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Ludwig

Analysis - Uses of Darth Vader's Theme

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Nice! I did not realize what I thought of as the ESB "pursuit" theme was in fact vader's theme. Good catch! Now here is a question for you: why use the Darth Vader (AKA Imperial March) at the end of AOTC if Vader did not exist yet?

At 0:10 here:

Do you think that is an appropriate use of the theme?

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Absolutely! It fits right in with the whole larger view of Vader's theme as sometimes representing the fearful nature of the Imperial fleet and army, especially through its overwhelming magnitude. And that's exactly what's emphasized in that scene. I think it also plays up the Palpatine's increased power over the Republic, in a way that somewhat mirrors Vader's introduction in Empire, since Palpatine is shown as the head of this vast military.

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The Imperial March was never just Darth Vader's theme. It also represented The Empire. Just like The Force Theme represented both Obi-Wan and The Force, or how Luke's Theme is also the Star Wars main theme.

The use of The Imperial March in the closing scenes of AOTC can be seen as dubious if you are looking for a strict leitmotific connection with Darth Vader. But since the scene sort of represents the "birth of the Empire" I think it's use is justified.

John Williams didnt always use his leimotifs super strictly. Leia's Theme plays as Obi-wan dies for example, even though either The Force Theme or Luke's Theme would make more sense.

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So the Imperial march can be seen as the power/growth of the empire. Similarly, the Luke theme (AKA main title) can be seen as the power/growth of the rebellion and not just Luke so is justified before his appearance too. So the themes are not specifically for individuals but more like architypes. Interesting.

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I think this evolved retroactively in some cases (Ben = force) but yeah, I probably noticed just didn't close the loop. I was thinking for AOTC the ending should have had an emperor theme in bold epic military dressing rather than imperial theme (Vader) but it does make more sense now.

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The fact that the theme is actually called "The Imperial March" would make it very plain that its not only associated with Vader.

Ben's Theme already represented The Force in the first film, so it's certainly not a retroactive thing.

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In all seriousness John Williams uses leitmotifs in his Star Wars scores, but never allowed himself to become restricted by them. If another theme or musical idea works better dramatically then he uses that instead.

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Leia's theme being used at Ben's death is a good example of that. She had the most romanticized theme and it worked better emotionally, regardless of it making a lick of sense.


The Imperial March was never just Darth Vader's theme. It also represented The Empire.

I associate it way more as the Empire theme than I ever did with just Vader as an individual.

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So the Imperial march can be seen as the power/growth of the empire. Similarly, the Luke theme (AKA main title) can be seen as the power/growth of the rebellion and not just Luke so is justified before his appearance too. So the themes are not specifically for individuals but more like architypes. Interesting.

The main reason why the Imperial March was used in the finale of AOTC was because Lucas knew the average moviegoer would expect it to show up there. And to make it obvious that the Clone Army would later become the Imperial Army (you know, in case no one got that when watching the film).

No need to see it as a "power/growth of the empire" theme. It's just a case of "give to the audience what it expects", nothing more than that.

There's certainly some of that, but to say it's nothing more is a bit too much, no? I think it depends partly on the viewer's familiarity with the other films. What I mean is, it does echo some memorable scenes from the earlier films where the Imperial March was heard alongside shots of the hugeness of the fleet/army and a connection to Vader or the Emperor. I'm thinking of Vader's introduction in TESB and the Emperor's Arrival in ROTJ, where we get both of these things, much like the end of AOTC. All I'm saying is that I think it also works in a richer way. We don't have to see it entirely in a cynical way.

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There's certainly some of that, but to say it's nothing more is a bit too much, no? I think it depends partly on the viewer's familiarity with the other films. What I mean is, it does echo some memorable scenes from the earlier films where the Imperial March was heard alongside shots of the hugeness of the fleet/army and a connection to Vader or the Emperor. I'm thinking of Vader's introduction in TESB and the Emperor's Arrival in ROTJ, where we get both of these things, much like the end of AOTC. All I'm saying is that I think it also works in a richer way. We don't have to see it entirely in a cynical way.

I'm not saying it doesn't work. Just that it's not a particularly subtle way to get the message across ("Hey, these guys you're seeing onscreen: they're the Stormtroopers from the OT! Get it? Get it? The Clone Army is the Imperial Army!"). And of course I get it that it's meant to echo those moments from the OT.

All I'm saying is that JW could have used a proto version of the Imperial March instead of a straightforward rendition of it.

Gotcha. And Lucas would have been the one to say, "no, we need a big statement of the Imperial March there! I don't want intricate subtleties, I want a blatantly obvious sledgehammer moment!"

Interestingly, Williams manages to find ways of writing these proto versions nevertheless, like that ostinato in "The Space Battle" from TPM. Clearly Imperial-March derived.

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John Williams didnt always use his leimotifs super strictly. Leia's Theme plays as Obi-wan dies for example, even though either The Force Theme or Luke's Theme would make more sense.

No, Leia's theme plays 'after' Ben dies, it's the Force Theme that plays up to his death (while that scene is still featuring him, although it's never really about him anyway).

Luke's theme has no place there at all from a story telling point of view, we don't need his theme to be spoon fed to us to know he's in shock, etc, that would have been a disastrous choice!

The whole scene is about rescuing the Princess, it's the end of Luke and Ben's physical journey together and her theme is what took them that far.

Leia's theme is not used again from that point even though she's now part of the gang, her music as a leitmotif functions much more than a black and white description of her character, like all the music in the original SW it's not really about what you see but about what things represent to the characters in the overall arc of the story.

Even Williams has said as much.

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Gotcha. And Lucas would have been the one to say, "no, we need a big statement of the Imperial March there! I don't want intricate subtleties, I want a blatantly obvious sledgehammer moment!"

Exactly, that's what I was trying to say.

Well, at least that's what I believe happened (the fact that the original version of the finale cue didn't use the Imperial March seems to suggest that, too).

In his analysis of the score for AOTC, John Takis mentions that certain "sources" talked about a "magnificent orchestral blowout" that Williams originally penned for this finale. Do you, or does anyone else, know what sources these are? Not that I don't believe it, of course I do. I'm just interested in collecting official information so if I need to reference it for others, I can.

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The Imperial March belonged there. I mean, you're seeing these proto-Stormtroopers marching and taking off in Star Destroyers while Palpatine looks on. To hell with musical continuity. They're just Star Wars prequels. For such an apparently pivotal moment during the closing moments of the film, Williams doesn't even employ a theme? It kinda reminds me of how Goldsmith improved The Enterprise by adding the main theme after Robert Wise complained.

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The Imperial Marchl, when played in its full orchestral, militaristic guise, is indeed a theme of military and imperialistic might. But when played slower, with softer orchestration, it's a theme that perfectly encapsulates a fallen angel. Like many Williams' themes, this one is very versatile

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Williams knows how to handle orchestrations, colors, tempo, dynamics and atmospheres to make the most of his motifs, and I think this excellent analysis by Mark Richards poves it. Thanks for such an accomplished work!

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Yes! Williams doesn't need 80 themes and leitmotifs. Unlike a certain Kanadian...

We all know every Williams theme is in the end just a variation on the Emperor's theme. ;)

But seriously, great analysis Ludwig!

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Yoda's theme appears twice during the Cloud City sequence, clearly without any conection to Yoda whatsoever.

Star Wars music has never been "subtle", it's grand and operatic. The Imperial March itself is the opposite of subtle.

In the later decades Williams has used less thematic statements, as it's obvious in the prequels (while in the OT virtually every cue contains several "obvious" thematic statements). Lucas did change the music at times to add a few more thematic statements (just as he did in the original Binary Sunset scene): the ending of Clones is one example, another one being all the tracked statements of the Emperor's theme in Sith (again, Williams didn't use the obvious theme for the obvious scene in which the Emperor is revealed).

The Imperial March belonged there. I mean, you're seeing these proto-Stormtroopers marching and taking off in Star Destroyers while Palpatine looks on. To hell with musical continuity. They're just Star Wars prequels. For such an apparently pivotal moment during the closing moments of the film, Williams doesn't even employ a theme? It kinda reminds me of how Goldsmith improved The Enterprise by adding the main theme after Robert Wise complained.

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My personal favourite is the couple of repeated statements in the beginning of "The Rebels Escape" from TESB (0:33 and 1:07) - it's like being in a nightmare, and every now and again you take a glance over your shoulder to see the monster chasing you!

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The Imperial March was never just Darth Vader's theme. It also represented The Empire. Just like The Force Theme represented both Obi-Wan and The Force, or how Luke's Theme is also the Star Wars main theme.

The use of The Imperial March in the closing scenes of AOTC can be seen as dubious if you are looking for a strict leitmotific connection with Darth Vader. But since the scene sort of represents the "birth of the Empire" I think it's use is justified.

John Williams didnt always use his leimotifs super strictly. Leia's Theme plays as Obi-wan dies for example, even though either The Force Theme or Luke's Theme would make more sense.

Of course, the Force theme WAS used in a hushed manner as Ben decides enough is enough.

And since this WAS about Ben's Death, it would have been totally wrong to use Luke's Theme since something in a major key over such a sad scene would NOT have fit at all. Yeah, I know what you're gonna say next-why not just "minor" Luke's Theme to fit the scene?

Again wrong, because the most effective use of Luke's Theme in a minor key was used at the end of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as the rebel fleet is seen sailing softly through space. ( I LOVE that one X-Wing that goes on by the camera!)

Again, since Luke's Theme was already used MORE effectively, during the Chasm Crossfire scene, it would have been a case of "Enough of Luke's Theme already!"

But Leia's theme, with it's built-in melancholy and sadness, was the PERFECT choice for this scene.

Swashbuckling but sad and the cymbal accent occurring when Leia tells Luke that it's "too late" is something that has never been repeated in any movie that I know of.

Between logic and emotion, I choose emotion......

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My personal favourite is the couple of repeated statements in the beginning of "The Rebels Escape" from TESB (0:33 and 1:07) - it's like being in a nightmare, and every now and again you take a glance over your shoulder to see the monster chasing you!

Ooh, I never thought about that moment as that. Cool!

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Yoda's theme appears twice during the Cloud City sequence, clearly without any conection to Yoda whatsoever.

I never had an issue with this.

Williams found his footing BEFORE ANH.

1. The Cowboys

2. The Poseidon Adventure

3. The Towering Inferno

4. The Eiger Sanction

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Again wrong, because the most effective use of Luke's Theme in a minor key was used at the end of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as the rebel fleet is seen sailing softly through space.

I think that rendition of the theme is indeed effective in the film, although it's worth noting that it was tracked from one of the Dagobah scenes. Williams didn't score that finale scene with Luke's theme at all, just lots of the Force theme and the love theme.

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