The extreme ends of the Star Wars fandom that brings them together is the consensus that the writing in the sequel made some strange decisions. Disney had no idea what it was doing, and everyone was making things up, and they went. The result? The film is an inconsistent trilogy that toyed with the emotions of the audience. Possibly worse than that, John Williams is better than the sequel trilogy and is deserving of a formal apology by Disney for how they did him dirty.
There were bound to be inconsistencies in the storytelling with two different directors at the helm for the sequel trilogy. The narrative is different at every turn, the Knights of Ren, Rey’s family status, and when all is said and done, Rey is back to the same place. What they ended up doing by going into such an adored universe blindfolded was stripping the importance away from the trilogies that came before it. After Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Vader died for nothing, everyone is just a pawn in the lives of the two powerful families, Rey’s story goes nowhere, and the iconic music loses its weight. Music is vital to storytelling in the Star Wars universe, and John Williams spent 40 years creating music that tells the story in tandem to what is on the screen.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker took everything that had meaning musically and cut and pasted wherever they wanted to steal the audience’s emotions. When this is done well, we get cues that make sense and don’t rob us of nostalgia. For example, in the battle scene when Finn (John Boyega) gets a feeling that they should land on the Star Destroyer and when Rey (Daisy Ridley) is healing the worm monster, the force theme is playing. Through the music, we understand what is happening without verbal exposition from anybody on screen. Finn knows where to land, and Rey can heal because they are both using the force.
What upsets me about the music of this film is that it steals and uses emotional moments and weight without earning it. The beginning of the film shows Tie Fighters attacking, and the music that is playing is the Emperor’s (Ian McDiarmid) theme. The music being here is out of place for how the story eventually develops. The empire doesn’t know about the Emperor yet, therefore his theme shouldn’t be playing since he technically has nothing to do with sending the Tie Fighters at this moment. As an audience member hearing the theme makes us think these Tie Fighters are more dangerous than they are. It puts weight and sense of doom where it shouldn’t. It feels like intent from the Emperor when it’s not. In another scene, Poe (Oscar Isaac) is light-speed jumping, and the music is misleading to the ears. The music that is playing in this scene is the same as when the Death Star is destroyed. The music makes this scene seem final and tenser than it is. Poe’s light-speed jumping carries little to no substance behind it. It looks like the music editors just plug it in for nostalgia and to add tension.
In case you don’t know, there is a difference between Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) theme and Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia’s love theme. When Leia goes to communicate with Ben and then dies, they have the Han and Leia love theme playing. Some people can argue why this could make sense; in actuality, it doesn’t matter how to slice it. For example, when Ben “kills” Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to rescue Rey, the Han and Leia love theme doesn’t play. Instead, Kylo Ren’s theme’s harmony is changed to become his “heroic” theme. At this final moment we see Leia, why wouldn’t we hear her theme? Why do we hear her love theme with Han in its place?
Another theme that is stolen for no reason other than to make us feel something they couldn’t make us feel what is happening on screen is at the end with Lando. In case you don’t know, Leia and Luke (Mark Hamill) have a theme that plays whenever they talk about their past. Their theme is the melody from Luke’s theme with the harmony from Leia’s. The theme shows up when Luke and Leia see each other for the last time before Luke dies, which elevates that scene’s emotion. It is misused at the end of this film when Lando speaks with his (if you read The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary) daughter. I was so disgusted that the Luke and Leia theme was used here. It is unique to the two of them and is not the speaking to family member theme. Cut and pasting themes to get an emotional reaction can change who/what the theme is meant for but takes away from already established poignant impacts from it.
Speaking of stealing themes for no reason at all, remember when Luke lifts the X-Wing from the ocean as a force ghost in front of Rey? Do you recall the music that plays in that scene? If you guessed Luke’s theme or the force theme, you are wrong. For some reason, Yoda’s theme is playing, precisely as it was when Yoda pulled the X-Wing from the swamp. Yoda isn’t there; the only reason to play his theme is almost an elbow nudge to the audience, saying, “Hey, remember when Yoda did this thing?”
I could go on with more examples from this film and how it misuses the music from the original trilogy to mask how bad a film is. The last scene I want to discuss was the end of the film when Rey channeled ALL the Jedi that came before her. When Rey is fighting the Emperor and has the power of the Jedi with her (which is the point, might I add), the Rey theme is playing. I can write an entire article on how the force theme is misused if there were a time to use the force music it would be at that moment.
If there is a positive to look at this film, it shows just how vital a score is to a film. Disney took power away from John Williams while simultaneously relying on him to tell a good story. Hopefully, we will be able to get our hands on the FYC score and hear the music that John Williams intended.