Listening to any film score is a pretty big undertaking in and of itself, but nothing compared to the task set before Michael Giacchino, the man commissioned to be the first composer not named John Williams to craft a Star Wars soundtrack. He pulled it off, though, and had movie critics around the world raving about his music and how it works in tandem with many of the emotional and epic themes portrayed throughout one of the greatest Star Wars movies ever made. After watching the film for a second time, I was so moved by the soundtrack that I decided to listen to it in its entirety myself with no scenes attached, and I find that it more than holds up on its own without the accompaniment of the movie.
Everybody loves John Williams and there’s no denying that he’s created some of the greatest movie music of all time particularly with his work on the Star Wars franchise. His work on Revenge of the Sith in particular was at times awe-inspiring. Even so, it’s refreshing to hear a different take on original Star Wars music outside of the videogame realm, and I’m not sure that Giacchino doesn’t succeed in making the greatest piece-for-piece Star Wars soundtrack of them all. While there’s nothing here that reaches the levels of iconicism that Williams has reached for forty years, Jyn Erso’s theme (put on display in grand fashion during “Jyn Erso and Hope Suite”) comes close; it’s one of the most emotionally charged pieces (particularly if you’ve seen the movie) in Star Wars history and its motif appears throughout this excellent 21-piece collection. The last third of the album in particular is excellent, but even the throwaway tracks (which exist in every movie score) are mostly interesting and unique. Giacchino focuses on fostering raw emotion through pure musical lyricism while nixing much of Williams’ frilly classicism, and it drives this modern take on the Star Wars’ musical formula into an orbit all its own.