Five Things We Love About Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Soundtrack
Hey folks, we’ve got a brand-new Star Wars movie coming out this week! Which also means we’ve got a brand-new score from the maestro John Williams to enjoy. The soundtrack has a solid score with plenty of the composer’s typical bombastic, soaring themes and fun callbacks to the original trilogy.
After listening to the soundtrack countless times already, here are five things we love about the new (and possibly final) Star Wars score from John Williams.
The Imperial March Returns
There are a number of callbacks to the original trilogy on this new album, which delves right into the Emperor’s theme in the opening track. It’s the big rendition of the “Imperial March” in “The Old Death Star” that really gets the nostalgia juices flowing. Williams teased the theme briefly in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but really gives it some muscle on this album (especially in its brief appearance during Journey to Exegol). For the kids playing at home, the “Imperial March” first appeared in 1980 The Empire Strikes Back, but still packs a punch all these years later. That’s how good it is.
Also, of note, “Yoda’s Theme” makes an appearance in “Destiny of a Jedi.” And though it’s mostly a beat for beat retread of Yoda and the Force from The Empire Strikes Back, it’s still a pleasant surprise when it pops up.
The Rise of Skywalker Theme
The downside to this new trilogy is that Williams didn’t craft a truly standout theme ala “Duel of the Fates” or “Battle of the Heroes.” Oh sure, Rey’s theme works for the character — playful, but heroic when called upon — and Kylo Ren’s theme is appropriately sinister, but neither theme has much power behind it. Enter the “Rise of Skywalker” track, the CD’s lone concert piece; a sweeping arrangement that hearkens back to the composer’s emotional music from the early Smallville scenes in Superman; and, to a lesser extent, the heavier themes found in The Patriot. Lush, moving, melancholy, and heroic, The Rise of Skywalker theme perfectly encapsulates the emotions one is sure to feel at the end of the Star Wars journey.
Action Music Galore
Early reviews suggest The Rise of Skywalker is big, and there are enough action cues on this album to confirm such statements. Tracks such as “The Speeder Chase,” “Fleeing from Kijimi,” and “The Final Saber Duel” are laced with appropriate levels of bombast and wild energy, while “Battle of the Resistance” predictably leans on the “Resistance Theme” as heard in Scherzo for X-Wings in The Force Awakens. Again, nothing quite as striking as “Duel of the Fates,” or “Battle of the Heroes,” but still fun.
Williams Goes Dark
Williams has a lot of fun with the darker aspects of the score in tracks such as “Anthem of Evil,” which opens with a choir reminiscent of the one heard in Artificial Intelligence — during the introduction of the highly advanced robots. No? Don’t remember that cue? Do you even remember that movie? The choir builds and then quiets again for more eerie underscore before exploding into a theme similar to the Emperor’s, albeit with a little more heft.
The darker music plays out even better in “Approaching the Throne,” which feels like vintage Star Wars, replete with a heavy underscore that culminates in a (very brief) bombastic choir — something we wanted more of.
The Final Five Tracks
Beginning with “The Force is with You,” the rest of the album is absolutely superb. “The Force is with You” feels very reminiscent of the music heard during Vader’s sacrifice at the end of Return of the Jedi — the Force theme even emerges from the Emperor’s in a similar manner — whilst “Farewell” is packed with poignant renditions of Rey’s and Kylo’s themes before segueing into aforementioned “The Rise of Skywalker” cue. “Reunion” is classic Star Wars with playful bits from Yoda’s theme that morphs into the classic Luke and Leia concert piece.
“A New Home” is perhaps the album’s most haunting track — a quiet, Harry Potter-esque piece of music that incorporates a much darker version of Rey’s theme than we’ve heard before. The track is lonely, sad, and very intriguing.
Finally, we get the typical Star Wars finale, reminiscent of the version heard at the end of The Force Awakens, followed by a lengthy 11-minute cue packed with the usual assortment of themes we’ve heard over the years.
While not an amazing score — at least as heard on the album — The Rise of Skywalker easily marks Williams’ best work on this new trilogy. The lack of fresh themes is disappointing, but the score overall remains a rousing bit of film music that perfectly encapsulates that galaxy far, far away. And really, assuming this truly marks the end of the John Williams-Star Wars saga, what a fitting way to cap off an astounding legacy.
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