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Solo: A Star Wars Story
(2018)
Album Cover Art
Co-Composed, Adapted, and Produced by:

Co-Composed and Co-Conducted by:

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Conducted by:
Gavin Greenaway

Co-Conducted by:
Vanya Moneva
George Strezov

Additional Music by:
Batu Sener
Anthony Willis
Paul Mounsey

Co-Orchestrated by:
John Ashton Thomas
Geoff Lawson
Tommy Laurence
Andrew Kinney
Randy Kerber
Rick Giovinazzo

Additionally Orchestrated by:
Herbert W. Spencer
Mark Graham
Gregory Jamrok
Victor Pesavento
Paul Henning
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LABEL & RELEASE DATE
Walt Disney Records
(May 25th, 2018)
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ALBUM AVAILABILITY
Regular U.S. release.
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AWARDS
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Buy it... if you seek proof that "Star Wars" music can thrive brilliantly after the exit of John Williams from the stage, John Powell providing an extremely satisfying career highlight that successfully blends the undeniable Williams' legacy with his own best mannerisms.

Avoid it... if you expect this score to cure your toenail fungus, because there's no rational reason for any film music collector to shun this magnificent work.
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EDITORIAL REVIEW
FILMTRACKS TRAFFIC RANK: #1,720
WRITTEN 6/14/18
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Powell
Powell
Williams
Williams
Solo: A Star Wars Story: (John Powell/John Williams/Various) While the Marvel Cinematic Universe proved itself immune to the fatigue of over-saturation in the 2010's, the vaunted "Star Wars" saga was not so lucky. Since Walt Disney Studios' takeover of the concept from George Lucas, an anthology of "Star Wars Stories" appeared in short order, and fans made it clear through unexpectedly poor box office returns that the saga is perhaps too sacred to plunder so frequently. There is an overarching problem with the "Star Wars" universe that 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story perpetuates, one of pessimism and loss that has robbed much of the spirited, buoyant enthusiasm of the original trilogy. Like its contemporaries in the franchise, the Han Solo film is a downer, once again conveying that galaxy far, far away in a frighteningly troubled light. Not once in this franchise's feature films has there ever been a successful romance between two beings. Think about that for a moment. While Solo: A Star Wars Story contains fewer unsatisfying deaths of major characters than its predecessor, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the 2018 entry sees all three of its major male characters lose their leading ladies in its plot, projecting an already gloomy set of narratives into yet another brief snippet of "Star Wars" chronology. These films have become surprisingly depressing from the romantic perspective of a space opera, and Solo: A Star Wars Story is poised to lose Disney significant amounts of money as a result. The film was another production nightmare in the franchise, director Ron Howard stepping in for Disney (and Lucas, who remains involved) to reshoot most of the film after the studio realized the product had major problems. And Howard does reasonably well with the material, providing several absolutely riotous action scenes led by a monumentally entertaining train heist sequence. The film also contains the requisite nuggets referencing the larger "Star Wars" universe, including a couple of characters from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. (The appearance of Warwick Davis in a cameo speaking role here is highly redemptive.) Otherwise, questionable acting performances, including Alden Ehrenreich inevitably failing as a young Harrison Ford, oddly paced sequences of character interactions, the infusion of civil rights concerns involving droids, and the aforementioned depressing overall demeanor of the affair dampen the movie's promise.

Fortunately, the ills of Solo: A Star Wars Story did not stop composer John Powell from delivering a masterpiece of a score for the film. If you had generated several dozen possible outcomes for this score, perhaps the best available option prevailed, with the maestro, John Williams, returning to write two themes for Han Solo and Powell then enthusiastically adapting them into his original score. Powell, whose output waned in the decade as he could carefully choose his involvements at this point in his career, was drawn to the assignment in part because of Williams' agreement to provide the film's main identity, admitting that it would be an honor to work with a man who he deemed the "Yoda of film music." Of course, with Powell often comes an army of ghostwriters, and there are three additional crew members credited with writing or adapting music for the film. It's fascinating to hear Powell channel his lifelong passion for the "Star Wars" concept into his own methodology without losing the key tenants of the franchise's music. Michael Giacchino took an extremely conservative approach to handling the adaptation of Williams' mannerisms in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, writing music that emulated the maestro (as Giacchino has done throughout his career) to such a degree that the resulting score was caught in the "sounds like Williams but isn't" category of sufficiency but deficiency. Powell better manages to take the Williams sound and adapt it firmly into his own conform zone, producing an overall musical voice that is a third Williams, a third Powell's X-Men-inspired action, and a third Powell's romanticism from the memorable How to Train Your Dragon scores. The combination works brilliantly, the reverence to Williams highly effective without ever sounding awkward. This music is evidence of a composer at the top of his game, his themes impressively developed and his adaptations cleverly executed in most instances. There is writing in this score that is simply divine in its complexity yet fluid, tonal accessibility. Powell didn't write the standalone thematic suites that Giacchino did in his assignment; rather, he concentrated on supplying a really powerful musical narrative that often makes the most of each scene's capabilities. The tone of the recording is key to this success; electronic embellishment and manipulation is held to a minimum, the symphony gorgeously breathing life into a wet, live mix that is infinitely more engaging than Giacchino's comparatively stale recordings.

The impact of the mix of Powell's recording for Solo: A Star Wars Story cannot be understated. It's often tricky to emphasize individual performers, especially on woodwinds, when a score is supplied a vibrantly live ambience. But that slightly echoing fantasy tone is perfectly captured in this score, one begging for a surround sound listening experience on its own. The standard Powell reliance on percussion is the most glaring difference between the composer's own style and the Williams/Giacchino methodology despite Williams' incorporation of them in the prequels to a greater degree. The rowdy percussion section in Solo: A Star Wars Story confirms this as a solidly Powell effort from start to finish. It's intriguing to compare the Powell crew's London recording of the Han Solo thematic material with Williams' actual concert arrangement of those themes with a Los Angeles ensemble. The Williams composition, conducted by the 86-year-old maestro himself, reflects his usual precision of orchestration and style, clearly extending his stately rebel material from Star Wars: The Last Jedi into a pair of identities for the beloved scoundrel that culminate in yet another suite with a false crescendo conclusion at the end, a Williams trademark. Powell takes that inspiration and maintains Williams' flourishes on woodwinds, triplets on trumpets, and frantic figures on celli while expressing the themes amongst his own preferred mix of ingredients. The learned ear can hear the legacy of Williams' phrasing and orchestrations all over this score despite its clear classification in the Powell realm, and it wouldn't be surprising if many listeners gravitate towards Powell's treatment of the Han themes more often than Williams' formal arrangements. The instrumental pallet for Powell ranges wildly in its accents throughout the work, abrasive choral tones for one set of characters, a loungey, almost retro ambience for another, and strikingly brutal and dissonant explosions of action at the height of one chase scene. The choral element is judiciously applied, though there is an over-the-top expression of glorious grandeur by the singers for the introduction of the famed Millennium Falcon. Together, these contributors supply the perfect tone for each of the score's many themes, most of which new for this story. Powell's ability to swing seemingly effortlessly between his own themes and classic identities from decades ago is owed to his keen ability to maintain uninterrupted momentum and consistent instrumentation while jumping from motif to motif.

Before diving into the great depth of themes for Solo: A Star Wars Story, it needs to be recognized that this film is the first "Star Wars" feature not to reference Williams' theme for the Force, a lasting identity that come to represent the franchise just as much as the title fanfare. Since there was arguably no place for it in this narrative, the absence of that theme, which some will argue became overused by Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is a relief. No need to force it in there without reason. Instead, since Han Solo and Chewbacca never had themes of their own from Williams prior to this entry, the major holdover from the earlier scores is the rebel motif that is a secondary portion of the main "Star Wars" theme. This application makes sense given that Williams himself has come to associate this identity with the famous spaceships of the franchise; it thus becomes pervasive in many guises as Powell supplies the idea for the Falcon. Listen for Powell's flirtation with the idea as Han and Lando face off twice in cards over ownership of the vessel; the subtle woodwind allusions to the rebel fanfare here for the Falcon are nothing less than sublime. The main "Star Wars" theme also makes a number of appearances in the score as well, culminating in the customary end credits fanfare introduction. Three motifs for the Galactic Empire return as well, including two significant appearances by the Imperial March (neither on the initial album) and a combination of the two Imperial motifs from Star Wars: A New Hope; Powell follows Giacchino's lead in using both the Death Star motif (applied to a Star Destroyer here, oddly, a rare misstep in this score) and the proper stormtrooper motif in various guises throughout. These latter themes are on the initial album. Powell also utilizes several TIE-fighter, chasing, and asteroid-related fragments from A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in the aptly titled "Reminiscence Therapy" cue for the Falcon's escape from the Empire during the heralded "Kessel Run." The Imperial March is of interest because of a major-key adaptation of the idea for a propaganda film that Han witnesses at a spaceport. Not long after, he finds himself in the trenches on behalf of those villains, with a fuller, more traditional, transitional statement of the idea expressed. Listeners have commented that it would have been nice to hear some brief nod to Lando's theme from The Empire Strikes Back somewhere in these proceedings; it does not happen. Lando's cowardly escape alone in the Falcon in "Savareen Stand-Off" is treated to a deflated rebel fanfare fragment that is perhaps the funniest moment in the score.



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VIEWER RATINGS
350 TOTAL VOTES
Average: 4.03 Stars
***** 169 5 Stars
**** 90 4 Stars
*** 47 3 Stars
** 23 2 Stars
* 21 1 Stars
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COMMENTS
16 TOTAL COMMENTS
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Death Star theme not mismatched
NoahK - August 13, 2018, at 1:15 p.m.
1 comment  (55 views)
Solo and Ready Player One [EDITED]
Vader47000 - July 27, 2018, at 12:23 a.m.
1 comment  (78 views)
Did Clemmenson leak semen when writing that fluff?   Expand >>
Furious Reader - June 15, 2018, at 4:15 p.m.
6 comments  (679 views)
Newest: July 4, 2018, at 3:15 p.m. by
Shane Spencer
Fantastic review!!
daprosinik - June 15, 2018, at 2:17 a.m.
1 comment  (172 views)
Outstanding composition [EDITED]
Master Composer - June 14, 2018, at 8:46 p.m.
1 comment  (200 views)
If Zimmer had written the exact same music   Expand >>
Ds1 - June 14, 2018, at 8:39 p.m.
6 comments  (777 views)
Newest: July 4, 2018, at 3:14 p.m. by
Shane Spencer
More...


Track Listings Icon
TRACK LISTINGS
Total Time: 77:22
• 1. The Adventures of Han* (3:47)
• 2. Meet Han (2:18)
• 3. Corellia Chase (3:32)
• 4. Spaceport (4:05)
• 5. Flying With Chewie (3:28)
• 6. Train Heist (4:46)
• 7. Marauders Arrive (5:13)
• 8. Chicken in the Pot (2:07)
• 9. Is This Seat Taken? (2:34)
• 10. L3 & Millennium Falcon (3:15)
• 11. Lando's Closet (2:11)
• 12. Mine Mission (4:09)
• 13. Break Out (6:13)
• 14. The Good Guy (5:23)
• 15. Reminiscence Therapy (6:11)
• 16. Into the Maw (4:47)
• 17. Savareen Stand-Off (4:24)
• 18. Good Thing You Were Listening (2:06)
• 19. Testing Allegiance (4:19)
• 20. Dice & Roll (1:54)
* composed and conducted by John Williams

Notes Icon
NOTES AND QUOTES
The insert includes a note from Powell about the score and lists of performers for both the Powell and Williams recordings.
Copyright © 2018, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Solo: A Star Wars Story are Copyright © 2018, Walt Disney Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/14/18 (and not updated significantly since).
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