I made the mistake of writing that I was disappointed with TFA’s soundtrack before I gave it a proper chance. I said there was nothing mind-blowing about it and the tracks fell short.
Yet, within 3 months, I had Rey’s Theme on repeat and loved The Jedi Steps and Finale. I couldn’t stop listening to them. When Spotify sent me my top played tracks of 2016 – Rey’s Theme was the first track. I grew to love March of the Resistance (it should be played every time you’re prepping for something big, trust me) and Kylo Ren’s theme (okay, I know he doesn’t have a theme, but you know what I’m talking about). As a whole, the soundtrack is lower on the list than others, but I think some of the core music is quite solid and enjoyable.
This time around, I made sure to wait to write a review on the The Last Jedi’s soundtrack because I didn’t want to make the same mistake. I had to listen to the soundtrack back-to-front and give it a fair chance.
I’m not in love with it. There are some good tracks, and some good themes, but in general, it falls a little short of other Star Wars soundtracks. For instance – when I come away from a Star Wars movie, I want to feel like I need to run and listen to that music…whatever that music is. It speaks to me, calls me, and fills me with emotion. With TPM, it was Duel of the Fates. With ANH, it is the Force theme. With AOTC, it’s Across the Stars. With TFA, it’s Rey’s Theme and The Jedi Steps. With ROTS, it’s Battle of the Heroes. With ESB, it’s the Imperial March. You get the point.
The closest track that comes close to capturing that in TLJ is Fun with Finn and Rose. The more I listen to it, the more it evokes feelings of comfort, family, and joy. I’m surprised that I associate it with family, because I believe it was meant to be playful and slightly romantic. But when I listen to it, I want to hold everyone in a giant hug and feel the security of what we are building for the future. It makes me feel safe and full of joy for those I love.
Unfortunately, Williams does not expand on this theme as much as I would like him to. It reminds me of Han Solo and the Princess – while there was a distinct theme for them, the music was often pushed together with other moments in the movie and other music (as in The Rebellion is Reborn with TLJ). I would have liked a fleshed-out theme for Finn and Rose because their music is one of the lighter pieces we feel through a soundtrack that is actually quite dark in its tones. I have the same disappointment with The Jedi Steps in TFA as I felt like it was over too quickly, but the saving grace was that The Jedi Steps as a piece also includes the finale, so we got another snippet of the Star Wars main theme, Rey’s Theme, March of the Resistance, and Kylo Ren’s/First Order theme.
Though Finn and Rose is my favorite, the one track that stands out the most on the TLJ soundtrack is The Spark. It’s a wonderful piece written by John Williams that encompasses the entire movie in one track. It starts out in a foreboding, anticipatory manner, that then shifts to Luke and Leia from Return of the Jedi. I get goosebumps when it makes that transition…it makes me nostalgic, sad, and resigned at the same time. Then it moves into Han and Leia for a brief moment, transitioning right after into it’s own piece. The past is over and let’s move into a new era. And then, and then, oh my gosh, the build up…you don’t need to have seen the movie to know that something big is coming. This is THE moment when the hero takes center stage. It’s that moment when you put your hand over your mouth and you don’t know what the eff is going to happen. AND THEN IT JUST STOPS. Which is kind of amazing but also so dissatisfying at the same time. All you want is a resolution and to find out what happens. But there is none, and in this case, I kind of like that about this composition. It’s the past moving forward into the future. But what does the future hold? No one knows. Always in motion is the future.
The last track that needs some recognition is the Canto Bight music. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Canto Bight music. It took me a while to come around to it because I associated it so much with the scene in the movie that I thought was unnecessary, so it left a sour taste in my mouth for a while. Once I moved past that and only listened to the music, I found I enjoyed it a lot. The music changes its tones quickly and keeps you entertained throughout. It starts out with elements of Caribbean steel drums combined with brass music that has Southern American influences. The middle of the piece moves and flares up with some 1920s jazz throwback (strongly reminds me of the Jeeves and Wooster theme) that makes you think the parties and booze are in abundance on Canto Bight and it continues this to the end. For a “cantina” scene music, I find it very different and fresh for the Star Wars world. I still don’t understand why we need a cantina scene in every new Star Wars movie, but that’s a discussion for another time.
My verdict on this soundtrack is that though I enjoyed the way Williams embroidered past themes into TLJ, I thought there wasn’t enough new and fresh music. The focus was on the past – Leia’s theme played a dominant role, which is interesting because we had never heard her theme again after ANH, something I griped about earlier. I feel sure this is because of Fisher’s death and everyone wanted to pay a tribute to her legacy. Yet, for a movie that seemed so intent on telling us to let the past die, to kill it if we have to – it seemed determine to stay in the past with its music.
Now that we’ve had a few months to assimilate to The Last Jedi soundtrack, what have been your thoughts on it?