"Empire Of The Sun (1987)"
La-La Land Records
Disc 1: 21 Tracks/Disc Time: 76:05
Disc 2: 10 Tracks/Disc Time: 32:24
Total Set Time: 108:29
Grade: B+ (BEST OF 2014)
After the resounding success of "The Color Purple" in 1985, Director Steven Spielberg was in the beginning of a shift in his career that he would start directing more adult oriented films and leave behind the films that made him the star director. Beginning with the Oscar Nominated "The Color Purple", "Empire Of The Sun", would mark the second of a three film journey of adult fare that finally culminated in the remake of a "A Guy Called Joe" in "Always". "Empire Of The Sun" is based on J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel, that tells the story of James "Jim" Graham (Oscar Winner Christian Bale, in his big screen debut "The Fighter", "American Hustle" whose privileged life is upturned by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, December 8, 1941. Separated from his parents, he is eventually captured, and taken to Soo Chow confinement camp, next to a captured Chinese airfield. Amidst the sickness and food shortages in the camp, Jim attempts to reconstruct his former life, all the while bringing spirit and dignity to those around him. The film also featured a stellar cast that includes Oscar nominee John Malkovich ("Being John Malkovich", "In The Line Of Fire"), Miranda Richardson, Joe Pantoliano ("The Matrix"), Nigel Havers and Ben Stiller ("Zoolander") The film was nominated for six Oscars including Best Original Score.
In speaking of which. Of course, it was a no doubter that Oscar Winner John Williams was going to be the composer of this film after a decade of fruitful collaborations that resulted in Williams winning Oscars for "Jaws" and "E.T." while earning well deserved Oscar nominations for "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind", "Raiders Of The Lost Ark", "Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom" and a memorable rousing score for the much revered comedy "1941" and a simplistic bluesy score for "The Sugarland Express". "Empire Of The Sun" would be Williams most interesting and unique film of the Williams/Spielberg mainly because at the very center is a young boy much like E.T. was but in a real life scenario. The score is centered on two lovely and memorable pieces: "Suo Gan (extended version)" which was performed by The Ambrosian Junior Choir directed by John McCarthy with featured Soloist James Rainbird and "Exsultate Justi (extended version)", which is the counterpiece for the former. Sung in Welsh by Rainbird, the piece is the main theme for Christian Bale's character and a wonderful piece that makes the rest of the score compelling in Williams fashion that has made him one of the greatest composers of this generation and all time.
The album is highlighted by great material in "Lost in the Crowd", "Jim's New Life", "The Streets of Shanghai", "Cadillac Of The Skies", "The Return To The City", "Seeing The Bomb" and "Bringing Them Back". which feature some really harrowing Williams instrumentals and choir which is featured in "Seeing The Bomb" and adds even more tension to the track, while the others feature pure melancholy and subtle material based on the lush themes established earlier and these are the tracks that really do make this album and score memorable for this particular reason. The power of each of these tracks do leave a lasting impression that really garnered more attention when the film was released and give the Academy voters credit for recognizing this score which was worthy of their attention and everyone else's as well. "Liberation: Exsultate Justi" which is the lush and tender finale that features a great choir that is very upbeat and very spirited and the track is given a full rendition with "Exsultate Justi (extended version)" that really showcases the full power and development of the piece which is very memorable.
La-La Land's special expanded release of the score produced in conjunction with Spielberg and Williams is the most definitive version of the soundtrack ever available. The original 1987 Warner Bros. Records album was a solid fifty-five minute presentation that featured the best the score had to offer. Here there's a little more that was missing somewhat from the original release that does make a little difference to an otherwise well produced original album. This two disc set is a very solid listen and a very good album that features that everything Williams wrote for the film as well as some nice added bonuses to be had. I have to admit that I found the score to be a tad repetitive, but the major material that I've mentioned is what makes the score good as a whole. These are some very memorable and underrated Williams pieces that he has often included in his concerts and rightfully so because they worthy of attention. The album is a well produced one by Mike Matessino and should be one of the labels best sellers without question which will please fans of the score and the film which was released on Blu-Ray in a commerative edition a couple of years ago. "Empire Of The Sun" isn't your quintessential John Williams score unlike his brilliant work on "Jaws", "The Indiana Jones Films", "Star Wars" and "E.T.", but it is a very effective score and does it exactly what a Williams score does: be as great as it can be and be unforgettable in the end. Thumbs up, strongly recommended especially for what the original album had to offer.