‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Soundtrack Album – External Reviews & Score Analyses (Updated January 10)

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*NEW* Filmtracks – As stated in several reviews of the magnificent score for The Force Awakens, the mere presence of Williams in this continuation of the franchise is a treat not to be underestimated by concept enthusiasts. While the story arc of this sequel trilogy may have damaged the legacy of the canon, Williams continues to work his mastery at maintaining the excellence and traditions he established 40 years prior. Now in his mid-80’s, the maestro endeavors to write occasional film scores and actively conduct concerts around America, rejecting modern compositional tools as he writes music with pencil and paper at his piano. He managed to conduct portions of The Last Jedi himself but handed some of those duties to trusted collaborator William Ross. In retrospect, The Force Awakens retains its reputation as a superbly crafted masterpiece, its new themes and trademark Williams complexity featuring prominently in the film’s success. Muddier is the music’s presence in The Last Jedi, the lack of romantically flowing new thematic material, haphazard pacing, and occasions when the music simply drops out (or, worse yet, is artificially dialed out using the worst of modern, cheap shock techniques) all conspiring against Williams. – Full review

*NEW* Den of Geek! (‘Star Wars: Breaking Down the Musical Themes of The Last Jedi‘) The most significant new piece in The Last Jedi is for Kelly Marie Tran’s Finn-worshipping resistance fighter. Clearly feeding off the infectious enthusiasm of Tran’s performance, Williams introduces a sprightly theme full of wonder (akin to his Harry Potter work), one that initially appears in fragments as Rose cradles one half of the pendant shared with her late, dreadnaught-obliterating sister. Its concert arrangement comes in Fun With Finn And Rose. Its most rambunctious statement, however, is in the magnificent The Fathiers, as Rose releases the imprisoned horse-like creatures from their Canto Bight stables. Barrelling forward and mirroring the movement of the creatures, it’s a brilliantly swashbuckling piece. – Full article

The New Yorker (‘A Field Guide to the Musical Leitmotifs of Star Wars‘) – Williams’s latest score is one the most compelling in his forty-year “Star Wars” career: Rian Johnson’s film complicates and enriches the familiar template, and Williams responds with intricate, ambiguous variations on his canon of themes. – Full article

Film Music Notes (‘New Musical Themes and Their Meaning in The Last Jedi‘) – Having reached the eighth episode of the main Star Wars saga and writing for a sequel film rather than a prequel, Williams’ score for The Last Jedi draws on an extensive array of themes that first appeared in earlier installments. But even so, since each film inevitably brings new characters and new developments for established characters, there is always a need for new thematic material. And though he has trod the Star Wars path seven times before, he demonstrates that he is still able to forge themes in a way that is highly sensitive to the emotional content of the events onscreen. –  Full article

The SoundCast – Christopher Coleman is joined by Kristen Romanelli, Erik Woods and Justin Craig for this special 100th episode to talk about John Williams’ original score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi … and a wee bit about the film, too. They discuss new themes, returning themes, stand out cues on the soundtrack and, finally, rank the Star Wars films and original scores. – Listen to the podcast

The Hashtag Show – The innocent melodic sound of Rose Tico is softer than anything we have received since Attack of the Clones love theme for Anakin and Padme. – Full review

Soundtrack World – The dark themes are wonderfully mashed up together in “Revisiting Snoke” with themes from Snoke, Kylo Ren, and even a hint to Darth Vader. “The Supremacy” contains a unique version of “Princess Leia’s Theme” with part of the melody done on piano, some eerie effects and a big finale. In “Fun With Finn and Rose” we are introduced to the first new theme for this movie, written for the Rose character, which I will name “Rose’s Theme” for that reason. It is a beautifully simple melody, written for the woodwinds, demonstrating the kindness of the character. – Full review

Movie Music UK – It’s certainly possible that, despite knowing and understanding the concepts that determine leitmotif, you could still find that Williams’s reliance on themes from the first seven Star Wars films makes this film come across as a messy, needle-dropped Frankenstein score, or that the abundance of older and more famous themes overshadows what new material there actually is. My own point of view, as you can probably tell, is one that is much more positive. I feel that the two major new themes combine perfectly with the older material, and that Williams provides more than enough variation on those themes for them to still feel fresh and exciting. Furthermore, the new action material, especially in the fathiers sequence, and during the final Crait battle, is wonderfully entertaining and musically creative. – Full review

Movie Wave – Interestingly, if the film itself goes off in some new directions, the score – much more than The Force Awakens or indeed any of the six that went before that – stays firmly rooted in the familiar, with less new material than we are used to hearing, and considerable heavy-lifting done by the existing themes. It’s great to hear the two primary themes from The Force Awakens getting more development here (in the prequel trilogy, themes were generally given short shrift after their debut film) although a bit of a disappointment that even though Poe Dameron has a much bigger role in this film, his wonderful, heroic theme is entirely absent from the album (it is heard, briefly, within the film). There are a couple of new little themes and one new theme of real note – more on those, of course, later. – Full review

Bowers & Wilkins – As expected, the underscore is luscious in its grandiose late romantic style and visceral charm, asserting itself with tact and prowess during all of the key moments. Musical themes for Rey, Kylo Ren and the Resistance resurface with colourful variation, driving the action forward with palpable force that will leave you breathless in those climactic moments. However, while a substantial amount of cherished music returns, delivering a spectrum of emotions in the process, it is noticeable that the newer orchestral compositions written for TLJ aren’t quite as stirring as previous sound signatures. – Full review

DapsMagic – John Williams’ soundtrack for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a masterpiece. Having listened and re-listened to it several times now, I do think it is one of his strongest soundtracks in recent memory. A quick memory jog going back and I would have to put it into the category of the original Star Wars trilogy or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. – Full review

Mashable – Instead of going in order, let’s begin with what might be the most arresting piece on this soundtrack: “The Spark.” It doesn’t sound like most other Star Wars music with heavy horns and sharp orchestration. It uses a bit of the old “The Force Theme” before easing into a warm string melody. Before you can even wonder which ship sails during that swell, there’s a heart-wrenching snippet of “Han Solo and the Princess” from Empire Strikes Back, cut off by the sinister twist on the main titles that we’ve been hearing in those trailers. Listen multiple times, and closely. – Full review

Soundtrack Geek – It’s impossible not to love this score if you’re a fan of John Williams’ Star Wars music. This could also be construed as a little criticism if you were expecting many new themes and new music in general. I couldn’t really find anything that really stuck with me like Rey’s theme in The Force Awakens. There’s something for Rose, but it’s not sticking with me. Is that a bad thing? For any other score, absolutely. For this one? Well, you be the judge. – Full review

Laughing Place – Looking for new John Williams music? Look no further, there’s plenty of it. The most memorable and obvious new theme belongs to Rose and is first heard on the track “Fun with Finn and Rose.” It’s an optimistic melody and I love it every time it pops up on the soundtrack. – Full review

Soundtrack Dreams – “The Force Awakens” was a great score and John Williams was actually just warming up with it. It’s rare that a film score, especially for a movie like “Star Wars” where the story is everything, provides a listening experience as rich and rewarding as actually watching the film itself but this is the case here; 80 full, enjoyable and emotional minutes pass in a heartbeat and I just want to start all over again and know the music by heart before I go see the movie.- Full review

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Where was the epic new tune to hum on the way out of the theater? The creativity in the “Force Awakens” score helped the movie feel a bit less like a remake of “A New Hope.” Mr. Williams clearly still has the capability to create, but he didn’t deliver in “The Last Jedi.” Further listening may prove otherwise. But after the crucial material he’s given fans in the past, the lack of creativity is disappointing. – Full review

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