by Cassie Ochoa
Star Wars is one of the most iconic and influential sci-fi films in modern memory, with a legacy that spans decades and a fanbase that is as supportive as it is rabid. From the performances to the lore, this space opera has a timeless endurance that not even multiple re-releases with “updated effects” can damper. So what’s a space opera without a fantastic score? The Star Wars series has had one of the best composers at the helm since the very beginning; John Williams. With Rogue One on the horizon, let’s pay our respects to the men who bring the heat as the battles rage on.
John Williams has been the composer for all of the Star Wars main series films, from A New Hope to The Force Awakens. He’s also been the composer for Jaws, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, the first three Harry Potter films, and Saving Private Ryan. Williams has been nominated for fifty Academy Awards, winning five in total, but honestly, the one thing that makes him so important is how instantly iconic most of his moments are. A New Hope’s ending wouldn’t be nearly as impactful without the bombastic score as our heroes receive medals for their bravery. The arrival of the owls on 4 Private Drive in Harry Potter wouldn’t have the same effect. His work brings a sort of fantastical element that isn’t prevalent in a lot of film scores. And by composing the arrangements for what ultimately become some of pop culture’s most important touchstones, his work shall remain eternally relevant. He even helped infuse the pod racing in The Phantom Menace with thrill and excitement.
Despite our straight-up adoration of Williams, he’s not the one behind the music in the Rogue One teaser, nor is he the composer for Rogue One. That would be Michael Giacchino, the first man to do a score for a Star Wars film that isn’t John Williams. Giacchino has worked on Pixar films such as Up, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille in addition to J.J. Abrams productions like Cloverfield, the Star Trek series, and Super 8. He’s well equipped to break our hearts like he did with Up and Star Trek’s devastating opening scenes, as well as deliver some intense character discoveries like in Doctor Strange and Inside Out. This isn’t even the first time that Giacchino has played in homage to Williams, compare Jurassic World to Jurassic Park and see just how well Giacchino takes a pre-existing legacy and still makes it his own.
So, what’s the importance of not having a John Williams score for Rogue One? Well, as a prequel that’s official title is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it means that the film will not only differ visually, but emotionally as well. If you’ve seen Star Wars, you’ll have suspicions on how exactly the plot to steal the Death Star’s plans go. Every single trailer for the latest installment pays homage to Williams’ legend by taking traces of the original iconic themes and turning them into a whole new monster. This is truly what Rogue One inspires to be, something outside of the main story of the Skywalker family’s impact on the universe. Instead, it is tangentially related, but not so far as to forget what came before it. All in all, Rogue One cannot forget its ties to the original trilogy in any terms, but by reutilizing key components like a new composer, perhaps it can strike out on its own.