Tuesday, 2 January 2018



Whilst Michael Giacchino did more than an effective job in crafting an all-new galaxy of intriguing and different character scores and incidental music for the realms of the anthology movie birth that was the 2016 acclaimed Rogue One, it's now time for the master of all things Star Wars music-related to return to the legacy of which he has become fused so symbiotically. Yes, John Williams is back, delivering an intense, exciting and darkly operatic score for The Last Jedi that's now emerging from Christmas cinemas screens and on to our home music systems, for nearly eighty minutes of superb work available on CD and online from Disney/Universal Music.

Despite the use of world recognized themes from the saga in key selected places, Williams scores for the modern Star Wars cinematic saga beyond the joyous 1977 - 83 originals have quite rightly been geared towards fresh new musical advancement, and pieces that have subsequently varied in tone to match that of subsequent films, most notably veering towards darkness rising inside the multi-layered and underappreciated Prequels of 1999-2005. Whereas Williams 2015 score for the franchise re-start of The Force Awakens was upbeat and memorable from the start, this new set of work for The Last Jedi takes us back to edgier and bolder directions with many of its chosen tracks, and needs a couple of hearings to be fully appreciated for its subtle complexities: the score cleverly layered with drama, emotion and rousing spirit in a film that dares to take risks with the new sequel era's storytelling. As writer/director Rian Johnson's pulls the strings for our characters on this out-of-our-comfort-zone adventure, he is well complemented by the experienced Williams, who really gives the film the powerhouse enhancements needed not just to flatter the striking visuals but also embellish the important scenes that will ultimately test audiences beliefs and opinions on the modern Star Wars era like never before. The music for The Last Jedi feels necessarily sombre yet spectacular, in that stirringly accomplished and unique way that only Williams can deliver, fused with his powerful instincts for generating emotional undercurrent lining: the awakening of minds and hearts to new directions, the passing of a torch of destiny and hope amidst a survivalist air of dignity yet also desperation affecting the shrinking-in-numbers Resistance force originally built by Leia Organa, and a building struggle of identity and legacy affecting the complex nature of the film's three main characters and their links o the light and dark natures of the Force: isolated icon Luke Skywalker, the bitter, power-mad Kylo Ren, and the still fledgling heroine, Rey.

The Resistance must survive! Film images: Disney/Lucasfilm.

Several of The Force Awakens keys themes are thankfully retained for The Last Jedi, notably the enchanting composition for the no longer solitary Rey, the intimidating darkness for Kylo Ren, and the superb and never-fails-to-be-rousing March of the Resistance, yet Episode VIII, to its great credit, also has much new material to recommend it: debut character Rose Tico gets a plucky, innocent and upbeat theme, whilst the almost devastated and in-fighting Resistance gets a bold new re-shaped beginning with The Rebellion is Reborn. Other key highlights include the always scene-setting, evocative and beloved Main Title theme leading us into the highly-charged Escape (where the March of the Resistance theme is effectively shot down with tragedy in the wake of their brutal battle against a newly arrived First Order fleet), the quirky and fun piece for the gambling world of Canto Bight (with its steel band echoes to the original Cantina Band music of 1977), and the emotional and soaring use of brass for the young audience-friendly liberation scene involving The Fathiers. Finally, a special mention of A New Alliance, and its dizzying blitzkrieg of action incidental music for one of the most intense and colourful lightsaber battles ever seen on screen.

Can the once 'New Hope' help Rey?

Not forgetting our vital Legacy heroes return with Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, Williams brings their themes back to new glory and appreciation in ways that more than effectively play on our emotional heart strings. Luke's once theme of innocence and heroism with the Force, and his former life/destiny as a hero, is given further character shading extensions by Williams that reflect Luke's now haunted nature and the astonishing isolationist powers he commands from a self-exiled and meagre existence on Ahch-To (incredible abilities most notably prescient via the score's eighteenth track, which we won't name for spoilers). Meanwhile, the beautiful and passionate theme for Princess Leia has never been more resonant and poignant with the loss of Carrie Fisher, brilliantly highlighted in The Supremacy and Old Friends. When their theme of bother and sister, Luke and Leia, from Return of the Jedi emerges with The Spark, this reviewer never fails to get a lump in his throat and well-up tears. Another Jedi favourite's emergence from the Force, giving Luke continued spiky advice, also proves nostalgic and welcome within The Scared Jedi Texts, whilst further joy comes with the return of the TIE fighter battle music from the original 1977 film, never failing to exhilarate nor be so well placed during a section of the The Battle of Crait.

Daisy Ridley with John Williams at one of the film's scoring sessions in the US.

An admirable continuance of the past and present, The Last Jedi is another triumphant score from Williams for that galaxy far, far, away. As if there were ever any doubt that the Master wouldn't deliver here! Though it will of course be interesting to see what will happen next with the musical destiny of the characters - now starting anew from within a cramped Falcon, ready to reignite the flames of rebellion - once the composer is reunited with his good friend J.J. Abrams for the Episode IX wrap-up of 2019.


Get the soundtrack here:

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