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The Empire Strikes Back


Bellosh

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Empire is probably my favorite Star Wars score. I do also really like the original film's score and the scores for TPM and ROTS, but ESB is really special in that there isn't a single dull second in the entire 2+ hour score. It's almost hard to name highlights because *every single cue* is memorable.

 

It's also probably my favorite Williams score, if only because I'm not as intimately familiar with his work outside of Star Wars and Harry Potter

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11 minutes ago, Brando said:

WHAT?!?!?!

 

Lol I know right???

 

I personally think the overall theme is just a bit overrated. I'm well aware this is a horrible opinion.

 

But I do love the statement of that theme at the tail end of the Battle of Hoth.  I like it in really short moments.

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1 hour ago, Dr. Rick said:


Ugh, it’s “couldn’t care less”, not “could care less”.  🤣. Sorry couldn’t help it this is one of my pet peeves because so many people say it wrong 😂 

It’s okay, you are the parental life coach after all.

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I'm continually torn between which score I think is the better one: that of the original film or that of The Empire Strikes Back. They're both lush and ingeniously constructed, but the original's is a bit more sparsely-spotted and more thinly-orchestrated, but at the same time I feel does a better job balancing the different kinds of musical materials. The Empire Strikes Back is denser, richer but, dare I say, maybe relies on The Imperial March a wee bit too much?

 

Choices, choices...

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I personally prefer Revenge of the Sith, Prisoner of Azkaban, and even Schindler's List (although that one is obviously a very different genre...)

 

Empire is probably not in my top five, but it would definitely find a place in my top ten. There's no denying it's a sublime score.

 

Regarding The Imperial March, I think it's overused to the point of exhaustion in the film, and it's become such a part of popular culture outside of the "film score world" that it's easy to underestimate its original brilliance.

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There are 1, Jaws, 2, Star Wars, 3, Superman, 4, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 5. E.T.the Extraterrestrial, John Williams scores that are better in the 74 to 84 period.  

 

It is not the pinnacle. 

It will always be second to Star Wars, which is simply unmatched by any other Star Wars followup.

And yet its a great great score 

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1 hour ago, Tallguy said:

Seriously, is it ever played the same way twice?

 

Of course it is! I mean, its dressed-up in different orchestrations and tempi and is even presented in a variation here and there, but its not really changed very much.

 

I mean, it does develop some - take for instance some of the music that opens the film which hints at it, or the way its concealed in the early Cloud City music. But otherwise, until we get to the end of Return of the Jedi and then The Phantom Menace, it’s basically always the same.

 

I'm not saying that as a critique, necessarily: even in works that are predicated on musical development, some ideas tend to remain the same (cough Alberich's Curse cough).

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One thing I've never understood is that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back both have spectacular scores like we've been discussing, and yet I've never found Return of the Jedi to be of the same caliber. I don't know what it is about it.

 

Is perhaps part of it the poor sound quality of the 1997 set? I do like the new themes (even the Ewok ones) and I think there are some quality statements of the old ones, but I've never found most of the action pieces to be as memorable as in the prior two films. Maybe part of it is also over spotting? Or less of a unique identity since so much of it is built on the imperial march and the han/leia love theme, both staples of the previous film? 

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12 minutes ago, enderdrag64 said:

One thing I've never understood is that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back both have spectacular scores like we've been discussing, and yet I've never found Return of the Jedi to be of the same caliber. I don't know what it is about it.

 

Is perhaps part of it the poor sound quality of the 1997 set? I do like the new themes (even the Ewok ones) and I think there are some quality statements of the old ones, but I've never found most of the action pieces to be as memorable as in the prior two films. Maybe part of it is also over spotting? Or less of a unique identity since so much of it is built on the imperial march and the han/leia love theme, both staples of the previous film? 

 

I know what you mean. Sound quality is definitely a factor; I suspect that if it ever gets a proper remaster, a lot of feelings will shift. But it's not just that. Compositionally, I agree that it's a notch or two below its predecessors. (Which still puts it above 99.99% of all film scores, to be clear.)

 

One factor is the way JW handled the Imperial March. He may have overused it in ESB, but many of the arrangements were better. There's something leaner, angrier, more militaristic. Vertically speaking, there's a stronger emphasis on fifths and octaves. In ROTJ, the thirds are more prominent. It sounds cheesier to me. There's also a tendency in ESB to keep something of a pedal tone going beneath the first phrase or two. That vanishes in ROTJ. The bassline tends to just follow the tonic of the chord.

 

Anyway, it's still an incredible score.

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9 hours ago, enderdrag64 said:

One thing I've never understood is that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back both have spectacular scores like we've been discussing, and yet I've never found Return of the Jedi to be of the same caliber. I don't know what it is about it.

 

Well, if the point of using leitmotives is to lend unity to musical storytelling, then scoring a film like Return of the Jedi is a flawed enterprise: the film is effectivelly two separate (connected, obviously, but nonetheless separate) movies in one: a 35-minute short about rescuing Han from Jabba's palace - Episode 5.5, if you like - and then a 90 minute feature about the defeat of the Empire, Episode 6 proper.

 

And this isn't just some abstract aesthetic debate: in the first two scores, Williams is clearly trying to introduce as many of his themes as early as possible - usually almost entirely within the opening sequence - so the score exhibits this unity from start to finish and the audience is familiar with the melodies from the outset. Not so in Return of the Jedi: the motives associated with the Emperor, the Ewoks, Luke and Leia's siblinghood and so forth cannot manifest before the Jabba short and its music are concluded, so they have less "airtime", if you will.

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19 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

 

Well, if the point of using leitmotives is to lend unity to musical storytelling, then scoring a film like Return of the Jedi is a flawed enterprise: the film is effectivelly two separate movies in one: a 35-minute short about rescuing Han from Jabba's palace - Episode 5.5, if you like - and then a 90 minute feature about the defeat of the Empire, Episode 6 proper.

 

And this isn't just some abstract aesthetic debate: in the first two scores, Williams is clearly trying to introduce as many of his themes as early as possible - usually almost entirely within the opening sequence - so the score exhibits this unity from start to finish and the audience is familiar with the melodies from the outset. Not so in Return of the Jedi: the motives associated with the Emperor, the Ewoks, Luke and Leia's siblinghood and so forth cannot manifest before the Jabba short and its music are concluded, so they have less "airtime", if you will.

I hadn't thought of it like that but that makes sense. There are also quite a lot of new themes in Jedi, to add to those added in Empire, so he's juggling at least a dozen themes which mean many of the newer ones don't have the chance to make as much impact. Having said that, as they are still such brilliant themes, they still do.

 

I would add to the above that Jedi has even more story strands running through it, which doesn't help, particularly the finale. ANH has one (the trench run), Empire has two (Luke/Vader and Han/Leia/Chewie) and Jedi has three (Luke/Vader/Emperor, Han/Leia/Chewie and Lando/trench run mark 2) so there's a lot more cutting from one thing to another and changes in tone and pace to contend with musically. Even someone as skilled as JW is gonna struggle to keep up (I think it's why the finale of TPM is a mess as there's even more concurrent story threads to deal with, hence all the terrible music edits).

 

However, in response to the original post, I usually pick Empire as my favourite score of all time... so yeah, I think it's pretty great lol.

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9 hours ago, enderdrag64 said:

One thing I've never understood is that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back both have spectacular scores like we've been discussing, and yet I've never found Return of the Jedi to be of the same caliber. I don't know what it is about it.

That's because it's not of the same caliber.  ;)

 

Just my opinion, of course, but Parade of the "Ewoks" and "Luke and Leia" are both subpar themes, especially in their concert suites. Ditto Jabba's tuba music. Subpar for John Williams, meaning better than most other composers, but a big step down for Star Wars.

 

The source music is also obnoxious. Except "Jabba's Baroque Recital," which strangely I really enjoy.

 

Anyway, that's diverging a bit from the discussion of Empire, but Return of the Jedi has always been a disappointment to me in every regard, because it had the same potential as the other two in the original trilogy, but failed to deliver (again, in my opinion).

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In Empire Williams (and Lucas) found a solid way to revisit the old themes and sensibilities while at the same time taking a massive leap forward. Jedi does not and is additionally burdened with the sudden drive to wrap everything up in a single film. It's the first film with significant needle drops.

 

All three of the OT have a first section that is only tangentially related to the rest of the film. In Star Wars it's Tatooine although that serves to introduce Luke and finally establish the stakes that are only hinted at in the opening crawl. Empire has Luke in the snow which has nothing to do with the main story other than maybe distracting the rebels from finding the probe droid earlier than they do. And even the battle in the snow is more of an impetus for the rest of the movie with the rebels scattered.

 

As for introducing all the themes early: Hmmm. In Star Wars that's certainly true. Empire? Yoda's theme is introduced late. The Imperial March is hinted at but isn't developed or even revisited for quite some time. Lando and Cloud City are necessarily late.

 

Oh and Luke and Leia may be the prettiest theme in Star Wars.

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13 minutes ago, Tallguy said:

Empire? Yoda's theme is introduced late. The Imperial March is hinted at but isn't developed or even revisited for quite some time. Lando and Cloud City are necessarily late.

 

The Yoda and Cloud City-related material are later-comers, yes. But both The Imperial March (in embryonic form), the love theme and the theme associated with the Droids are introduced in the span of...two scenes? And those form the backbone of the piece more so than does the theme associated with Yoda.

 

15 minutes ago, Tallguy said:

Oh and Luke and Leia may be the prettiest theme in Star Wars.

 

Truly. If the sequel trilogy does any service to the overriding musical storytelling, its in its expanding on that musical idea.

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Yes Empire is marred by the constant repeats of the Imperial March. But that very first iteration on Piccolo at the very start. Its one of countless golden moments. Thank god none of us have to choose which score to bring with us to the desert island. I love all three. 

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Is the IM really repeated more than any other theme in the first two films?

 

9 minutes ago, GerateWohl said:

Beginning to end great score, but my favourite part is all that battle music on Hoth. Greatest action music ever for me.

 

I'll take the Cloud City finale over Hoth. And wow, is that a whole lot of amazing music to be able to choose from? :D

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On 07/02/2023 at 7:39 PM, enderdrag64 said:

One thing I've never understood is that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back both have spectacular scores like we've been discussing, and yet I've never found Return of the Jedi to be of the same caliber. I don't know what it is about it.

 

Is perhaps part of it the poor sound quality of the 1997 set? I do like the new themes (even the Ewok ones) and I think there are some quality statements of the old ones, but I've never found most of the action pieces to be as memorable as in the prior two films. Maybe part of it is also over spotting? Or less of a unique identity since so much of it is built on the imperial march and the han/leia love theme, both staples of the previous film? 

Now is a good time to discuss this now 40 year old score.

Its may not be Star Wars or ESB quality but it is damn close.and its joyous. 

It has two wonderful finales. Though Yub Nub  warms my heart more.

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On 7/2/2023 at 8:39 PM, enderdrag64 said:

One thing I've never understood is that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back both have spectacular scores like we've been discussing, and yet I've never found Return of the Jedi to be of the same caliber. I don't know what it is about it.

 

Is perhaps part of it the poor sound quality of the 1997 set? I do like the new themes (even the Ewok ones) and I think there are some quality statements of the old ones, but I've never found most of the action pieces to be as memorable as in the prior two films. Maybe part of it is also over spotting? Or less of a unique identity since so much of it is built on the imperial march and the han/leia love theme, both staples of the previous film? 


I remember listening to the ROTJ expansion for the first time, and being disappointed by the lack of activity underscoring Luke’s conversation with Jabba just prior to the Rancor scene. 
 

It’s an uncommon musical dead spot for the OT. 

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1 hour ago, Andy said:


I remember listening to the ROTJ expansion for the first time, and being disappointed by the lack of activity underscoring Luke’s conversation with Jabba just prior to the Rancor scene. 
 

It’s an uncommon musical dead spot for the OT. 

Tracking in “The Dark Side Beckons” there was an interesting choice.

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1 hour ago, Andy said:


I remember listening to the ROTJ expansion for the first time, and being disappointed by the lack of activity underscoring Luke’s conversation with Jabba just prior to the Rancor scene. 
 

It’s an uncommon musical dead spot for the OT. 

Kinda like Raiders

 

 

*hides*

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  • 2 weeks later...
3 hours ago, Schilkeman said:

an expanded release in good audio quality would certainly do it a lot of favors.

Like Bespin once proposed, I would be already fine with a good recording of the whole live to projection arrangements of the three movies.

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