Rejoice, dear soundtrack fans, for John Williams is slated to compose the music for the final Star Wars saga film, Episode IX. It will be a fitting close for the saga, because Williams will have done all nine films. Star Wars is about the saga. The anthology films are extraneous to the core Skywalker story. Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, is mostly about two Skywalkers: Luke, and his nephew Ben Solo, inheritor of the mighty Skywalker blood. The film score revisits many classic cues related to the main characters. Even Darth Vader’s shadow still looms, musically and spiritually.
The Last Jedi spends much time revisiting classic musical cues, such as “The Asteroid Field” from The Empire Strikes Back. One of the best revisits is of more recent vintage. It’s also very different. “Rey’s Theme”, from The Force Awakens, stands atop the mountain in company with the best of the best Star Wars music. Hearing it again in The Last Jedi is a ready reminder that Williams has the magic. Rey is the hero of this particular trilogy, and in The Last Jedi she proved herself. It’s all up to her, now.
One of the biggest and most delightful surprises was the return of Yoda. Yoda’s theme recurs within “The Sacred Jedi Texts”. The beloved Jedi Master brought hope to the film, and his music lifts the soul. The Last Jedi, however, is a dark film and much of the music matches. It could be argued that The Last Jedi is the darkest film of the whole saga, even more so than Revenge of the Sith. “Revisiting Snoke” reflects the dark, while tension-filled pieces like “A New Alliance” keep you riveted to your seat. There are some fantastic percussion beats in the latter.
The military-style marching of “The Battle of Crait” recalls classic Star Wars action, and the music for the Luke scene is stunningly emotional. In fact, the music for any of Luke’s screen appearances gives goosebumps. John Williams’ score is, in many ways, more successful than the movie at hitting home. I think this soundtrack release will receive more home play with the average buyer than the overlong movie.
There are two minor critiques to be addressed. One is when Leia’s theme is dropped into the end credits for the touching Carrie Fisher tribute. Yes, it’s heartbreakingly appropriate, but the music doesn’t fit well. It comes across as a cut and paste job without enough transition. A second is in regards to the Canto Bight casino music. On many Star Wars soundtracks, Williams has a chance to go outside the box. “Cantina Band”, “Lapti Nek”, “Yub Nub” and the music by Maz Kanata’s castle band are prime examples. The steel drumming in “Canto Bight” sounds a bit too much like a retread of the original “Cantina Band”, but with more…samba.
John Williams did it again, but will we ever see a proper 2 CD edition with all the music? That would be nice.