For nearly four decades now the music that John Williams has created for Star Wars has become as instantly recognizable as Darth Vader’s breathing or the heart stopping light saber duels between Jedi Knight and Sith Lord. These scores serve as the heartbeat to the films and go beyond setting the mood whenever a firefight breaks out on the streets of Mos Eisley or in the skies above the icy war torn battlefields of Hoth. With Disney now owning Lucasfilm the long term strategy plan being put into motion is to release both saga and anthology/stand alone films from here until eternity. With John now in his mid-80s his focus will remain on the new saga trilogy that began with The Force Awakens last December. As for the anthology films that have just now begun rushing down through the flood gates the young film makers and composers who helm these projects will have the daunting task of creating something that can go off and explore the vast reaches of that galaxy far, far away all the while retaining that emotional depth viewers felt when Luke Skywalker stood and looked out upon the twin suns of Tatooine as they sank down beyond the horizon.
Michael Giacchino is certainly no stranger when it comes trying to emulate John Williams. His first major scoring session was composing original music for the Playstation and Sega Saturn video game adaptation of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. As fate would have it Giacchino found himself transitioning into the long dormant film franchise with Jurassic World (which would go on to become the second highest grossing film of 2015 right behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, no less). Originally Giacchino wasn’t the first choice to be the composer on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Alexandre Desplat (who collaborated with director Gareth Edwards on Godzilla) had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. Michael entered the fold with only four and a half weeks to write and record a full score. Under any circumstances even the most seasoned composer would crack under such extreme pressure however Giacchino melds a majority of Williams’ classic Star Wars motifs with material that fits into Edwards’ vision of an anthology film that brings a gritty realism to the wars fought between the empire and the rebellion. I’ve read feedback where many feel that this soundtrack would be more in line with any other science fiction film currently on the market and upon giving it my first listen I didn’t quite like what I was hearing as one track in particular, The Imperial Suite, teeters on being generic and leaves a lot to be desired considering John’s Imperial March is widely considered one of the most popular musical themes of the latter 20th century. Regardless of being under the gun (or more fittingly the blaster rifle) Michael Giacchino was able to come into his own during the final half of the score with five of the last six tracks where I’d recommend everyone put their focus if you’re willing to hit repeat and allow something that’s a little left of center to truly take form. Personally I think it blends rather well with the classic themes we all know and love and if you’re wishing that there were more of those cues featured in Rogue One all the previous soundtracks are still readily available in various formats so you can mix seminal with contemporary and still win out.
Final Grade: B+