Saturday, February 15, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), by John Williams

It is fortunate that John Williams was able to compose and conduct the score for the final installment of the nine-part Skywalker saga, completing a musical endeavor that he first undertook for the original 1977 film, now known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

As a result, the nine soundtracks stand together as an epic, self-contained body of work spanning 42 years. Williams perhaps may be the only film composer who has made music for that many movies in a franchise, all of them focusing on a core group or family of characters, as well as several Star Wars video games. The only other Hollywood composer who comes close is the late Jerry Goldsmith, who scored five Star Trek movies and wrote the main theme for three Star Trek television series.

Incidentally, Williams is also one of only two major creative talents to be involved in all nine episodes of the Skywalker saga, the other being Anthony Daniels, who has played C-3PO in every one of the main movies (as well as a cameo in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and other guest spots).

Just as Star Wars: Episode IX:  The Rise of Skywalker is an entertaining and enjoyable wrap-up of a nine-part storyline, its soundtrack is just as fitting a musical coda for the entire saga, with a lot of welcome callbacks to iconic themes from the original trilogy.

For example, because of the resurrected presence of Ian McDiarmid’s legendary, villainous Emperor Palpatine, the Imperial March makes a triumphant return, along with Palpatine’s appropriately dark and sinister throne room motif.

Williams has also come up with a new episodic theme, bearing the film’s title, The Rise of Skywalker, that is moving and poignant, with a sense of wistful reflection and a view to a hopeful new future.

And for a first (and possibly the last) in a Star Wars score, the opening arrangement of the main title theme, along with the fanfare, appears near the conclusion of the end credits, perhaps signifying the final curtain call, at least for the beloved original trilogy characters.

In what is most likely his final Star Wars soundtrack, John Williams offers up one of the series’ best musical entries, right up there with A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens.

--Raj Manoharan

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