Star Wars Episode 3:
Revenge of the Sith
Review by dieFledermaus, ShadowChaser, MaceVindaloo, Csillag
Musicians: London Symphony Orchestra
Rating: Super Star Destroyer, pending how it plays in the movie!
I'm not a classical musician, and I'm no fan of the subculture of music snobbism. You know the attitude, these people scoff at you and say, "You don't know what you're talking about!" when you say you like Star Wars but don't know how to spell Tchaikovsky ... I am a soundtrack fan; other than Star Wars, my first clear memory of an in situ soundtrack was The Right Stuff, where Bill Conti stole liberally from Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto for the major theme for the astronauts' flights. I am still sorely disappointed that there is no soundtrack recording available, other than half a disc paired with Conti's music for the TV drama North and South.
Thank God for all that Star Wars has given to us.
When it's good, the soundtrack enhances the action on film, pulls at parts of your psyche which would have otherwise remained uninvolved. It lets you know when to feel happy, sad, tense ... it can be done with ham-handed non-subtlety (like horror movies) or great delicacy and metered silences, and it can be great, either way. It's not surprising that music or the lack of it can define religius experiences. Let's face it, Jaws without its soundtrack is just another shark-eating-people movie. With the music, it became a thrilling epic in the same league as Moby Dick.
Certainly, music can be personally moving and set up other parts of the entertainment experience, as conveyed by ShadowChaser in an email:
And thus begins the fans' descent to the dark side ... greed, desire, impatience ... not Jedi traits, but so human! We are weak, give us MORE! It's a slope that we've all willingly plunged into at one time or another. Sure, some of us in the name of "maturity" see fit to criticize things that need no criticism. For instance, people might complain that some of the pieces in the newest Star Wars soundtrack are "underwhelming" ... yet how can one issue such a remark if it's not heard in context, i.e. playing in the movie for which it was created?
Still, it must be flattering for people to feel so passionately one way or the other about soundtracks. Such things existed in past movies of course (especially in the silent movie era), but we all understand George Lucas's desire to create an epic suite of music for his little movie, created for a budget of $10 million, back in 1977. Perhaps he felt the music would help carry the gaps and pops in the movie? And it changed the way music in movies was perceived.
Now, movie music is a big business in and of itself, and a company like Sony Music actually classifies soundtracks under it's "Classical" label. Any why shouldn't they? It's a bigger compliment and more appropriate than creating a division called "Soundtracks." A resurgence in "classical-style" music (whatever that really means!) is largely due to Star Wars and the availability of the score from the very beginning.
From John Williams's Sony Music webpage:
Okay, the music ... it was an emotional and tense experience to listen to it. Williams has, of course, used musical character themes to tie the end of this trilogy with the start of Ep4. He rearranged the themes and leitmotifs for the characters he'd developed so long, long ago into the audial universe of the "prequels." It's interesting that due to the differences in time and budget, the richness of the sound is quite different. His use of voices and various languages to convey the story is beautiful, and they in themselves are refrains from other episodes of this saga. Since Star Wars music has always used the silent movie ideas and traditions to tell the story (rather than George's stilted scripts the man is a stellar storyteller, but he's no scriptwriter, but we forgive him for that ... given the choice of what he's given us versus not getting them at all because we have to wait for scriptwriters to do their job, and maybe he won't like it anyway ... we'll take stilted!), listening to the soundtrack before the movie opens is another way to get the movie experience. And I defy you to say the end credits don't rouse you and bring tears to your eyes! John Williams is blatantly pulling on our emotions, making us remember that first time we heard the music in 1977 (or spiritual 1977 ... whenever you first saw the movie!). Yeah, that's the Force Theme, baby! Stand up and cheer!
I still think Episode 1 TPM's soundtrack is the best of them for sheer mastery, but this one is a close second. Of course, Ep1's soundtrack was re-issued as an "Ultimate" movie score, note for note, and those of us who love the music bought it and played it over and over. A while ago, the trilogy musical scores were published and we could in our heads hear the dialog as the music played! I was sorely disappointed that a similar "ultimate" recording was not created for Ep2, but I'm hoping it will!
Of course, the movie is not out yet and things could change in context, but given Williams' track record, it'll be seamless and perfect. I'll probably get shot for this, but in comparison, the soundtracks for the original trilogy are big, bold, brassy, and those fit their respective movies perfectly. As soundtracks, this effort had a lot to do use existing music and bridge the work from nearly three decades ago. Make us believe, make us feel. Make us want more! Most of the credit goes to George Lucas, but without John Williams, he'd have a space cowboy film which might have been less successful. Hard to believe now, but when you close your eyes and imagine Luke morosely looking at the setting suns of Tatooine, what do you hear? The wind? His sigh? Don't be ridiculous ... you hear a French horn ...
Lucasfilm decided not to name the tracks with "spoilerific" titles (everyone remember Qui-gon's Funeral?), though let's face it, we do know what happens (no prizes for guessing the nature of Padmé's Destiny or The Twins are Born). So you have no excuse for not getting the soundtrack in advance.
One sort of negative thing ... since Williams is such a prolific writer, it's not surprising that some of his movie themes would crossover. Someone had made this complaint about the Harry Potter score previously, and I have to admit, I did hear aspects of Hogwart's in some of parts of this score ... I suppose there is such a thing as too much appreciation?
Another reason for getting the soundtrack right now in addition to the music CD, there is ALSO a 70-minute DVD of music videos, featuring the major musical themes of the Star Wars universe, set to scenes and images from the six movies. The love songs and battles sometimes contain soundclips as well as video, and archival drawings for costumes, ships, and sometimes alternative images from comics illustrators. Taken this way, you can see the relationships: father, mother, son, daughter ... and grandma! All the Jedi who taught each other, and who ended up in opposition. It's wonderful and poignant and stirring, and just plain fun. What a great way to review the movies through the music's point of view!
The DVD is provided at no additional charge, a very pleasant surprise. Each music/video segment is introduced by Ian McDiarmid (who sports a rather cheesy looking moustache for some reason?), as he gives the story background to each piece. He's sitting on the soundstage at the Abby Road Studios a few hours before the members of the LSO show up to record Ep3. And because he is who he is, he sounds like Chancellor Palpatine telling you the history of his galaxy ... he is obviously reading line cards or a teleprompter and seems kind of stilted. But that's kind of appropriate for a Star Wars feature, don't you think?
If you prefer, you can turn off the clunky intros, and you can also turn on 5.1 Dolby SurroundSound, and if you have one of those set-ups in your home, use it! The richness and "vibrations" of the beautiful noises coming out of the speakers will stir you ... almost like the first time you saw the Star Destroyer chasing that blockade runner ...
In some ways, it would have been nice to see a Fantasia sort of effort for the pieces, but given the visual richness of George Lucas's vision, plus the need to pay more for such an effort, this is better than we could have expected for the final album. A great bonus, and much more decent way of getting people to buy the CD than putting locks on everything, for sure.
Images from www.imdb.com and www.sonyclassical.com
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