Check out the soundtrack to the final “Star Wars” film

Ted Pigeon

In less than a month, the sixth and final Star Wars film, “Revenge of the Sith,” will finally be in theaters. It is the missing link in the “Star Wars” saga and will provide a bridge to the original trilogy from many years ago. For George Lucas, this film represents the end of an almost thirty year journey, now that his labor of love is finally complete. It is also just as much as a journey’s end for composer John Williams, who’s provided the scores for all of the “Star Wars” films and whose musical contributions have been, according to Lucas, an integral element to why the films have become so successful.

Lucas has always said that the “Star Wars” films are essentially silent films; in other words, the narrative is carried by visuals and music. Today, film scores go largely unnoticed because of their background presence, but in the case of something like the original “Star Wars,” they demanded to be as important a character in films as the characters themselves. Hot off the trails of one of the most famous film scores in history, “Jaws,” John Williams wrote a score for “Star Wars” that was old-fashioned in the classical tradition, a symphonic masterwork that revolutionized film music and brought to life a classic tale of good and evil.

Five films and dozens of memorable, character-defining themes later, Williams is back once again teaming with Lucas to finish the saga with a brilliantly dark and emotional score that underlines the fall of Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side. The soundtrack, released by Sony Classical this coming Tuesday, is an excellent album that provides a perfect balance of intricate action music, dark choral passages and moving lamentation pieces that also quotes several older themes from the original trilogy. All of these elements work together beautifully as one of Williams’ most memorable entries into the “Star Wars” musical saga.

For the past two prequel films, “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones,” Williams chose to hone in on one new theme and construct a stand-alone concert piece. For the “Phantom Menace,” it was the choral action piece, “Duel of the Fates,” which was written for the grand light saber battle at the end of the film, and for “Attack of the Clones,” he wrote a sweeping love theme, “Across the Stars” a piece that is both romantic and bittersweet.

With this film, Williams wrote a new theme for the epic duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan entitled “Battle of the Heroes.” Like “Duel of the Fates,” it features a huge chorus and brilliant brass passages; however, unlike the aforementioned theme, “Battle of the Heroes” has a nobility about it and a more emotional core. Whereas “Duel of the Fates” captured the exhilaration of the battle, this theme does that as well as the strong emotion involved in it, as two brothers battle to the death. The choral element is not in the form of Sanskrit chants, as with “Duel,” but instead a wordless vocal accompaniment to the orchestra.

Outside the concert piece track on the album, this theme only shows up in one more cue on the album, which is the music written to accompany the duel itself in the film. For this piece, Williams utilizes the famous Imperial March, otherwise known as Darth Vader’s theme, and constantly switches back and forth between the two themes. The other action music on the album is forceful, relying very much on brass and percussion and not nearly as swashbuckling or adventurous as the action music from the original films. Outside the many thematic references and the brilliant new theme, there are moments of pure beauty on this album, in particular one lamentation piece featuring chorus entitled “Anakin’s Betrayal.”

Other famous themes that appear on this album are Princess Leia’s theme and Luke’s theme, both of which receive soft and delicate treatment for the scene of their birth. But the strongest theme on this album is the also famous “Force” theme. It is the one theme that ties the two trilogies together that is used prominently in both. Throughout the score, Williams interweaves it through action pieces as well as solemn ones. It is a noble piece of music that somehow captures the spirit of Star Wars and the mystical nature of it.

When listening to this or any Star Wars score, one doesn’t necessarily need the images for the music to work. The music essentially tells the story, and the strong library of themes that Williams has conjured for these six films tell the story of the characters and places that make the Star Wars universe so unique and the films so enjoyable. The majesty of the main title music lures the listener in, and from there Williams works his orchestral music with a good mix of action and drama, with overtly classical sounding pieces hearkening back to the Romantic period to beautifully subtle moments that work because of his brilliant orchestration.

Williams’ score for “Revenge of the Sith” is perhaps the darkest and most emotional movement in this symphony of sorts that he has created. It is something of a deviation for Williams, as I’m sure the film is for Lucas, but in the end, we are treated to the same level of excellence in music found in all of the Star Wars films. Though it borrows heavily from styles of other scores, the score for “Revenge of the Sith” stands on its own as a poignant and tragic work that captures the essence of conflict and eventual fall of young Anakin Skywalker. If the images match the beauty of music, then Lucas’ final chapter in the “Star Wars” saga will be remembered as one of the best.