it’s been decided and hopefully recorded. If so, that could make Zimmer’s job easier as he could work it into his score if the tune has been figured out. Using the main title theme in the music itself has been a key element in a James Bond score. Look at On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Living Daylights, and Tomorrow Never Dies. Whilst the latter doesn’t have the Sheryl Crow song prominently in the score, it does close with the David Arnold composition, Surrender. Surrender itself was meant to be the theme by Arnold and its melody is felt throughout the entire film’s runtime, along with, most importantly, past John Barry cues that heavily relied on variations of The James Bond Theme. For those unsatisfied with Eric Serra’s contribution to Goldeneye, it was a cause for rejoicing. If Zimmer follows Arnold’s example of being true to the Barry sound with liberal doses of The James Bond Theme, audiences around the world could be in for an aural treat as we say goodbye to Daniel Craig.
The Bond sound is very distinct and there has been little evidence of that style in Zimmer’s work. It doesn’t mean he can’t do it and I sincerely hope he can. Bond music should be melodic, jazzy, brassy, and elegant. The right score can make or break a film. The right melody can bring life to a scene and say the unspoken words needed. Consider a scene in Die Another Day – Bond has been held prisoner and tortured for over a year, then detained by his own government, who believe he may have been leaking intelligence. He makes his escape to a nearby hotel, soaking wet, disheveled with scraggly hair and unkempt beard. As he saunters in wearing hospital pyjamas, David Arnold’s track, Kiss of Life, says he might not look like it, but this is JAMES BOND. The way the horns sound off their notes lets you know this is the coolest, suavest guy in the room. If Zimmer and his team can capture this raw essence of 007, No Time To Die will be in good hands.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking down to zero and Bond fans all over the world wait with bated breath for future announcements as we reach the home stretch. If the first trailer was any indicator, we are in for something special to close out the Daniel Craig era. I raise a martini in hopes that he goes out on a high note.
Javier E. Trujillo is a lifelong fan of all things 007. He can be reached on Twitter as @JaviTru.