With the last of the Star Wars Skywalker saga comes the last score that John Williams will write for the iconic series. Wrapping it up at number nine (the same number of symphonies that Beethoven wrote), Williams has written more than 20 hours of brilliant music. After over 40 years of Star Wars, Williams is ready to say goodbye to lightsabers and starships, but leaves behind a legacy of no precedent.
In The Rise of Skywalker, we open as all mainline Star Wars films do: the iconic main theme for the opening crawl, though we quickly get into the story as Williams paints a picture of the action on screen as he so effortlessly usually does. All of our favorite themes are here, from The Force and Leia, to the Imperial March and the Resistance themes, and even a beautiful new Rise of Skywalker theme.
There are a few more surprises thrown in, but I’ll leave that for you to experience when you get to see the film for yourself. Motifs are sewn together in an intricate web of character and story interplay within the sonic brand that has become the staple of what it means for music in Star Wars (The Mandalorian is a different topic sonically, which I hope to write about in time for the season finale next week). The writing is impeccable, of course, and who can deny the masterful orchestration supporting the beautiful themes, especially when it comes to Leia and her dedicated music.
Not only is the writing superb, but it’s also played brilliantly by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra. Filled with a ton of world class musicians, one can tell that there is pure passion behind the playing to help make this score what it can be. Even Don Williams on timpani (yes, John Williams’ own brother!) has a lot of opportunities to show off. Other iconic themes don’t return like Duel of the Fates and other fan favorites, however every decision must be made in service of the story. John Williams has proven himself to be a masterful storyteller; try listening to a score by him to a movie you’ve seen several times and you’ll be able to imagine the whole film in your head!
John Williams spent about 6-8 months writing the score with the input of J.J. Abrams, the director, whom have previously worked together on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Williams tells Variety “…Each day I got up to work hard on difficult music. Yes, it was long, but I always had a sense of being grateful — having the energy and interest to do it and to work with the orchestra, which was especially lovely.”
Despite being the final Star Wars for him to score, Williams isn’t quite putting down the pen for good just yet. His good friend and frequent collaborator Steven Spielberg is going to begin preproduction on the next installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, for which John Williams has also written iconic music for. We have yet to see whether The Rise of Skywalker will earn Williams his 52nd Oscar nomination (yes, you read that correctly), though the score is on the shortlist from which nominees will be chosen from. Until then, we can all rejoice that there is at least one more brilliant Star Wars score to enjoy from the Maestro himself.
You can listen to the score on Apple Music here.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now, and make sure to add the home release to your Kernel watchlist!