September 30, 2023

The masterful scores of cinematic icon John Williams are impaired by a copy and paste mentality…


The masterworks of John Williams’ Star Wars soundtracks are some of the most recognisable themes in the entire world. The familiar fanfare from the opening crawl alone, is more than enough to raise the hair on the back of one’s neck and can instantly facilitate the listeners journey to a galaxy far, far away…

John Williams’ phenomenal composition acts as the very soul of the Star Wars franchise and his masterful themes are synonymous with some of the greatest visual representations of good versus evil ever depicted on screen. From the outset of his Star Wars career with Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977 — through to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999, Williams has spoiled the Star Wars fans with a musical masterpiece for every single one of his movies.

That all changed However, in 2002 when Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones arrived upon our screens. Unlike its predecessors that had benefitted from a completely new score, Attack of the Clones plagiarised many of the themes first utilised during the previous entry The Phantom Menace. This move was not unprecedented. In fact, many franchises have maintained the core theme of its series in this way…recycling imagery, sound effects and even music to maintain the ambiance of the content.

But this was different…

The editing team of Peter Myles and Kenneth Wannberg in association with Shawn Murphy who mixed the score, systematically copied excerpts of music from The Phantom Menace and pasted them into the score for Attack of the Clones. Some of these excerpts were tailored perfectly…others left a lot to be desired and the result was a copy and paste soundtrack comprised of a remix of both Clones and Menace. It was a bizarre practice, one structured for purpose…but many hard-core fans, myself included were left bemused by this sudden utilisation of the practice. With every previous incarnation of the saga having benefitted from a full orchestral score, each regarded as the epitome of a masterclass from our musical maestro and having been afforded the prestige of being nominated for an all-important Oscar, the sudden change was astounding. This disconcerting trend continued to infect the score for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and degraded many of the stunning sequences therein. The theme utilised for the march upon the Jedi Temple for example, as impressive as it is…was originally an excerpt harvested from the Geonosis Arena confrontation from Attack of the Clones and had been re-tuned to add a level of depth to the scene.

Several scored sequences within Revenge of the Sith had plundered their musical brilliance from The Phantom Menace which ultimately left fans of the musical journey more than a little frustrated. The soundtrack’s for both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of The Sith were released in an industry standard form without the incorporation of the re-tuned The Phantom Menace excerpts leaving us with a sub-par series of music that left a bad taste in many fans mouths. Considering these inadequacies, many fans sought out and invested in music editing software, enabling them to adjust and re-score the soundtracks to attain a more favourable outcome. However, with only a selection of the music available…there would never be a definitive score for both movies.

Therefore, the fans have been left with a jumble of music from the official release albums and a series of excerpts harvested from computer games and additional media which came together to create an albeit crude version of the final scores.

With John Williams returning to score the long-awaited seventh instalment of the franchise, the fans had hoped for a brand-new score like that of the original trilogy and we were not disappointed. And yet, upon further scrutiny of the soundtrack, there are several moments of the dreaded cut and paste syndrome manifesting in certain scenes of the movie. The Jakku Millennium Falcon escape for example, has excerpts from Rey’s encounter with the First Order Stormtroopers along the borders of Maz Kanata’s castle cantina. Not to mention the excerpt stripped from A New Hope for her eventual use of the force to take possession of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in the final duel.

It is easy to overlook the fact that the legendary John Williams has been composing many of the greatest scores in our cinematic experiences for well over six decades. He has been responsible for many of our most treasured cinematic themes from Star Wars to Superman, Indiana Jones to Harry Potter and even Jaws to Jurassic Park and he will be remembered as a true pioneer that changed the landscape of Hollywood music for generations of fans. For a man, well into his eighties…he shows no signs of slowing down and this copy and paste mentality may well be a side effect to the maintenance of his composing longevity.

The ultimate solution to appease the fans of the franchise would be to release an expanded complete score like that of the Jurassic Park collector’s edition boxset released in the latter stages of 2016. This expansive collection afforded the fans of the series the most comprehensive versions of both Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park scores which boasted the inclusion of all previously unreleased material. A definitive edition of both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in the same style of The Phantom Menace, would be an amazing gesture and would go a long way to appeasing the fans.

Michael Giacchino has returned the series to its roots with his sublime orchestral score for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ,but unfortunately, his services have not been retained for the upcoming spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story. That responsibility has fallen upon the shoulders of composer John Powell. However, should there be a further Skywalker episodic trilogy beyond the untitled Episode IX, then I believe, Michael Giacchino would be the perfect man to carry the torch when Williams eventually relinquishes his mandate.

In the meantime, the hard working and devoted Star Wars fans are forced to endure the incomplete scores for the two final prequel instalments…until such time that Lucasfilm finally answers the call and gives the fans what they want.

The Force is with you Lucasfilm…you only need to embrace it!

Until then

May The Force Be With You

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