Review #140: (Soundtrack) John Williams – Stars Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Composer – John Williams
Film – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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Star Wars … The Empire Strikes Back … I shouldn’t really need to explain the plot of this film or how influential/successful the franchise/this particular film have been … but that’s how I structure these review, so here we go. The Empire Strikes back is the 2nd film in George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. The film takes place three years after the first. It includes the famous Hoth battle, the introduction of Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker’s training with Yoda and one of the most famous scenes in film history, luke’s fight with Darth Vader, resulting in an arm loss and the revelation that Vader is Luke’s father. I thought it would be pretty interesting and relevant to revisit this classic film and its soundtrack, due to the release (and hopeful franchise saviour) of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

No soundtrack has been as influential, impactful and memorable as the Star Wars soundtracks, specifically that of the most popular film ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. From the epic main title theme, which has gone on to introduce every film, to the entrance music of films most infamous villain Darth Vader, only really matched by that of the ‘Jaws’ interval. John Williams expertly understood the importance of hooks in music, used by classical and opera composers to relate certain scenes to certain emotions. The main theme, Imperial March etc introduce these hooks and use them most prominently, but throughout the film small snippets of the melodies are played either slower, on a different instrument or simply further back in volume to keep evoking those emotions in a smaller way. Most sci-fi films around this time were incorporating synth/electronic soundtracks over anything else, trying to further display that future feel to their films. Star Wars however, as mentioned, follows opera in its compositional style and in its story (the themes of good vs evil, war, love). John Williams found a full orchestra to be the most effective way of creating a large/epic sense of scale to the Star Wars films and felt it would be the most authentic way to represent attachment to its inspirations.

By the time I post this I will be off to see the first new Star Wars film in 10 years, a hopeful redemption for the franchise after the most recent trilogy. As long as John Williams (who’s been brought back) composes in the same vain as his previous work, incorporating a fresh sound along with those classic tracks, then I am sure the same sense of nostalgia and emotion will hit every cinema goer.

2 thoughts on “Review #140: (Soundtrack) John Williams – Stars Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

  1. I love love love the music in the Star Wars movies!! I have actually been rewatching them with my dad and I just admire how the music seeps into your bones and gets stuck in your head. The music is so iconic and can be recognized anywhere which makes it so wonderful!
    Great review and I definitely agree that he understands hooks!
    Have you seen the new movie? What did you think?

    • Thanks for the comment.
      Yes I’ve seen the new movie, thought it was excellent, really caught the vibe of the originals.

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