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Soundtrack Review

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Star Wars
Episode VIII
The Last Jedi
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


Composer: John Williams
Label: Walt Disney Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 15 December 2017

Walt Disney Records releases the original motion picture soundtrack for Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi. The album features a new score conducted and composed by five-time Academy Award-winning composer John Williams...

This is a hard review for me to write. John Williams was the reason I got into collecting soundtracks in the early '80s. I know his scores for the early Star Wars movies and Indiana Jones films inside out. We received The Last Jedi score on the day of its release and so I've only managed to listen to it about half a dozen times - I normally like to listen to albums over the course of a few weeks to allow the music to really sink in, but that just wasn't possible here.

My biggest concern is that unlike Williams's previous scores, this album revisits way too many themes from the past. Now this makes a lot of sense if you're referencing characters and situations from the previous films, but it kind of loses its appeal when almost every single track has huge sections of themes you are already familiar with.

Williams has stated that incorporating the previous themes is part of the fun of scoring the Star Wars movies and helps create what he calls “the fabric of the films.” I wouldn't disagree with that if there weren't so many themes referenced. And the new material doesn't include anything overly memorable.

There's no 'Duel of the Fates' (Episode I); 'Across the Stars (Love Theme from Attack of the Clones)' (Episode II); 'Battle of the Heroes' (Episode III); 'Battle Of Yavin' (Episode IV); 'The Asteroid Field' (Episode V); 'The Imperial March' (Episode VI); or 'The Starkiller) (Episode VII).

To be fair, the score for Episode VII - The Force Awakens was also guilty of referencing the past, but nowhere near as overtly as The Last Jedi. Personally, I love all of the scores and each one has its highpoints, so hearing familiar themes reworked and represented was a joy. Sadly, it does mean that this album doesn't have its own identity, or any highlights, as such, of its own.

The tracks can be broken down into three variants. There's tracks that pretty much reuse music that has gone before, with no new material; tracks that have a mix of old themes subtly referenced in between sections of new music; and tracks which are totally original. The later is in very short supply though.

The album starts off promisingly with 'Escape' which has all the hallmarks of a good solid, original Williams theme. But the references to previous scores even invade this. Bearing in mind Williams is 85 and I'm not overly sure how involved he was with the production, in comparison to Episodes I-VI. It feels like someone else helped out a little and decided to go back and cherry pick some of the old themes.

For example 'The Supremacy' borrows heavily from The Empire Strikes Back, but there are also segments that fell like left over material from the Indiana Jones movies. 'The Cave' brought to mind Raiders of the Lost Ark; while 'Finale' opens with a Harry Potter-esque theme. There are references to Episodes I-III too, but the majority of the referenced work comes from Episodes IV-VI.

I personally totally loved this score, but I can see a lot of collector's being miffed that it's basically a collection of references to Williams's previous work in the Star Wars universe. You know how little original material there is when the 'Finale' contains about 80% old music. Still, the majority of the homages make sense in the movie, it's just that they could have been a little more subtle.


Darren Rea

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