Tag Archives: filmmaking

Songs in Star Wars

Which songs comes to mind when you see the following pictures?

Star Wars Binary Suns songs

What about this one?

Emperor songs

And this one?

Duel of the Fates Songs

If you’ve seen the Star Wars films, it’s likely one of John William’s pieces of music. They’ve been famous and well-known since their arrival inside our ears in 1977. Like almost no others, the soundtrack for the Star Wars movies have stuck in our minds, but why? Lots can be said about the stellar compositions of John Williams, the wonderful work of the London Sympathy Orchestra, or the choir, but one of the most important things we can take from these songs is the idea of themes and repetition.

Songs in the Stars

Take this as an example: Perhaps the best sequence in the prequel trilogy is Order 66. Clone Troopers cut down Jedi from behind, Anakin betrays the Jedi and slaughters hundreds at the temple, and the Force splits asunder. This song plays as we watch the tragedy. At approximately 1:55, the soundtrack changes from the familiar brassy sound to a string-focused melody and mournful choir. Now, listen to Battle of the Heroes. Quite similar, aren’t they? It’s easy to come up with a reason for this. Order 66 plays during a dramatic, emotional moment, and Battle of the Heroes reprises many of the same elements to revive those emotions. Tragedy, loss, betrayal.

There’s also the “Force Theme,” the official name for the song playing during Luke’s wistful look at the setting Tatooine suns. The song (also known as “Luke’s theme,” “Binary Sunset,” and “Obi-Wan’s Theme”) plays through the entire trilogy in different formats, but the most powerful version is in episode IV, showing us, along with Luke’s far-away look, the adventure awaiting us. It’s no wonder trailers for both “The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One” feature the song. The Rogue One trailer also uses a modified version of the Imperial March during the first half.

We could go on for days. The “Love Theme” first introduced for Han and Leia in Episode V is re-used in Episode II. Yoda’s theme shows up in every movie the small Jedi appears in. “Dies Irae,” a classic gregorian choir melody, shows up in numerous places. All of these help us follow the emotions the movie wants, and only improves the experience.

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Funerals in Star Wars

Funerals comparisonFans have leveled criticism at The Force Awakens for similarities to A New Hope. While many may not care overly, a few deem it lesser for copying the original. Did J.J. Abrams want to relive the glory of the original trilogy, or was it just the best choice? As a third option, could artistry be involved? A theory is rolling around noting how strange similarities in the prequels and original series line up. The funerals are one example.

Both trilogies end in a funeral, in very different circumstances, and bringing the trilogies to different emotional ends. The two dead—Padme and Anakin Skywalker—are two halves of a couple. The dark side kills both (Anakin kills Padme, Darth Sidious kills Anakin), the public mourns both deaths, and both died trying to protect someone from the Dark Side. In Anakin’s case it was his son Luke; in Padme’s case Anakin himself. Both scenes carry the importance of an ending era, and John William’s beautiful soundtrack highlights both.

There are plenty of differences, however, highlighting the different circumstances of their deaths. Anakin was burned in a funeral pyre in his Darth Vader suit. The western world used the funeral pyre as a common way to dispose of the deceased—often chieftains and notable warriors. On the other hand, Padme’s rested on a bed of flowers during her funeral—common symbols of love for the deceased. She nearly glows in the Naboo twilight.

A cycle of funerals

Scenes of the world they ushered in surround both funerals. Padme’s body proceeds down the capital of Naboo as Darth Vader and his master inspect the growing Death Star. While Darth Vader’s body burns his son sees the approval of the Jedi he once knew. Padme’s funeral comes with rebellion, civil war, and tyranny, even though it presents as peaceful, quiet, and beauty. Darth Vader’s comes with celebration, victory, and happiness, despite his loud, fiery, and sparsely-attended end.

This mix of notable similarities and differences bringing each trilogy to a close add even greater power to the Ring Theory (linked above). They further work to change our perception of George Lucas as a filmmaker, even after his distance from the movies.

More proof?
Qui-Gon Jinn's funeral
Qui-Gon Jinn’s funeral

There are two parts to the Ring Theory: first, both trilogies follow a pattern. Second, the trilogies mirror each other. We see Darth Vader’s funeral pyre at the end of Return of the Jedi, and a similar scene for Qui-Gon Jinn at the end of The Phantom Menace. Padme’s funeral is not mirrored, yet Luke and the other characters mourn Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom Anakin also kills.

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