Score Reviews‎ > ‎

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by John Williams (Review)

posted Dec 20, 2015, 10:44 PM by Koray Savas

It has been 10 years since the last Star Wars film was made, with an infinite amount of arguing and discussion from the fans in between. George Lucas' seminal franchise is possibly the most popular entertainment entity in the world. Everyone knows its story, characters, and music, even if they have not seen any of the films themselves. J.J. Abrams brings the saga back to its roots with the use of traditional special effects, in addition to the return of actors Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher. Most important of all, however, is the return of composer John Williams. The music of Star Wars is an integral part of pop culture, as well as music education. Its main theme is globally recognized and utilized in an endless amount of films and television shows, concert halls and classrooms. All of it a testament to John Williams' genius and talent.

The Force Awakens begins just like the previous Star Wars films, with the main theme on full blast over the opening crawl. However, what follows dodges expectations. Williams relies very little on past themes and variations, delivering a fresh and catered body of music to carry us on this new yet familiar journey. Though Abrams' film is sprinkled with appropriate references and nods throughout, the new heroes rightly take priority over the old ones. Williams' new themes take the center stage, with Rey's theme rising above all the others. The theme is brilliantly majestic and intimate all at once, echoing the character arc for the saga's new protagonist. In addition, it gets some wonderful arrangements throughout the film and album, most notably in "The Jedi Steps And Finale," where Williams entwines it with the Force theme. This cue is an excellent suite of all the new material Williams brought to the table, and is the highlight of the album. Other noteworthy cues include "The Starkiller," "March Of The Resistance," "Snoke," and "Scherzo For X-Wings." The score features Williams' best action writing in years, far surpassing the autopilot nature of The Adventures Of Tintin and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, though some of those traditional orchestral flurries pop up here and there. Regardless, his uncanny ability to inject vigor and charisma into a film is on full display here, bringing exciting flourishes, as well as quieter reflective moments, to the adventure on screen. All the more impressive that this project proved long and arduous enough, for Williams to drop out of scoring Steven Spielberg's Bridge Of Spies. Ultimately, the final product was worth the extra effort, despite the small shortcomings.

Star Wars is a great deal of importance to many people, though perhaps most to John Williams himself. Nearly 40 years later, he his still able to return and bring forth a new bag of themes and motifs that perfectly fit into the established harmonic language of this endearing odyssey. Although it may not reach the influential heights of the original trilogy, The Force Awakens proves to be one of the year's best and most effective film scores. Hopefully the experience of working on this film does not prevent him from returning to score Episode VIII in 2017. Now, back to listening to "Rey's Theme" on repeat.