John Williams, THE FORCE AWAKENS score (2015).
Less varied, it seems to me, than the wide-ranging original scores or Williams’s spectacular Phantom Menace work — the latter infamously treated, it’s said, by Lucas and Burtt in the edit bay. But Rey’s spry theme and Kylo’s ambivalent motif are compelling, as are the hints of a musical identity for Finn (a rich character beautifully played by John Boyega). ‘Torn Apart’ beautifully echoes ‘The Starkiller’ — that mournful descending sequence breaks my heart. Still, it doesn’t seem to me like Williams is stretching with this score, though even his maintenance mode is something special given Hollywood’s abysmal modern scoring standards.
I’ve been listening to the prequel scores a lot lately and rate them above this one, overall. Those brass-heavy scores had an desperate intensity to match Lucas’s daft filmmaking; The Force Awakens is a well managed machine, which Star Wars has never really been. But then, oh —
But then come the last two minutes of the end credits, which seamlessly combine Ben’s and Rey’s themes, the Rebel fanfare, and finally the iconic main theme (Luke’s theme). Instead of the usual medley of concert arrangements, the end credits offer a kind of continuous dream, retelling the film’s story with a power that writer-director-hack JJ Abrams can’t muster on his own. If you’re the sentimental sort who remembers how the end credits for Phantom Menace ended in the theater — with those final chords of Anakin’s theme (one of Williams’s great melodic achievements) and then, quietly, the most recognizable sound effect in modern film — then wait until you hear how Williams brings this short story to a close.
Overall, this is one of the least immediately successful Star Wars scores. But I couldn’t give it a rating or grade — the idea seems ridiculous — and I can’t stop listening to it. It’s what I want.