‘Star Wars’ Soundtrack a force of its own
83-year-old John Williams is arguably the greatest film composer in history. Over the
course of his impressive career, he has scored some of the world’s most successful films: the Indiana Jones series, Superman, Jaws, and E.T., to name a few. But Williams is perhaps best known for providing the soundtrack for cinema’s most legendary franchise: Star Wars.
The series’ newest installment, The Force Awakens, is, at its core, a two-hour homage to the Original Trilogy. Alongside the return of beloved characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia appears the resurgence of the most familiar Star Wars musical motifs; a strong sense of nostalgia pervades the entire soundtrack.
The Force Awakens catapults into the main theme before “The Attack on the Jakku Village” accompanies the intense opening scene. This piece serves as a phenomenal introduction to not only the film as a whole, but also to the First Order: dark, powerful, and highly redolent of the Galactic Empire. It also includes the arrival of Kylo Ren’s theme, an imposing five-note motif that follows the villain throughout the movie.
“The Scavenger” is an overall desolate piece, reflecting the solitude of Rey’s desert planet, Jakku. Its more whimsical interlude is repeated in “Rey’s Theme,” a fresh, adventurous piece that flourishes and mystifies; much like Rey, it exudes hope and wonder. It contrasts dramatically with Snoke’s theme, a sinister plainsong that eerily resembles “Palpatine’s Teachings” from Revenge of the Sith.
“March of the Resistance” is a standout selection, reminiscent of A New Hope’s “The Battle of Yavin” and “The Throne Room.” With its sweeping heroism, it expertly unites two generations of rebels.
One of Williams’ true strengths lies in his ability to compose dynamic action sequences. The energetic “Scherzo for X-Wings” appears during the Resistance’s attack on Starkiller Base and includes a variation on the main theme. “The Falcon” represents a suspenseful space joy-ride, while “Follow Me” recalls “Imperial Attack” from A New Hope.
“Farewell and The Trip” are beautiful, uplifting pieces that echo two of the series’ most significant leitmotifs: “Binary Sunset” from A New Hope and “Han Solo and the Princess” from The Empire Strikes Back. Rey’s theme is recalled briefly before gradually segueing into “The Jedi Steps,” the movie’s most climactic and emotional sequence.
At no point in the film is the soundtrack overbearing or obnoxious. Instead, it serves to enhance each scene. While the new soundtrack may not be as memorable as its predecessors, it nevertheless is a welcome addition to Williams’ professional catalog.