Quick Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Music composed by John Williams
Music conducted by John Williams
Music orchestrated by John Williams, William Ross
Music recorded at Sony Scoring Stage
Album running time: 76 minutes
Available on Walt Disney Records

Hard to believe we've gotten three separate trilogies of Star Wars.  And best of all, nine films worth of John Williams.  His scores to the Original Trilogy (1977-1980-1983) are deemed classics by fans and critics alike.  His Prequel Trilogy scores (1999-2002-2005) were some of the best features of the films.  And now his Sequel Trilogy (2015-2017-2019) comes to a close. 

The Force Awakens let Williams introduce new thematic material for the new characters, and also allowed plenty of room to fit in themes from the Original Trilogy.  The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker seemed to give more than enough reverential treatment to the past themes.  From this trilogy, Rey and Kylo Ren's respective themes naturally get the most usage.  We do get reprises of the Resistance March, Luke's theme, Leia's theme, Yoda's theme, Poe's theme, the Force theme and also the Emperor's theme, among others.  This new film adds Anthem of Evil, Rise of Skywalker theme, and trio theme, among other motifs mentioned later. 

Fanfare and Prologue of course opens with the main title scroll before jumping into the darker side of the story.  We hear Kylo Ren's theme, the Knights of Ren motif, a seductive motif from Revenge of the Sith and an eerie rendition of the Emperor's theme.  Journey to Exegol brings large brass statements and featured heavy percussion among Kylo's theme and even a full statement of the Imperial March.

The Rise of Skywalker is a concert suite featuring the Rise of Skywalker theme and trio theme.  The lovely pair of themes use warm woodwind and string writing.  Williams always likes to place his concert tracks near the beginning of the album, but it feels very out of place here.  The Old Death Star brings the sinister side with a growing Imperial March statement.  The Resistance March and Rey's theme are tucked in the arrangement before ending with some orchestral flourishes. 

The Speeder Chase is a lively action set piece.  Frenetic strings dance around a little fanfare motif and other classic Williams action scoring tricks. This track is very different than heard in the film, and includes a concert ending.  Destiny of a Jedi is a great example of musical storytelling utilizing past leitmotifs.  We first hear elements of Rey's theme throughout, with the Force theme underscoring Luke's reappearance.  A low woodwind Anthem of Evil statement precedes tender reprises of Leia's theme, Luke's theme and the trio theme.  The track ends with Yoda's theme/rising X-Wing material from Empire Strikes BackAnthem of Evil is a concert piece utilizing this new thematic material with ghostly choral writing and grand orchestral statements.

Action writing (featuring great brass) highlight Fleeing from Kijimi.  Kylo Ren's theme and Knights of Ren motif get statements, with slight pauses for Luke's theme and trio theme.  We Go Together elaborates on the lovely trio theme, as Poe, Finn and Rey travel to Pasana.  Rey's theme and the Force theme are also reprised and the cue ends with some great dramatic writing.  Join Me features dissonant strings and it gets forceful around the Anthem of Evil theme before building to the darkest statements of Rey's theme so far.  Near the end, there's a bit of sweeping action with Kylo Ren's theme.  

Things turn more heroic in They Will Come with full statements of the Resistance March and the Rise of Skywalker theme.  The Final Saber Duel is more emotional than action, while featuring some orchestral jabs and dynamic transitions from Rey and Ren's theme to the Force theme and Leia's theme.      

Battle of the Resistance runs on orchestral adrenaline.  In between the whirlwind writing, Poe's theme finally appears on album alongside Luke's theme, and several settings Force theme (the action-filled one at the end is marvelous!)  Approaching the Throne is naturally ominous with the lower registers getting statements of Rey's theme and Anthem of Evil.  Midway we switch back to the aerial battle with the Resistance March and Rise of Skywalker theme in new settings.  The track ends with a huge choral appearance.  The Force Is With You brings an almost angelic choir, while Rey's theme is performed on piano before the orchestra takes over.  The orchestra continues with a larger than life Gothic rendition of the Emperor's theme.  Responding back is the Force theme, stronger than ever.  Cutting to the space battle, the Rise of Skywalker theme is heard before a reprise of the Rebel fanfare.

Rey's theme is more subdued and mournful in Farewell, as is Kylo's theme.  The music builds to a large crescendo before a celebratory reprise of the Rise of Skywalker theme with choir.  Reunion is a triumphal leitmotif crash-course with musical appearances from the Force, Poe, Yoda, Rey, Luke and Leia, and trio.  Some don't make much sense in context, but J.J. Abrams had the nostalgia meter cranked to 11.  A New Home builds on Rey's theme combined with elements from The Jedi Steps.  Finale uses one last binary sunset take on the Force theme before transitioning into the lengthy end credits.  For the credits, we hear new arrangements of the trio theme, Anthem of Evil leading into the Imperial March, Rey's theme, and Rise of Skywalker theme.  Finally we arrive at a truncated main title/finale, bringing us back where John Williams started in 1977.  

John Williams is the linchpin that holds all the Star Wars film together.  His importance to the narrative storytelling cannot be overstated.  The scores have left an indelible mark on  film scoring and film making in general.  I'd love to hear expanded editions of the saga, as there are plenty of great moments not on this album.  The Rise of Skywalker didn't meet fan expectations.  The editing and music tracking seems to have created a monster to puzzle together.  For what it's worth, Williams helped bring the trilogy to a close with new themes and a variety of thematic callbacks.  These scores will be listened to and studied for years to come, and I can't wait.

Post a Comment