The music of Star Wars is some of the greatest and most iconic movie music in the history of cinema. The score itself is composed by the legend John Williams, one of the greatest composers of all time. When Lucasfilm announced a new trilogy continuing the Skywalker saga, as well as standalone films, John Williams assured Star Wars fans he would indeed be returning to the franchise, but only for the Skywalker Saga. Williams understands the story behind Star Wars more than you know. If you haven’t listened to the Star Wars Oxygen podcast on Rebel Force Radio you need to do yourself a favor and get on that. Voice actor David W. Collins takes you on a musical journey as he elegantly deconstructs Williams’ composition in a scholarly fashion. Collins provides insight that enriches the Star Wars experience, sending you back to both trilogies with a new set of ears, allowing you to emerge from the experience with a deeper understanding of the saga.
Finding a new composer to fill the shoes of Williams is an impossible task. We Star Wars fans have to accept that no one will ever be able to compare to Williams’ scores for the classic and prequel trilogies. It’s just not possible. But that doesn’t mean someone else can’t come in and deliver an incredible score for a new generation.
When it was first announced that Alexandre Desplat would be providing the score for the upcoming Star Wars spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I was elated with relief. Not only did Desplat deliver a heart-pounding military-esque score with Zero Dark Thirty, he also crafted an extraordinary piece of work with the heart-soaring score to Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. If you aren’t familiar with Lust, Caution or the score, I highly recommend watching the film. Or at the very least give a listen to “Wong Chia Chi’s theme”. Only then will you truly understand what a loss it was when Desplat exited Rogue One due to scheduling conflicts because of the reshoots for the film.
Desplat’s exit doesn’t add up for me. Being that all major blockbusters have reshoots built into their productions schedule from the get go, Desplat’s schedule should have already had that factored in. Plus who the hell doesn’t clear their schedule for Star Wars? I understand having commitments but this is the holy grail of Hollywood we’re talking about.
Then came the news that JJ Abrams’ go-to composer Michael Giacchino would be coming on board. Many fans rejoiced but unfortunately I was not one of them. Besides his theme for Super 8, Giacchino’s music has never resonated with me. I’m no musician, but his music just doesn’t seem to amount to anything. Especially not in the way Williams’ work does.
Considering Desplat’s exit was last minute, it left little time for Giacchino to write the score for Rogue One. When asked by Entertainment Weekly about his surprise last-minute addition to the project, Giacchino revealed had only a mere four and a half weeks to think up the most important score of the year:
“Yes, literally the last thing I expected I’d be doing this month would be this. I mean we were literally planning a vacation when I got the call asking if I could come and talk to them about it. At the time, it left me with literally four and a half weeks to write. So it was one of those decisions where you’re like, okay, well… And I was talking to my brother about it. He goes, “Oh, come on. You’ve been writing this score since you were 10! You can do this.”
Giacchino’s brother’s words are encouraging. But four weeks doesn’t bode well for any project’s score, especially not the first Star Wars standalone feature. Giacchino added that he didn’t think it would be enough time but in the face of daunting pressure he managed to focus and persevere against the challenge:
“It’s not really. But you work with the time you have. And I’m not a person that has a bunch of other composers working for me, so it’s just me sitting up here in this room doing it. But I’m pretty good at focusing and getting down to business. I saw the film and I really, really, really enjoyed it, so there was no lack of ideas or inspiration, that’s for sure. The only worry the whole time for me was just the schedule. But I mapped it out and I thought, okay, if I do this much a day and I get this done that will leave me time to go back and improve if I need to before having to orchestrate.”
The one thing that has me keeping an open mind is that sometimes an artist’s best work comes from when they don’t have time to second guess themselves. Giacchino’s score is going to come from the heart and that’s exactly what a Star Wars film needs.
Giacchino was asked whether or not he would be implementing past themes composed by Williams to which the composer answered:
“I think absolutely there are a couple of times when you want to hit upon something that was from the past. For me, even as a fan, it was about going, “Oh, this particular idea would be great if we did it here. I would want to see that if I were watching a Star Wars movie.” As a kid who grew up with John’s music and who was catapulted in this direction because of what he did, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to use and how I wanted to use it. That being said, I’d say the score is 95 percent original but with little moments [of Williams’ classic score] here or there to accent. If I were sitting in that seat and I heard that, it would totally raise the hairs on my neck.”
Everything Giacchino is saying sounds very promising. There’s been a lot of negative buzz surrounding Rogue One due to Tony Gilroy taking over for director Garreth Edwards on the reshoots but that news did nothing to damper my excitement for the film. The only thing that has me concerned in the score. But everything Giacchino is saying has gotten me excited to hear his music for the film.
To read the full interview including Giacchino’s impressions of the film head on over to EW.