Nick Palmer brings us the next chapter of his current Star Wars feature. Today he looks at the music behind the films…
Star Wars, though obviously known for its spellbinding action and for having the death sentence on 12 systems, was also blessed with one of the most memorable and brilliant scores in movie history, courtesy of John Williams. Here’s our list of the series’ seven best musical moments.
7) Sound of Music moment – Attack of the Clones
Don’t get mad, ok? Yes, the romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala is possibly the worst thing in the sarlacc pit of horrible decisions which is the prequel trilogy, but there is this one brief moment where it comes together. It’s the Sound of Music moment, because it’s when the two horribly written lovers are on the plains of Naboo, and there’s this genuinely pretty panning shot of this lovely field, and Padme runs up a hill and kind of twirls about. ‘Across the Stars’, their love theme, saturates this scene and, for a brief moment, you forget about all the crappiness…then Anakin rides in on a stupid CGI cow-thing.
6) Cantina band – A New Hope
What a way to set the scene. Here’s a seedy alien bar, and there are some weird-looking chaps playing space jazz (canonically known as ‘Jizz‘, seriously). It’s absolutely jovial-sounding, but that’s exactly what the bar owner would want. Any unpleasantness (such as an angry drunk’s mate losing his arm to a Jedi) is quickly forgotten about when the steel drums and that kick-ass bassline start up again.
5) The Emperor’s entrance – Return of the Jedi
This is the ultimate bad guy tune, and though it is used several times throughout the series, the introduction of the Emperor, in the flesh, remains its most thrilling inclusion. His arrival off of the shuttle, met by a formation of imperial troops, serves as the antithesis to the final scene in A New Hope, with all the rebel troops cheering for the heroes. It’s everything bold, brash and brass that the Emperor clearly loves.
4) Final lightsaber duel – The Phantom Menace
Yes, this is ‘Duel of the Fates’, the one which got its own music video, and it absolutely deserves it. Yes, on one side in this final lightsaber duel, you have two of the blandest characters ever to hold a fuckinglaser sword which can deflect lasers and cut throughanything, and on the other, a guy who is the bad guy, because reasons. However, Williams’ score is so good it that it artificially adds emotion and depth to characters which have none. That opening choir note has more emotional impact than the rest of the prequel movies combined.
3) Throne room battle – Return of the Jedi
The greatest lightsaber duel of the original six movies. No other battle has so much emotional depth combined with striking cinematography, perfect choreography and just deafeningly powerful music. After Vader threatens to turn Leia, the strings of the piece take on a deranged desperation as Luke, overcome by rage, erupts from his hiding place and unleashes his anger upon his father. Losing all Jedi discipline and composure, Luke swings wildly, forcing Vader back amid a sorrowful chorus – the choir grieves for Luke’s lost innocence.
2) Han and Leia’s first kiss – Empire Strikes Back
As completely awesome as the Hoth battle and Yoda are, this is the scene which really cements Empire Strikes Back as the best in the series. This is that emotional core that all great adventure movies need – relatable and lovable characters which wrap gooey tendrils around the viewer’s heart. Leia and Han are trying to repair the Millenium Falcon, but for a few moments Han seems to forget all about his beloved ship, as he moves closer and closer to the Princess. The music, titled ‘Han Solo and the Princess’, begins quietly, floating beneath the witty banter of the soon-to-be lovers, but bursts out into the forefront as Leia accepts how she feels and the two kiss. The music has a sad, almost despairing quality to it, about the inevitability of love and how deep one can fall into it.
1) Binary sunset – A New Hope
Well, this is where it all begins, isn’t it? This is the moment in the saga where you realise you’re watching something truly special. Luke stands at the edge of his family’s moisture farm, bathed in the orange hue of a twin sunset and contemplating the choice he must make – this is the archetypal fantasy set up, the start of the ‘hero’s journey’. The single horn accentuating how alone Luke feels both on Tatooine, now that all of his friends have left, and how alone he feels in making the decision to leave. Then the swelling of strings unleashes the gravity of his decision and completes one of the great scenes of cinema.