NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE
After seeing The Force Awakens on December 18, my radio pal Rob Daniels who had not seen it yet asked me, “How was it, seeing a Star Wars movie without the 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare at the start?”
It was strange. Not unexpected of course; we all know the reason there is an Episode VII today is because Lucasfilm sold Star Wars to Disney. The old 20th Century Fox fanfare does not commence the soundtrack, which instead begins with the main Star Wars title theme. This quiets and slows, as the covert start to the movie begins.
“The Scavenger” introduces the character of Rey. Add this to yet another intriguing piece of character music from the mind of John Williams. “The Scavenger” is unlike any of the other Star Wars cues; it’s brand new, just like the character of Rey. I get goosebumps hearing it again, such is the power and identity of the score. It also has the tone to connect this new chapter to the other instalments of the saga. This is only a brief respite. Much like the movie itself, the action resumes shortly. The title “I Can Fly Anything” suggests you should fasten your seatbelts for this cue!* Williams allows you to close your eyes and picture the flurry yourself. He always has; that’s his magic. As kids, we would drop the needle on the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back while navigating an asteroid field with our Kenner Millenium Falcons. Or, you would flip the pages of your Marvel Star Wars comic movie adaptations, while listening to those records. The experience still works today. Through the drama and occasional quiet moments of reflection, you will notice callbacks to cues from the classic trilogy — “The Falcon”, or “Han and Leia” for example. These pieces of music are warmly remembered.
When the soundtrack to The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, the track “Duel of the Fates” became a bit of a hit single. There is no “Duel of the Fates” here, but “Rey’s Theme” serves well as the memorable track this time out. With more subtlety (and perhaps even femininity?), “Rey’s Theme” is a new kind of Star Wars music. I have high hopes that the character and story arc will unfold in a way just as emotional and satisfying as her theme music. Star Wars deserves to have characters that you can invest your emotions in. With the prequel trilogy, I could never feel much for Anakin Skywalker. You always knew that no matter what happened in the prequels, he’s just going to end up in the black suit and blowing up Aldaraan. Rey’s future is unwritten. Having a strong theme will help her character going forward.
Vintage Star Wars fun can be had on the tension-packed tracks “The Rathtars!”, and “Kylo Ren Arrives”. Somber beauty is “The Starkiller”, ironic considering the scene in question. For deeper listening, check out the tracks “Maz’s Counsel” and “Snoke”. Perhaps there are musical clues buried in these pieces to help us identify who some of these characters may be?
The soundtrack is a wild ride like the movie from which it came, picking up suspense as it nears the end. The less said about the last few tracks on the CD the better, except to mention that Williams continues to forge new ground for Star Wars right to the finale. With passion and precision, every track is the perfect accompaniment.
My only disappointment, although not unexpected since this is only a single CD release, is that some music is naturally omitted. The one track I wish was available is the neat rasta-space-blues song playing when our heroes arrives at Maz Kanata’s tavern. It’s the “Cantina Band” or “Lapti Nek” of the movie, but it’s not on the CD. There are whispers that a 2 CD deluxe edition is forthcoming this year.
* The Millenium Falcon has seatbelts, but the USS Enterprise does not. Discuss!