It's no easy thing to create a unique and memorable all-new score for a STAR WARS film after the prior work of the legendary John Williams and his own incredible, now mythic, compositions across eight adventures (so far)- very much the important tonal barometer co-star of the series. In 2016, with the dawn of a new cycle of standalone franchise films, Michael Giacchino had the first and unenviable task of being that opening salvo successor for a live action film, of which his results for Rogue One's dark and edgy war movie-esque tale ultimately proved most impressive. Now, top British talent John Powell (best known for his work on The X-Men, The Jason Bourne saga, and Shrek) takes up the mantle for the second standalone film that is the newly released Solo: A Star Wars Story, and his musical results are even more impressive: a truly rich tapestry of diversity across twenty marvellous and memorable tracks you'll want to listen to again and again- full of energy, romance, thrills and a sense of camaraderie emotion and tenderness as the story unfolds. Powell delivers a score that more than triumphantly enhances Ron Howard's splendid film, though its also helped by the presence of the Williams legacy too, both from Star Wars past and its present...
|A high-speed getaway for Han and Qi'ra launches the Corellia Chase. All STAR WARS images: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd.|
Having been the only character from the original trilogy to not be musically represented/rewarded with his own score, it was only fair and fitting that Williams created one (actually two, which would ultimately be fused together) for space scoundrel Han Solo, and for use in this film especially. And it's another great: The Adventures of Han shows us a troubled but ready to fight young man always on the move, wanting to escape the bonds of criminal slavery and become the best star pilot in the galaxy. Powell takes the theme further with Meet Han, and develops it, making it darker and even more compelling as we see just how bad the character's life is as the film starts on the industrial world of Corellia, where we witness his thirst to escape with his partner and lover Qi'Ra, of whom he'll ultimately be separated for the next three long years. Echoing shades of Raiders of the Lost Ark's charming theme for Marion Ravenwood, which itself cleverly evoked the classic 'noir' films of the forties and females that were always full of strong, confident, beautiful female leads, Powell's work in crafting a piece for Qi'ra (heard in Lando's Closet) is most rewarding, both stirring and lovely, yet also hinting at the darkness and suffering she has prior endured, fused alongside a future for her character that can only truly lead in one direction. Elsewhere, Powell gets experimental with the strong tribal echoes of Enfys Nest and that renegade's band of flying marauders (a powerful and seemingly violent tone tribal chorus for the criminal rival to Han and Tobias Beckett that is eventually, cleverly twisted to become part of a unique integrity and destiny for the character and followers once their real motives are fatefully revealed), and has fun with the quirky and playful endeavours of the slick gambler/hot pilot Lando Calrissian alongside a charming semi-military comedy march for his dedicated-to-a-cause droid co-pilot L3-37.
|Hang on tight, Han. It's a Train Heist.|
|Time for a little romance in the Falcon.|
|The mystery and danger of Enfys Nest.|
As the film's direction heads towards the echos of the wild west genre, of which so much of Star Wars is a space fantasy celebration, tracks like Train Heist exhilaratingly surround the thrills and dangers of Tobias Beckett's gang at work, whilst the spirited Mine Mission and Break Out enjoy their echoes to the classic past adventure movie tracks of the sixties, like Ron Goodwin's courageous Where Eagles Dare. Pushing the boundaries of Hyperspace to the limit, Into the Maw and Savareen Stand-Off further prove suitably barnstorming, with highly charged, effective use of brass and percussion for the scenes where the near-shattered Falcon and its creature pursuer are trapped in a gravity well, whilst the stirring Classic Trilogy end theme cues by John Williams make nostalgically splendid, lump-in-the-fanboy-throat returns with L3 & Millennium Falcon, alongside the ever-thrilling and heart-pumping TIE fighter Attack and Asteroid Field Chase themes back for Reminiscence Therapy and Into the Maw, now cleverly intermixed with the new Han accompaniment.
|Classic music returns during the thrill ride Into the Maw.|
As Han's life and emotional challenges in this baptism of fire culminate with the darkly subdued Good Thing You Were Listening, and Testing Allegiance, the film ends on a quirky then spirited high with Dice & Roll, as our gradually more seasoned hero and his liberated co-pilot Chewbacca launch a new career as free agents, charge to that little world of Tatooine with a new spirit of enthusiasm and adventure. What could possibly go wrong?! The Sky, nay the galaxy's, the limit!
|Soundtrack back cover track listing.|
STAR WARS AFICIONADO rating: Truly an essential purchase, this is another musical triumph for the Star Wars universe that feels fresh and daring yet also full of classic character. More please from John Powell for future cinematic outings, once the current sequel saga goes in new directions after EPISODE IX. 4.5 out of 5
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With thanks to Walt Disney Records UK for their help with the creation of this article.
John Powell talks about the score: