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What's so great about ESB???


Josh500
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Okay guys, first of all HAPPY NEW YEAR TO Y'ALL!!!

Now to my topic. Everybody (or many of you) keeps emphasizing how great and brilliant and second-to-none the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back is. I've listened to it many times (along with the other 4 Star Wars scores) and I don't really get why this one's so especially great. Don't get me wrong, it IS a fabulous and wonderful Williams score, but why is this ESPECIALLY great? For me, all Star Wars scores (yes, even Attack of the Clones) are great, so I don't really understand what's so special about ESB. Is it just the movie that's great? If not, is it because of the Imperial March or Yoda's Theme? Is there a particular scene in the movie that made you say so? Am I missing here something?

:)

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Because ESB is one of those scores that really is a roller coaster ride. There's so many things going on, and so many great cues ranging from all-out action cues to subtle underscoring. Plus, this score is so big it grows beyond the movie. Some might point this out and say that's a bad thing, because the score should serve the picture alone, but here the music becomes a seperate entity, and truly feels like an opera when listening to it outside of the film, partly because almost every single scene had music written to it.

Now ANH also has a feeling of grandure, but because it's not wall-to-wall, you get less of a feeling that the music's telling the story when you're listening to it seperately. That's not a bad thing, it's just that ESB does have that feeling, and that's a little extra something that makes it rank higher in my book.

RotJ is another wall-to-wall score, but suffers from a lot of dull moments when comapered to ESB. The underscore's still pretty good, but not as good as with ESB, and overall the score is less emotional than ESB, where blood, sweat and tears seem to pour out of every note.

TPM I think is a score we still haven't heard it's full grandure of. With the score being so messed up in the film and on the UE, we unfortunately haven't heard everything Williams intended us to hear yet. I think TPM might actually be a better score than RotJ - we just haven't heard it yet.

AotC is servicable for the film, but no more than that.

Obviously I love and adore ESB, so I'm a little biased, but that's my opinion anyway. :)

- Marc

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Its a top 20 score. Very very good, but there are so many better.

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Very very good, but there are so many better.

There are better scores (E.T., Star Wars, Schindler's List, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Once Upon A Time In America, The Mission, The Return Of The King), but not many...

Roald

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Quote:

The Return Of The King

is one that is not better

Yeah, I actually regret a little that I put that one there.

The Return Of The King is one of the best scores ever, but it may be a slight step behind The Empire Strikes Back. In a couple of years, when the The Lord Of The Rings euphoria has come down, I will re-evaluate it's position.

Roald

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ESB is my favorite film score for a few reasons.

Every cue/track fits the film like a glove yet is also a thoroughly great listen. I could sit and listen to the entire score straight through and not get bored. I cannot say the same about any Star Wars score since ESB, especially the prequel scores. Even the original Star Wars score has a couple cues that usually get skipped when I listen to it.

The action cues in ESB are among the greatest Williams ever composed.

The score is all about Williams topping himself. With Star Wars he composed a classic score for the ages. Three years later, with ESB, he tops it. It's what I love about it. SW had a great main theme, great 'love' theme, the Force theme and terrific action cues like the TIE Fighter attack, Battle of Yavin etc. ESB has it's own Main (Imperial March) Theme, Han and Leia's (love) theme, Yoda's theme and great action cues like the Asteroid Field, Battle of Hoth etc.

Being that it's a sequel score, it serves as a continuation of Star Wars yet does not depend AT ALL on thematic material from SW. Yes the Force theme and Main theme are used from time to time in ESB, but even if you removed the original SW themes from ESB, you are still left with a classic score.

Star Wars still does rank, for me, as a very close second to ESB. I can't really argue with anyone who prefers SW, because it, like ESB, is Williams at his best and the Star Wars score that started it all.

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Second Merkel, I would add AOTC to my tastes. By the way, a little experiment of mine seems to show that people unfamiliar with the saga seem to like ROTJ best among the OT...

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ESB is a grand symphony on a scale much bigger than Star Wars achieved. It truly works on an operatic level, and one might argue that if one were to listen to it for the first time away from the piece -- and having no knowledge that it is a film score or having knowledge of the film itself -- one could hear it as a standalone achievement that doesn't need images to tell the emotions.

The romanticism of the love theme

The heroism of Luke's theme

The terror of Vader's theme

The wisdom of the Force theme and Yoda's theme

The blending of all themes to make it sound like one organic piece

Enough said.

Jeff

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Oops...I put my answer without refreshing the page. Now I see I've said the same thing as Marc.

Steef, yes, we remember him, but he's still not living.

But his music will always be alive. I think that's the important thing!

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TPM I think is a score we still haven't heard it's full grandure of. With the score being so messed up in the film and on the UE, we unfortunately haven't heard everything Williams intended us to hear yet. I think TPM might actually be a better score than RotJ - we just haven't heard it yet.

Actually, you can pretty much hear TPM as it was originally written and recorded...go here for more information, bring $50 or so with you.

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Usually, I'll say that according to my opinion, ESB is the best score ever made.

But since some people on this board do not believe that art is relative, I will say that ESB is definitely the best score ever made because anybody who disagrees is obviously not all there.

-Chris, Who loves every SW score

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There's an epic grandeur to it not achieved by any other Williams score,the sweeping romantisism of the love theme,the Imperial March,Yoda's theme,Battle of Hoth,Escape from Hoth,Asteroid Field,escape from the mynock cave,the Bespin music,Yoda and the Force,The Duel,Carbonfreeze,Escape from Cloud City,Losing a Hand,Hyperspace,the epic Finale and End Titles....Everything is so right about it,every note of it is perfect,every segment of underscore is facinating and incredibly orchestrated.The great moments keep coming track after track,little details like the trumpet solo of Luke's Theme in Ice Planet Hoth,the flute solo underscoring R2 in the dagobag swamp,the sudden brilliant fanfare when Luke falls the ATAT....

I think the scene when Han is lowered into the carbonite is the single most operatic and sweeping Williams moment ever.

K.M.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Again, I agree with KM here. It's the only score that I can listen to anytime, anywhere, for any reason. Any version too! The dual-LP, the Anthology, the complete 2-CD. All. To me, it is the ONLY perfect score. Although Williams has scored many great scores (pretty much the 1977-1984 era is tremendous), ESB is in it's own league, IMO. Granted, that was (the dual LP) my first soundtrack album I ever owned, which may influence my decision. back in the late 70s-early 80s, the ESB, SW, Superman, Raiders, and ET LPs are why I'm Williams fan today. :)

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The only thing I don't like about ESB is that the score was butchered to some degree in the film. Some pieces were used for scenes they weren't originally scored for, some music was eliminated from the film... The same things that were done TPM and AOTC were also done to ESB although to a much lesser degree.

Roald

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I think the exclusions and edits in ESB were alright. I think they improved the film, because some scenes just work better without music (the duel for example, is wonderfully scored, but works better without music).

RotJ is where the butchering begins. I have watched both ESB and ANH with the SE CDs playing along, and for most of the time it fits perfectly (especially on ANH), but I gave up on RotJ after the first act. It's a mess.

- Marc

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No, I don't mind that. The original music might have been a bit too cheery for the scene. And the cue's too long as well as it's represented on the SE to go with the sequence.

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Second Merkel, I would add AOTC to my tastes. By the way, a little experiment of mine seems to show that people unfamiliar with the saga seem to like ROTJ best among the OT...

I think ROJ is the best of the OT, and i humbly call me the SW lore wise ass (or nerd) here :)

ROTFLMAO

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Well I'm going to disagree with the above posts saying there are many scores better than ESB. I honestly think it is the finest score ever written. It functions well within the film, but also plays exceptionally well as a purely musical experience. Every leitmotivic theme is well developed throughout the film. A few even crop up in unexpected places (Yoda's theme on Bespin as the newly-trained Luke faces his first combat scene as a Jedi-in-training).

The overall structure of the score works well musically as a ballet in three acts (Act 1: Hoth, Act 2: Luke on Dagobah, the others' adventures in space, Act 3: The dark brooding conclusion on Bespin). Of course the script invites these three Acts, but it is the score that really gives each one it's character and depth.

Within each act are several musical set-pieces of such strength and quality that most film scores would be lucky to have a single set-piece in the same league. The opening segment on Hoth is an amazing, near-continuous piece of music building towards the climax of the "Battle in the Snow". What an inspiration to use the piano ostinato at the start of this piece, symbolizing the mechanical and relentless nature of the Walkers.

The highlight of the score for me is The Asteroid Field. A terrific scherzo with two statements of a theme bold enough to be the main theme of any film score! Only in this score does a theme so powerful and recognizable appear for such a short space of time.

The music Dagobah (the core of the second "act") revolves around a series of variations on Yoda's Theme, another absolute winner.

The climactic material on Bespin incudes the Cloud City music. Cloud City gets two themes! The sparkling "fantasy" theme with women's chorus as we see Cloud City from a distance, and the stately theme for the interior shots. Both of these themes serve only to lead the viewer/listener into a false sense of security, and are replaced with much darker muic as the Imperial forces are revealed. At this point Vader's and Fett's themes form the basis of the score. Oh yes, did I already mention the Imperial March?

Added to which, I defy anyone to suggest a finer closing title suite than ESB.

What other score can possibly be better than this?

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I could only find 4 tracks from ESB that I wanted to add to my Star Wars Trilogy Compilation, hell even ROTJ had more than that.

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The overall structure of the score works well musically as a ballet in three acts (Act 1: Hoth, Act 2: Luke on Dagobah, the others' adventures in space, Act 3: The dark brooding conclusion on Bespin). Of course the script invites these three Acts, but it is the score that really gives each one it's character and depth.

I've always thought of this as Williams writing for location as much as an act. It's like that in Ep. I, where the Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant cues all have a distinct "flavor". You can instantly tell where a cue is taking place in the movie.

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I could only find 4 tracks from ESB that I wanted to add to my Star Wars Trilogy Compilation, hell even ROTJ had more than that.

I would agree with you. Aside from Battle in the Snow, Imperial March, Yoda's Theme, and Asteroid Field the rest of the score is much more symphonic. It's difficult to take small segments away from the larger work. However I think this is a testement to the overall quality in the structure of the score. A score which takes time to unfold properly. I don't think the ability to be included on a compilation CD is a prerequisite of a good score, or else the original release of the ROTJ soundtrack (all short extracts and concert arrangements) would be the perfect soundtrack CD! Likewise I have difficulty taking excerpts from Superman the Movie. I refuse to cut up the opening "Krypton" music as it all flows so beautifully. The Planet Krypton up to the Trip to Earth MUST be heard together for maximum effect IMO.

John Crichton wrote:

 

I've always thought of this as Williams writing for location as much as an act. It's like that in Ep. I, where the Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant cues all have a distinct "flavor". You can instantly tell where a cue is taking place in the movie.

Yes, but I feel that there is s stronger sense of the three-act structure in the score to ESB. I really don't sense anything quite so structural in TPM.

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I agree with Marc, the alterations in TESB never really bothered me much.  

Not even hearing Hyperspace while they are still on Hoth.

I used not to mind that, but now I'd prefer the original over the Hyperspace cue any time.

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<Emperor-like> "Oh, I am afraid that you Empire Strikes Back naysayers... will not survive...." *Evil smile and cackle under the black hooded robe, then unleashes force lightning upon them! ZZZRRRRAAAPPP!!!*

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well, most films with a three act structure at least have an ending.

or an ending that is better constructed than ESB's which was ROTJ.

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I too have read so many positive things about the ESB score, and I don't know why. I don't have the CD. Though I'm not a "prequilist", I only have TPM and AotC. But from what I hear, ESB is pretty farn good and I might get it. (Although I might get RotS first, lol)

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I too have read so many positive things about the ESB score, and I don't know why.  I don't have the CD.  Though I'm not a "prequilist", I only have TPM and AotC.  But from what I hear, ESB is pretty farn good and I might get it.  (Although I might get RotS first, lol)

Well you must get it now.

K.M.

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Well Luke I happen to like ROTJ the most by far. And I do love the prequels. Another experiment shows that quite alot of people prefered episode 1 then all of the OT combined, and they were quite pumped to watch AOTC. And I did happen to notice for the first time in 5 years ho much there is detail behind the surface of the prequels. Much more complex and sometimes less direct than the OT.

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And I did happen to notice for the first time in 5 years ho much there is detail behind the surface of the prequels. Much more complex and sometimes less direct than the OT.

Yes,that I agree on.Even AotC has a bunch of interesting things going on in every frame in the background.If you start looking around in the bacground of the OT,you find the flaws.

K.M.

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And I did happen to notice for the first time in 5 years ho much there is detail behind the surface of the prequels. Much more complex and sometimes less direct than the OT.

Yes,that I agree on.Even AotC has a bunch of interesting things going on in every frame in the background.

Maybe you mean it's less dull than what is happening in the foreground?

You mean "interesting things going on" as in the creatures in the background of Mos Eisley?

----------------

Alex Cremers

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Until yesterday, ESB was the only Star Wars score that I actually owned. I've had it for just over a year, and listened to it over and over again. I'm not sick of it and probably won't be for a while. When I think about Williams' most recent scores (and though I think they're brilliant) the action music has the same flavour to it. AotC, parts of TPM and the Harry Potter scores have perfect themes (though not enough themes in AotC) but the action music is standard Williams (which is above standard for anyone else). As of yesterday I became the proud owner of the following scores, so my Star Wars collection is close to completion!

Nic Raine/Prague Philharmonic's Indy recordings - Worth it for "Anything Goes" in English (especially as it was AU$13!).

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - At $20AU... Hell yeah!

The Phantom Menace/Attack of the Clones got both of these for $10 each, a nice bargain for great scores.

Star Wars - Do you know how hard it is to find the 1997 SE releases among the 2004 ones? I wanted it for continuity's sake (it's the version of ESB I have) and for the excellent track-by-track commentary in the booklet. But everyone has the stupid 2004 re-release. And that's nearly always more expensive than the former.

Nice bit of info for you there. Just so you know, I've been in Sydney for the week and was scouring for days to find bargains on scores. I still haven't found Lost World though!

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You mean "interesting things going on" as in the creatures in the background of Mos Eisley?

----------------

Alex Cremers

Well the city in TPM,Mos Espa?Yes,that kind of things.The Coruscant landscape,the senate.the inside of the passenger ship Padme and Anakin travel in to Naboo in AotC,the creepy bad guys in the Geonosian war room... that sort of thing.They were carefully thought out and have a lot of detail.More than the OT.Jabba's Palace looks sort of crappy by comparison.

the art/set design/costumes/makeup/SFX/character design/spaceship models is still top notch in the prequels,and above other standard science fiction films...in that regard they still feel like "starwars".All this rises over the somewhat lame acting and weak scripts,at least to me.And I still think the films look beautiful.

K.M.,

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I have discovered that if one looks at both the OT and the Prequels (especially the last) without concentrating much on the acting but instead on the whole (decorations, visual fx, music, color WHICH IS VERY VERY VERY IMPORTANT, sound effects etc... AND the acting) you will find that the acting is quite appropriate for these movies. You discover that they are just a vehicle to move the story, but what moves the story even more is the moods depicted by the whole that describe the tension and the inner feelings of the characters, especially the main Father/Son drama. Granted, the acting, when seen alone is not stellar, prequel AND OT included, but I mean, this is not the place for theater, except in select scenes.

I have also found out that one reason Star Wars is popular for non English speaking people is that the dialogue which is considered here weak, is, what I consider, simple enough for everyone to get the message, and consequently no one criticizes the dialougue, although no one points out to great acting, with some exceptions like the Emperor, Vader, yes, even Jake LLoyd. look let us be frank, why does everyone butcher the prequel dialogue when it is just like the OT one. Then when you start looking at the details, does the deeper surface rise to you. It is true that Lucas said that these are popcorn movies, and at one level they are, but I think three years to make one film implies that there is something else going on in there, and THERE IS. I never thought TPM was that great until last year. Each time i see the star wars saga again i find something new to it. For example, TPM was once light, then entertaining, then i found it really serious, then another time i accompanied Qui Gon's voyage, then once I accompanied the politics of it, which although simplified are not simple, once i looked at the colors, then i concentrated on the locations, sometimes i assimilate the whole, sometimes i look at Obi Wan, sometimes the queen. Each time I will find a new journey to follow aside from that of Anakin. If this is not rich, I don't know what is. Oh, and I now found TPM a lot darker than before, lots of tension there if you notice. AND Jar Jar doesn't bother me at all. I like him. so do many twenty year olds and above who find him clumsy but funny.

Well that is what i found out for myself.

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You mean "interesting things going on" as in the creatures in the background of Mos Eisley?

----------------

Alex Cremers

Well the city in TPM,Mos Espa?Yes,that kind of things.The Coruscant landscape,the senate.the inside of the passenger ship Padme and Anakin travel in to Naboo in AotC,the creepy bad guys in the Geonosian war room... that sort of thing.They were carefully thought out and have a lot of detail.More than the OT.Jabba's Palace looks sort of crappy by comparison.

the art/set design/costumes/makeup/SFX/character design/spaceship models is still top notch in the prequels,and above other standard science fiction films...in that regard they still feel like "starwars".All this rises over the somewhat lame acting and weak scripts,at least to me.And I still think the films look beautiful.

I thought Mos Eisley looked far more interesting without the strange animated creatures. The background in the prequels may be full of (animated) life but what does it matter if the basics are wrong? Also, I don't "feel" that there's one real spaceship in the prequels. I admit, I like to be wowed by spaceships in Star Wars. But in TPM and AOTC the spaceships look animated and I feel I can poke my finger through their surface. The last time I was "wowed" with a spaceship was when I watched the deleted "Mothership" scene of my Close Encounters DVD. Although I'm glad it's featured as an extra and not as the actual ending of the film.

Back to Star Wars. To me the acting is mostly spoiled by Ewan McGregor. He's made out of wood. But why? Alec Guinness was not wooden. He's clearly forcing himself to be someone else. He can't handle the accent either. Note that I have no problem with Ewan in his other movies. The actors are really neglected in the Prequels. I'm not asking for award-winning performances but I really need more than they are giving me.

The more I see them the more I notice how terrible Lucas' direction is. Sometimes the framing of the characters (in long shots) reveals how little the actors really knew how to pose or behave. Probably the reason for this is that they had no interaction with their surroundings since most of the time they were standing in a green screen set.

I'm not a Star Wars geek or a dedicated Star Wars apostle. I watch them as I would watch any other movie and the only time I think Lucas came up with the goods (as a movie maker) is when the two Jedi confronted Darth Maul in TPM. The tension, the silence, the automated energy doors, the waiting ... Ah, if only the new Star Wars movies were more like that. AOTC is altogether devoid of any such great moments.

----------------

Alex Cremers

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