When it was announced that Thomas Newman would be the composer putting pen to paper for the next Bond film, the film score community virtually erupted. Gone was David Arnold and his stylings and in came Thomas Newman. There was much trepidation and unease, Newman having never really tackled an action film of this magnitude before. Many thought that his unusual style, rhythms, and penchant for odd specialty instruments would not be suitable or compatible with a Bond film whose franchise's other scores were all relatively straightforward action scores. Not helping matters much was a youtube preview of the score which debuted a couple of weeks before Skyfall hit theaters, and which featured what turned out to be the most generic music on the album.
However, the film and score debuted and most let out a gasp when they heard Newman's score. If even at the very least, Newman has proven that he has the chops for scoring big action films. Many cues, specifically the opening, will likely get your blood pumping. He perfectly melds his own unique style with the action music Bond demands and it is extremely refreshing to hear. Unfortunately, the Bond theme is only quoted in parts and never in full. While it is fun looking for the little snippets of the bond theme hidden throughout the score, it is still slightly disappointing that it is never heard in its full glory (on album, at least).
The other good aspects of this score are 1) the theme for Severine, and 2)the flow of the album itself. Severine's theme is classic Newman, featuring his usual string washes with his odd chordal progressions that come together to form a theme that is unusually emotional and passionate. Unfortunately the theme is only quoted a maximum of 3 times in the score and is never allowed the time to really develop. The general flow of the album is a high mark as well. Newman has always excelled at ordering the cues for his albums for maximum listening pleasure and he has done just that here. The CD is quite long, but it never seems too long, even if there are certain cues which could have been cut.
Unfortunately, this score is never quite as dynamic nor exciting as previous Bond entries. There are other themes and motifs, to be sure, but none that are memorable enough after the disc has stopped playing. It truly is a shame, though, because while the album is never really boring, much of the underscore is still rather generic, typical Newman. This is truly unfortunate because while it is clear that Newman has action skills, the lack of memorable themes (save Severine's) or above-mediocre underscore really threatens to sink this score in the end. However, there are enough moments or pulse-pounding music littered throughout that the score never really falls too far down.
The pluses and minuses of this score all add up to what is a solidly middling effort in the Bond musical canon. Efficient, workman-like, and occasionally quite exciting, Skyfall has its moments and charms but these positives never fully overcome the weaknesses. Still, I look forward to hearing what Newman could compose for the next Bond film if he is hired back on. This score comes recommended with heavy reservations.