...the Empire strikes back with all the familiar notes. They just don't sound quite as...
Morag Reavley 2003-02-03
Pity John Williams writing his umpteenth Star Wars score.Although with all those royalties rolling in, pity is perhaps not quite the right word. Consider at least the tedium of it. No one asked Wagner for a prequel to the Ring Cycle, did they?
Burdened with a legacy of his own making, Williams' technique for the three prequel scores has been to embroider the films' existing musical mythology, retro-fitting familiar motifs from the older scores while attempting to devise distinctive new themes.
So, much of this soundtrack is a case of deja ecoute, a self-referential riffing on nostalgic sequences. "Luke and Leia", "The Imperial March", the "Force" theme and "Duel of the Fates" from Episode One - they're all here in sundry disguises for Williams and Lucas stalwarts eager to sniff out the cues.
And you can't deny how canonical they sound. The opening and closing medleys areas statley as aGalactic galleon, as festive as the Last Night of the Proms.
The fresh material is more patchy. The most significant new theme is "Battle of the Heroes". Buzzing with stressed-out strings, hyperactive brass and a suicidal choir, this is as mesmeric as anything Williams has written. Sony must think so - it's set for release as the first ever Star Wars single.
Other new material is less memorable. "General Grievous" and "Anakin vs. Obi-Wan" are merely adequate adventure anthems. And, anticipating the defection of the supposed hero to the dark side, there is a preponderance of broodily low-key numbers. "Padmes Ruminations and Palpatines Teachings" are atonal, syncopated fillers, disappointingly portentous.
Issued two weeks in advance of the film release on 19 May, this disc is flagrant titillation, fanning those fans already queuing outside Hollywood's Chinese Theatre into greater paroxysms of anticipation. Heavens, there are folks who are not even reading the soundtrack titles in case they spoil the plot!
Will they be disappointed? Of course not. In Sith, the Empire strikes back with all the familiar notes. They just don't sound quite as startling any more.