Let’s get this out of the way: I do not really care about Star Wars. I do like them, or to be clear, some of them, but that is all. They hold no special place in my heart, nor do I really excitedly wait for the following episodes. Or, even better, spin-off sequels: clearly you did such a bang-up job with the previous prequels that another one just had to happen.
However, if there’s one place where even the subpar installments shine, it’s John Williams’ film score.
The original Star Wars trilogy contains some of the most iconic pieces of music in the history of cinema. Practically everyone recognizes the triumphant main theme and the oppressive Imperial March. Hell, “Cantina Band” was a Billboard #1 Hit in 1977 (Fun Fact: the official in-universe name of the genre of music “Cantina Band” represents is “jizz”. No, really.)
However, due to the style of John Williams, a lot of the music doesn’t really evoke the feeling of ‘space’ or ‘science fiction’. Nothing in the soundscape places the score in a galaxy far, far away. Maybe Williams just went for the general feeling of ‘adventure’; if so, his mission was successful, and netted him an Academy Award for “A New Hope”, and nominations for the two sequels.
Episodes I, II and III of Star Wars usually do not receive much love or many kind words. However, if there’s something the trilogy shines on, it’s its music. Or rather, the music is still on par with the originals, while the rest of the movies clearly are not. This kind of makes the music of the films stand out even more. Williams returned to score the prequels, cleverly borrowing from his own work: “Anakin’s Theme”, while mostly hopeful and calm, every now and then borrows a quick sting from “Imperial Theme”, giving the track an ominous undertone. If something could be said is that some of the climactic battle music relies a bit too much on bombastic choirs, drowning out anything else.
Curiously, Williams was not nominated for Academy Award for his work on any of the prequel movies, probably by association. Can’t say I really blame the Academy for that one.
The seventh episode in the Star Wars saga was rather well received by both critics and the fans. Once again, Williams returned to score the film, reworking his old themes and borrowing elements to much lesser extent than with the prequels. Tracks like “Rey’s Theme” and “March of the Resistance” stand entirely on their own in the many, many hours of orchestral music heard in the Star Wars movies. If I had one gripe with the score, it is that most of the action-oriented and tense tracks seem to rely a bit too much on the fast-paced, seesawing strings.
John Williams’ score was nominated for The Force Awakens, confirming my suspects that even if you make good music for a bad movie. 84-year-old Williams will be composing the score for Episode VIII as well, and probably will do the same for Episode IX, provided he doesn’t die before that.