Ranking the Soundtracks

I’ve been sitting on writing this post for a while.  I thought it would be fun, in follow up to the post I wrote years ago on the best compositions in Star Wars (here and here), to instead write my rankings of the soundtracks.  Instead of individual pieces, I wanted to look at the soundtracks as a whole.  Which do I think are the top and which do I think make it to the bottom?

The only reason I’ve been sitting on it for so long is because IT’S SO HARD.  It changes often but I wanted to imagine someone asking me to give my final answer, as if I were playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and something was on the line.

After much thinking (like two months, seriously), here is my own personal Best of Star Wars Soundtracks list:

8.  Rogue One.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I didn’t really like Rogue One as a movie or it’s the fact that John Williams did not write the soundtrack that caused this movie to be on the bottom, but there you go.  The second time I watched it, I did come away feeling slightly more kind towards the music, but I think both having a different composer and not enjoying the movie was a double whammy that landed this at the bottom of the list.  Plus, it never had the wonderful themes that we love so much played enough throughout it.  I am planning on listening to it more, but for now, it ends up on the bottom.

7.  Attack of the Clones

One of my favorite pieces is Across the Stars.  It wows me and moves me every time I listen to it.  But as a whole, AOTC is slightly underwhelming.  There are probably about 2-3 tracks that I would want to listen to that on the soundtrack and if I were being perfectly honest, none of them stand out like Across the Stars.

6.  A New Hope

Agh, I hate even ranking this soundtrack so low because A New Hope introduced the world to Star Wars music.  Some of my favorite tracks of all time are in ANH.  But if I was looking at it as a whole, ANH involves too much brass in it’s soundtracks to make me rank it any higher.  The staccato, brass music is not my style and I don’t like listening to it too much and often skip most of the tracks.

5.  The Force Awakens

Number 5 and 4 are in close competition.  I love Rey’s theme and it was my top listened to track of 2016 (according to Spotify).  Currently, my most listened to track is The Jedi Steps.  Clearly, I love some of the pieces.  March of the Resistance and Kylo Ren’s theme (okay not really called that but it’s played whenever he comes on screen) are also really well done.  I originally did not like the soundtrack that much but as time has gone on, I have listened to certain tracks at least once a week.  I love it, but the reason it’s still ranked lower than most is that I believe I love it because I’m a Star Wars fan.  When leaving the theater, there were not many pieces that made me want to run home and figure out which music was playing when.   My love affair with the TFA soundtrack grew over time as a fan, but I don’t think there is anything in the soundtrack that stood out to the casual viewer.

4.  The Phantom Menace

I love TPM’s soundtrack.  It was a fresh new sound to the Star Wars music and set the Prequels off on the right foot.  The Naboo Palace was one of my favorites, and I loved the battle droid music.  Anakin’s theme was softer than expected but had hints of darkness at the end.  Duel of the Fates is unbeatable and is still one of my favorite tracks of all time.  I probably also rank it higher because it was the first Star Wars soundtrack I ever owned (on cassette!) so nostalgia plays a big part in this decision.

3.  The Empire Strikes Back

There are some great pieces in ESB, namely of course, The Imperial March.  That track is SO GOOD.  I love the Imperial March and could listen to it over and over again.  I also love Yoda’s theme and the music played throughout Cloud City at the end of the soundtrack.  The Asteroid Field and Han and Leia are excellent tracks that round out this soundtrack and brings it to the next level.  I feel like this soundtrack is balanced well, but again, not something I could probably listen to over and over again.  The key pieces are amazing but there are some others in there that bore me.

2.  Revenge of the Sith

I think ROTS is one of the most underrated soundtracks out of all the Star Wars movies.  The expanse of what the soundtrack covers is breathtaking.  Some of the most moving pieces in the Saga come from ROTS.  Battle of the Heroes is the most prominent track, but Padmé’s Ruminations still stands up there as one of my favorite compositions of John Williams.  Every time I listen to it, I actually DON’T want to listen to it because of the breadth of emotions it pulls from me.  I think General Grievous’ theme is brass done well.  The soundtrack flows in a way that even without seeing the movie, you can follow along with the music and feel your soul move.  It starts out fast, clipped, and semi-dangerous.  By the end, your heart is broken and full of foreboding.  If I had never seen the movie, I would still be able to feel the emotions I am supposed to.

1.  Return of the Jedi

I place ROTJ first because it’s a soundtrack where I like almost every single one of the compositions created by John Williams.  Not only does it flow well, but it mixes some of my favorite music throughout the entire soundtrack.  We have the Force theme, the main theme, Luke and Leia, the Emperor’s theme, some of the Imperial March, the second Death Star battle, the Ewok’s forest battle music, and the celebration at the end.  It’s bittersweet in some places, we find resolution in other pieces, there is fear, hope and tension woven throughout the soundtrack.  If I had to listen to one soundtrack from the Star Wars universe for the rest of my life – it would be this one.

 

I’m surprised that I picked ROTJ as my favorite of all time (for now).  I didn’t expect it when I first started out with this project.  Yet out of all the movies, it’s soundtrack has most of the compositions that I enjoy.

 

If you had to – how would you rank your favorite Star Wars soundtracks?

Haiku Me Friday! Wicket’s Musings & Rehashing the Ewok Hate

What’s this strange being?
Not one of us. Friend or foe?
Should I approach it?

Ewoks.  Love them or hate them.  I wrote a post about this three years ago and got some interesting comments that helped demystify it for me, but I still like them.

The hardest part for me to understand on this argument is that I think one reason a lot of people hate them is because they’re cute.  Does being cute really make a difference?  Shouldn’t we focus more on the fact that the smallest beings helped defeat the largest governmental organization out there?

Look at Yoda.  He is small, but would not fall under the definition of “cute”.  And because he’s a Jedi who says wise statements, no one seems to hate him.  But he talks backwards, for Pete’s sake!  Yet, no one seems to mind.

The Ewoks are small and play a large role in defeating the Empire.  If they were not cute and fuzzy and look like teddy bears – would people hate them as much?  What if they were Gollum-looking creatures?

Do you see my point?  I feel like people would root more for Ewoks if they were not cute because they would be the underdog, like the Rebellion.  Scruffy-looking underdogs.  Instead, they get a lot of backlash because of how they look which I believe is undeserved.

 

Okay, I really didn’t even want to get into it that much but that’s kind of why I like my Haiku Me Fridays. 🙂  They are blank slates where I start off with a haiku and let my mind wander wherever it will.

Fan Art Friday! Wicket’s Cuteness Overload

I am really happy with the way this Fan Art Friday turned out.  If you read my other ones, especially the ones with characters, there was always some problem I had with the way I colored them.  This time – I am pleased with almost everything.  I love the colors I chose, I’m happy that Wicket turned out slightly similar to how he looks in ROTJ, and when I combined colors they came out the way I envisioned in my head.

Usually I have a lot more to say about my colorings but because I’m so happy with this, there’s very little to go into.  Be sure to check out Mei-Mei‘s picture as well!  For those of you who are new to my blog, Mei-Mei and I have the same coloring book and color the same page monthly and compare/contrast.

Overall, a success!

wicket-2

I know there are fans that hate the Ewoks but I don’t get it.  I’ve written about this before, but stop with the Ewok hate!  Or, at least learn to accept them.  All the complaining in the world won’t get rid of Jar Jar or change the fact that the Empire was brought down by little teddy bears.  I still think that’s one of the coolest takeaways from ROTJ – you can be small, but change the fate of an entire galaxy.  What a great message for so many people!  And further, look what happens when you keep an open mind.

Han Solo wanted to shoot the Ewoks.  His first reaction was to shoot and ask questions later.  Very Han.  Leia and Luke decided to pause and assess the situation.  Maybe they had a good feeling through the Force, knowing with some inkling that the Ewoks could be a great “asset”.  Both did not shoot and possibly create a bad encounter right away.  Sure, they almost got eaten but they still didn’t resort to blowing up the village (I don’t know, if I was tied up to stakes with a fire getting ready to roast me, I would probably not be as calm as Luke) once they were free.  Because of Leia and Luke’s open mind, they befriended the Ewoks.

That friendship with a species they couldn’t understand helped them bring down a government the Rebellion only had a 1% chance of defeating (this fact was in the last Rebels episode so is now canon booya).  Life lessons from Ewoks y’all, life lessons.

 

Stay tuned for next month’s Fan Art Friday!  We’re doing the most feared bounty hunter….(Mei-Mei, it’s the Boba Fett drawing that’s on the left of Grand Moff Tarkin. Closer to the end of the book.)

 

Five Best Feel Good Moments in Star Wars

Yes, I totally stole this from Insider again but I do love these sections they have where they ask someone to list five … somethings from Star Wars.  I did one two years ago with my favorite five visual moments and one in September with my five favorite aliens.

For this Insider (actually two Insiders ago now), they asked Dan Madsen for his favorite five feel-good moments.  He is Star Wars Insider’s founding editor and now publicist for Her Universe.

Here are what I think are the five best feel good moments in the Star Wars saga, listed with number one as my favorite.

 

5. Leia and Han Work it All Out

Leia and Han have accomplished their mission on Endor and look up into the sky to see the Death Star blow up.  Han expresses his concern for Luke but Leia knows he’s safe.  And Han, ever the gallant gentleman, finally concedes defeat in what he thinks is a love triangle and says he won’t get in the way when Luke returns.

Leia’s confused face then gets transferred to Han as she tells him that Luke is her brother.  Han works it all out, has a big smile and kisses her more sincerely.  Ah, l’amour.  Wicket jumps up like a priest officiating a ceremony and even Han doesn’t seem too annoyed at the Ewok.

It’s a small scene but one that warms my heart.

leia han endor

 

4. Han Solo Comes to the Rescue

Han Solo comes to the rescue quite a few times in Star Wars but the moment at the end of ANH definitely takes the cake.  I still get a fuzzy, happy feeling whenever you see him fly down to hit the TIE fighters with that bolt that sends Vader spinning off into space. you're all clear kid

“You’re all clear, kid.  Now, let’s blow this thing and go home!”

Luke then uses the Force and sends the proton torpedoes straight into the exhaust port.  As the Death Star blows up and the ships race away, it was all because Han Solo decided the Rebellion meant more to him than money.

But there’s something about that line that makes me want to whoop for joy and you feel this surge of hope.  The underdog comes out ahead and there really is nothing more feel-good than that.  (Kind of like when the Patriots won their first Superbowl with Tom Brady and no one thought they would.   Yes, I had to go there.)

 

3. Vader Burns/Ewok Celebration

It’s hard to define Vader’s burning as a “feel good” moment, but for many years it was one for me.  There was a definitive end and peaceful feeling about everything.  Luke knew about his family history, had been faced with the dark side and overcame it, had redeemed his father, and the Emperor was killed.  The burning was symbolic of his past, letting go, and moving forward.

The beautiful transition (with the Force theme) from the funeral pyre to the night sky/fireworks and the Ewoks celebrating gave you this moment of all is right in the world.

As a child, I loved the ending of ROTJ.  It wasn’t until many years later when people complained that it was simplistic and had been wrapped too nicely with a bow on top, that I began to see it differently.

My fear now is that my children will never understand the feel good moments of that ending because they will always know that there is more to the story.  In a way, with Disney taking over, we’ve lost the simplicity of Star Wars that was so clear in ROTJ: it all worked out, everything was okay, and good prevailed.

I cherish the ending though because it reminds me of my childhood when things were more black and white.

 

2. “Chewie, We’re Home.” – TFA Trailer

This instance is too personal for me not to put it in.  I saw this at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim last year.  We had been waiting in line since han chewie TFA6:00am for this panel that included JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and members of the old cast and new.  Everyone was hoping and praying that they would release a new trailer during this panel for TFA and they did not disappoint.

When the lights darkened and our lightsabers lit up the room, the feeling of intense emotion was inescapable.  We all held our breaths, I think, for the entire trailer and that last moment when Han and Chewie board the Falcon and he goes, “Chewie, we’re home,”…there was an explosion throughout that room at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I was swept up in the passion that you can only get when surrounded by thousands of other Star Wars fans who love and adore the series as much as you do.  When Abrams asked if we wanted to see the trailer again, it was met with a deafening, affirmative roar.

The moment in the movie is good, but it will never replace that moment in the teaser trailer and the feel-good memories I take away from it.

 

1. Yoda Lifts the X-Wing from the Swamp

There’s something about this scene that seems to define Star Wars.

Yoda is so diminutive and up until this point, he had trained Luke and had a lot of knowledge of the Force, but did he actually use the Force?

So I can totally understand when Luke gets frustrated and walks away saying, “You want the impossible.”  What he should have said is, “Oh really Yoda?  If you’re that awesome, why don’t you do it yourself?!”  Because that’s how I would be feeling if my only mode of transportation sunk into the grimy lakes of Dagobah, never to be seen again.  Luke then walks away in frustration, which is quite mature.  I might have “by mistake” kicked the little Jedi Master as I walked by.

Then you see Yoda take a deep breath and concentrate, outstretch his arm, Artoo freaks out, and the crescendo music as he lifts Luke’s x-wing out of the swamp is a moment so magical and makes you feel so good.

It sums up the Star Wars experience for me.  You get it in that moment.

The impossible can be possible.

Judge me by my size, do you?

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.

 

What was most interesting to me is that none of these moments include the Prequels.  I did try hard to think of one from the Prequels, but they are definitely more somber than the Original Trilogy.  The only thing that kind of came close was Anakin winning the Boonta Eve Podrace.  But…with that, I knew it was going to happen, so the feel good moment lost some of its edge when you can predict the outcome.

 

Can you guys think of any PT moments that could make it on this list?  Or is there anything I forgot on this list out of all seven movies?

 

Confessions of a First Time Star Wars Viewer

You all might remember, back in February, that I was going to watch the entire Star Wars saga with my friend who had never viewed it before.  She wanted to see what the hype was in regards to TFA and get all 6 movies done prior to December.  I solicited advice and questions to ask her after watching ANH.  Both Star Guy and Mei-Mei were kind enough to throw in some questions and I had a list as well.

Instead of asking her after ANH, I decided to wait until we completed the entire saga, which happened last month.  She was kind enough to give a thorough answer to all my questions.

Be prepared for some surprising answers that might make you think about Star Wars in a new light.  This has not been edited by me!


 

1. What was your favorite movie out of the saga (all 6 movies) and why?

My favorite movie out of the saga was “Return of the Jedi.” I’m not sure I have a specific reason, but some of the things that I like are: the Ewoks, the redemption of Vader’s/Anakin’s character, and Leia’s infiltration of Jabba’s lair disguised as a bounty hunter.

2. Least favorite and why?

It’s probably a toss-up between “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones.” I know real fans’ least favorite is  usually “Attack of the Clones,” (My note: I believe most fans least favorite is TPM but this girl has been hanging around me a lot, which may be why she thought AOTC) but I actually kind of enjoyed it, other than maybe it was a little long, and the romantic scenes with Anakin and Padme were so bad! But on the other hand, the romantic scenes were at least entertaining because I found them comical :). Alternatively, there were definitely parts of “The Phantom Menace” that I really liked. I enjoyed the building of the “backstory” for Anakin, and of course the legendary Qui-Gon Jinn, but to be honest, I fell asleep during some parts of this movie :-\ so it obviously didn’t really capture my attention that well… [And I don’t care what anyone says about Jar Jar Binks – he’s ok in my book! :-P]

3. Favorite character?  Least favorite?  Why?

I think my favorite character is R2D2. He just seems like he knows “what’s up.” For a character that doesn’t talk / you don’t know what he’s saying, r2 and ewokhe has an integral part in all the movies. He’s intelligent, has a great sense of humor, is often saving the day, and is an all around reliable pal and good guy to have around (I’m attributing the masculine pronouns…but I suppose a robot would be agender?).

Would it really upset Star Wars fans everywhere if I said my least favorite character is Luke? I have to say that I find him a bit one-dimensional. He’s a real “goodie-two-shoes,” if you will. I prefer the characters with more depth and ambiguity, like Han Solo or even Anakin. As bad as Hayden Christensen’s acting is, at least the Anakin character has real internal conflict. The big turn might have been a little out of left-field/ sudden onset, but it was there none-the-less (and they definitely used lots of obvious foreshadowing to try to back-up the sudden shift that came at the end).

4. Was there anything that surprised/you didn’t expect about the movies?

I don’t know if there was anything that surprised me, but most of my previous impressions/knowledge of Star Wars was related to the older movies, so I didn’t really know what to expect from the newer ones. I knew that Natalie Portman was in them, but I didn’t know much about the story line/characters, etc. So, I guess I didn’t realize that I was going to find out about the whole “pre-Luke/Leia” story and the development of Darth Vader.

5. Do you think Star Wars is relatable to our lives?

In the sense that all art is a reflection of life in some form, yes. Will I take from it real lessons to apply to my own life; probably not.

6. Do you have any questions about the movies that you don’t think was explained enough in depth?

Not really, but I’d love to know more about the Ewoks! 🙂 Well, I guess ewok wicketwhile we were watching the movies, I was sort of confused about the age difference between Padme and Anakin, but we already addressed that in conversation. With that said, I’m sure that there are plenty of nuances that I missed. I’m sure I’ll need to watch the movies several more times in order to catch everything.

7. Why do you think Star Wars has such a large following?

It’s a cult classic. What’s not to like about spaceships, interesting planets, unique creatures/aliens, robots – excuse me – “droids”, the struggle between good and evil, and a little bit of romance thrown into the mix for good measure as well? Not to mention a little play on incest… [just to be clear, that was a joke. I don’t want your readers to think I am some sort of sicko!]

8. Do you think the movies are catered to children or adults?  Why?

I think they are catered more toward adults because of the themes and more adult nature of the plot lines (and the violence too, I guess). However, I think it makes sense that kids like it too in terms of the fantasy, characters, and of course all the toys/marketing :).

9. Do you think the movies are catered more for men or women?  Why?

I think that they are catered more toward men. In each of the series there is really only one major female character (Leia in the old ones, Padme in the new ones), so men definitely dominate the saga. I also think the earlier movies are particularly objectifying of women (i.e. Leia as Jabba’s prisoner…). While Leia and Padme are both strong female characters, they obviously need the help of the men to survive. And Padme’s not strong enough to live on once Anakin has gone to the dark side? And no female jedi? I suppose the romance was probably added to appeal to the female nature, but as mentioned above, it is laughable and largely unbelievable.

10. What sci-fi elements did you like?  Dislike?  Why?

Is it cheating to say all of them? 😛 I really don’t have an answer to this question. Of course “The Force” has to be a likable element (unless you outright dislike the movies), and all the different planets and creatures, the droids, and ships. I can’t think of anything I particularly disliked.

11. What action scenes did you like?  Dislike? Why?

Again, I’m not a huge “action” scene person. The one that sticks out in my mind is the one where Anakin, Padme, and Obi Won are tied to posts in aobi wan geonosis colosseum and have to fight the creatures that are sent out to kill them. Though, I’m not sure if that’s just because it’s from one of the movies we saw more recently. Oh and if you can count the scene where Anakin and Padme are “frolicking” in the meadow and Anakin gets up and rides whatever that creature was – probably doesn’t count as an action scene, but I love it for the pure comedy! 🙂 For real, though, since I love the ewoks, my favorite action scene probably has to be when they come to save the day in “Return of the Jedi.”

12. What did you think about Star Wars prior to watching the saga?  What do you think now?

My thoughts about Star Wars before watching the saga were that it was a sci-fi classic with a cult (dare I say “nerd”) following [and I don’t mean that offensively – while I am not a Star Wars “nerd,” I do consider myself a “nerd” in many other respects]. I’m not sure that my thoughts have changed that much, other than that the plot lines were actually much more simplistic than I thought they would be, which does not detract from it’s greatness, as there are many other factors that make the saga complex including the various species of creatures, planets, characters, etc., which would probably take actual study to fully know and understand.


 

I’d like to say that my friend actually really enjoyed Jar Jar and couldn’t see why everyone disliked him when she first watched TPM.  I wish she put more of that in there because I thought that was really fascinating.  Jar Jar is basically the symbol of hate for many people regarding the PT…and yet my friend thought he was funny and liked his character.  Same with the ewoks…some of her favorite characters were those that people disliked the most.

Another interesting note – her choice of action scenes.  The PT does excel at action scenes over the OT, especially if you are watching Star Wars for the first time.  The PT is closer to what we see and expect in movies nowadays.

Anyone else find anything interesting?