Updated: Dec 27, 2019
It's the end of an era and for the Skywalker saga. Episode 9 releases today, rounding out the final installment of John Williams' 42 year legacy and it's pantheon of iconic themes. Having caught an early screening at the El Capitan Theater 2 nights ago, I've had the opportunity to ruminate on the story, and take a closer listen to the soundtrack.
With a wealth of themes to draw from, and the many nostalgic moments presented in the film, you will hear statements of many of the hits, including: the Main theme, Force Theme, Rey's theme, Kylo Ren's theme, Luke and Leia, Han Solo and the Princess, Leia's Theme, Yoda's theme, and more. Blink, and you might miss the new themes, as I certainly didn't notice them until the end credit music played without the story and sound effects to distract me. In a Variety article about John Williams new work, it describes the new motifs he composed for this new installment of Star Wars. “Four new motifs: the darkly hued “Anthem of Evil,” a more upbeat “Rise of Skywalker” theme, a scherzo for action sequences and new music for Kylo Ren."
So here's a quick spoiler free primer to help familiarize yourself with what's new before or even after you watch Rise of Skywalker.
Rise of Skywalker Theme
This is the new standout theme that we'll hear in concert performances. To my ears, the opening notes sound like it's possibly derived from the opening bell motif from Rey's theme, but in a major key.
Anthem of Evil
Dark choral forces are a typical sound of the dark side and the sith in Star Wars. John Williams doesn't disappoint with this eerily beautiful work, that recalls but transforms the nature of the dark side as we've heard it in Emperor Palpatine's theme (heard in Return of the Jedi as well as this film), and in Duel of the Fates (from Phantom Menace). There's also some sinister Sith chanting in the film, which I wish was presented on the soundtrack somewhere.
Scherzos from Action Sequences
This film is full of action, and John Williams brings his A game to the virtuosic orchestral writing that he's known for in Star Wars. These are a couple worth listening to, and I especially love the moments in Battle of the Resistance where we hear statements of Poe's theme, the main title theme, and the force theme.
Kylo Ren's new music
There's a new Kylo Ren/Knights of Ren theme. It's an angry chromatic rhythmic figure that happens 1:44 into the Fanfare and Prologue.
End Credits Suite
John Williams always presents us with an amazing end credit suite at the end of every Star Wars Movie. This is a great listen with many classic themes, and the addition of the Rise of Skywalker and Anthem of Evil themes.