Album Review: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens OST” – John Williams

stand out track

I’ve never truly been a Star Wars fanatic; but ever since the world has become crazy-obsessed again with the franchise, there really is no escaping this behemoth. I’m always a bit hesitant in reviewing John Williams offerings, as he’s such a legend in the movie score business (he can be credited solely with bringing back orchestrations after the 70-80’s offensively started using pop music; ahem Labyrinth). Williams, now 83 is still in the business and has some sensibilities to his score writing, its always on point, and I’ve always found them to never stray too far from formula or vast differences.

The main qualm I have about this soundtrack is that ALOT of it is just action cues – this may be due to Director J.J Abrams penchant for fast and frenetic directing. The downtimes where actors are merely talking and interacting (which isn’t actually all that much) is where this score shines; if we break it down there’s 1/4 nostalgia, 1/2 action cues, and 1/4 brilliance. The lack of new thematic material and the advent of frantic action cues really make this a rather uninteresting listen the first time around, since it starts to sound like mindless clashing and bashing after a while.

My favourite track “The Scavenger” is the best this soundtrack has to offer; its at some points very Indiana Jones and even Harry Potter in moments. It’s so meditative, and curious; alot like Rey’s character. Seeing this track play out in the cinema alongside images of a Tatooine-like desert was fascinating; reminding me instantly of both Anakin and Luke’s first moments on screen. “Rey’s Theme” thematically explores this further; it’s a joy to listen to, encapsulating her character and hearing expositions of other star wars themes interwoven into it shows such mastery that only Williams is capable of.

Finn’s Confession” is another poignant part of the score, and one of the better scenes of the film too. We finally get a quiet moment to reflect on what is actually happening amidst all the frenetic pacing. Watching this in the cinema, I noticed the score in this scene prominently; before all this the action cues were relentless and blaring.

Snoke” is fascinating to listen to; the dark side of the force is thematically shown in a gregorian chant fashion; we could probably compare it to the main thematic qualities and instrumentation as The Mines of Moria in The The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s incredibly striking, and haunting stuff.

“Han & Leia” is an ode to the theme from the Original trilogy, and is still as hauntingly beautiful and classical when it first came out. Again, another tender moment triumphs in the score! It quickly absolves to a march for the Resistance’s showdown with the new Death Star laser thingy (it’s even bigger than last time LOL!).

Apart from these tracks, and the excellent “The Jedi Steps & Finale” (which does a FANTASTIC job of finishing the film and creating a sweeping conclusion between Luke and Rey) the rest of the OST on offer is action cues. My personal favourite is “The Falcon”, it’s the most lighthearted and fun of the cues and isn’t so LOUD and blaring. “Scherzo for X-Wings”
is great stuff for the classical connoisseur, and has a killer title track too! 🙂

Conclusion

CRtehluUEAABQXHIt’s the quiet moments that make this score, as well as the adage to the theme’s of the original and prequel trilogies. The rest are (well-realized) action cues, but that stops the score from being truly great. We can blame Abrams for that; with his frenetic directing, we need a just a bit more room and breathing space for some themes to take off. Action cues are good in their own way, but lack diversity and can become relentless and tiresome especially, when there’s a lack visual imagery to pair it with. Rey and Finn’s themes are gorgeous, the new Sith stuff is amazing, and Williams has captured the old-school orchestrations of old with this score, and still manages to keep it fresh, and more importantly, within the soundscapes of a Star Wars legacy.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

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