From the fanfare of the opening crawl to the abrupt cutaway zing of the closing credits, John Williams' soundtrack to The Force Awakens does not disappoint. Williams has always been an integral part of the Star Wars experience, as familiar as the movies themselves, comforting and nostalgic. The fan anticipation and legacy baggage that came with the seventh film in this iconic series was overwhelming, being the first new film since 2005's Revenge of the Sith and the direct sequel to 1983's Return of the Jedi, yet the results are not crushed by outlandish pressure. For The Force Awakens, Williams began work in late 2014, before recording began in Los Angeles in June 2015 (the first time a Star Wars film score was not recorded at Abbey Road). He enlisted a freelance orchestra and, with the help of William Ross and Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, produced a 23-track journey connecting the past and the future of the Star Wars universe. Here, Williams combines the old and the new with expert subtlety, creating a lush experience that rewards repeat listens. Those familiar with his work on other big-budget sagas (Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones) will instantly recognize the blaring horns that propel the action, the stirring strings that intensify the tension, and the bombast that contribute to the excitement as much as the scenes portrayed on the screen. Fans young and old will recognize the famous themes from the original trilogy that are alluded to throughout the album: the Star Wars theme pops up in "The Rathtars!" and a glimmer of Luke Skywalker's "The Force Theme" can be heard during "Maz's Counsel." As the nostalgic centerpiece to the film, Han and Leia's touching romantic melody makes a return (one of Solo's other big loves gets a nod on "The Falcon"). Although Williams created new themes for villain Kylo Ren and for the new good guy group, the Resistance, one theme stands out as the best since The Phantom Menace's iconic "Duel of the Fates." The theme for Star Wars' new female protagonist, Rey is first introduced on "The Scavenger" before receiving the full treatment on "Rey's Theme" and being whisked off in grand fashion during "Farewell and the Trip." Mysterious and touching, it starts with a playful flute melody and celeste chimes before swelling with confident strings and full orchestration. Less heavy-handed than the rest of the score, this theme is the most memorable of the bunch, a perfect combination of strength and delicacy. As the saga continues (Disney scheduled a new Star Wars film each year until 2020), Williams proves himself an indelible part of the Star Wars universe.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung
|Star Wars: The Force Awakens|