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Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Album Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:

Performed by:

Orchestrated by:
Eddie Karam
Conrad Pope
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Sony Classical
(May 3rd, 2005)
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Regular U.S. release. The DVD of music videos included with the product is exclusive to this CD release.
Nominated for a Grammy Award.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you consider yourself any kind of Star Wars fan whatsoever, for John Williams concludes the saga with melodramatic weight of immense depth for this critical bridge to the classic trilogy.

Avoid it... if you are accustomed to the traditional format of Star Wars scores that values memorable themes and concert arrangements, a characteristic aspect of the franchise consciously dropped by Williams for this final film.
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WRITTEN 4/15/05, REVISED 9/13/11
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Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: (John Williams) And so the saga concludes. For now, at least. The hysteria that surrounded the releases of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace may have declined in the post-2000 era of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but the Star Wars universe still commands respect from both cult and mainstream audiences worldwide. By far the darkest chapter of the six films, Revenge of the Sith is also the most graphically violent, earning the sixth Star Wars film an uncharacteristic PG-13 rating. Innumerous beheadings, impalings, and unsightly dismemberment are aplenty in this conclusion to the prequel trilogy, marking the rise of the Galactic Empire and the fall of the Jedi. By the end of Revenge of the Sith, the table is set for the original 1977 film, A New Hope, with the last scenes of this film previewing everything from the moisture farm on Tatooine to the construction of the first Death Star. Concept creator George Lucas has desperately tried to create a watertight narrative arc in the Star Wars universe, go so far as to alter his original trilogy multiple times, and Revenge of the Sith was thus the height of these efforts. For composer John Williams, who was about to enter into a period of retirement after a flurry of activity in 2005 that included this final Star Wars score, the saga elevated his career to the ultimate level of stardom, his themes for the films lingering in the lives of people who haven't seen a Star Wars movie in the theatre for several decades. The thirty-year culmination of musical ideas from Williams is assembled in Revenge of the Sith, and with upwards of three million dollars and 18 days over which to record with the renown London Symphony Orchestra, the score promised to be as engaging and monumental as those that came before it. Difficulty arises when you attempt to compare music for the Star Wars films to your average, everyday film score; like the music for The Lord of the Rings by Howard Shore at roughly the same time, you have to evaluate Williams' music for these Star Wars prequels against those that came before in the series.

Without a doubt, regardless of the criticism you are about to read, Revenge of the Sith is a continuation of high quality writing from Williams that puts other contemporary film scores to shame. But with this disclaimer in mind, Williams' score for Revenge of the Sith, as a member of the saga's overall musical tapestry, presents several complications and deviations from the established norm that will challenge faithful listeners. The most general statement that anyone could make about Revenge of the Sith is that Williams truly changed direction with the format of thematic development heard in the first four films and, to a lesser degree, in Attack of the Clones. In the classic trilogy, Williams developed ideas for characters, locations, or scenes that smack you across the face with the clear existence of their arrangements. Lengthy battle, chase, or conversation pieces received a concert arrangement of a sub-theme or motif that numbered at least three in quantity from each film. Existing in the comfortable world of Lucas' cartoonish style of presenting the saga, Williams made his themes, rhythms, and motifs readily transparent, giving each idea a larger-than-life quality that led to every small cue, whether it was the escape from Cloud City or rebel fleet preparing to go into hyperspace, maintaining a memorable idea that could be hummed by the listener long after the score had departed from the room. When The Phantom Menace revived the saga in 1999, Williams made a concerted effort to continue this format of presenting his ideas. Despite criticism leveled against the score at the time for its apparent weaknesses (and its awful editing in the film), in retrospect you can hear that Williams was attempting to extend the concert suite type of development while struggling with the demands of Lucas' ever-heightening pace of action. With "Duel of the Fates," "Anakin's Theme," and the "Flag Parade" theme joined sometimes in concert performances by Jar Jar's theme, there was little shortage of material for the public to identify with from the film. Williams decided to change his methodology for Attack of the Clones. Rather than elaborating upon three or four primary identities, he condensed them into "Across the Stars," one extremely powerful and effective theme. And it worked, if only because the idea remains one of the most poignant of Williams' entire career, and its usage is dominant in a significant number of the score's cues. Additional motifs do exist throughout Attack of the Clones, but not with the kind of clarity expected from a Star Wars score.

The days of cartoonish, self-contained themes for asteroid fields and furry little Ewoks were gone by 2005, Williams tackling the weightier drama of the Star Wars galaxy's darkest chapters with an emphasis on scene-specific underscore of a less obvious nature. In Revenge of the Sith, he introduces one major new theme in the standard concert arrangement, one rhythmic motif for a new villain, and several supporting motifs and underdeveloped, unconnected ideas for individual moments in the film. You could conceivably listen to Revenge of the Sith on album, enjoy it from start to end, but come away with only themes from the previous scores still in mind. Williams did make it clear in interviews that his intention was to quote previously existing themes in this score more than in any of the others so the score would act as a bridge between the trilogies. "In Revenge of the Sith, there are three or four pieces of new material," Williams said. "A couple of them are lamentations; they accompany some very dark turns in the action. And there's also a kind of fun piece, which includes a lot of percussion, for Grievous." The primary theme he doesn't mention is "Battle of the Heroes," an idea he wrote for the lightsaber battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi at the climax of the film. This will be the only music you'll hear from the film at concerts, and it is a choral piece on the scale of "Duel of the Fates" that propels the Jedi to their destruction with the same percussively bombastic nature. As Williams touched upon, the action music in Revenge of the Sith is based upon the highly percussive and extremely rapid theme and rhythm for General Grievous, the robotic villain also hunting Jedi in this installment. It entertains with its pompous stature and ability to push trumpet players to the limits of their ability to perform as many distinct notes in as short a time as possible. But some of the secondary themes in Revenge of the Sith are the kickers, the enticingly gripping ideas that appear only once on album and beg for extended arrangements. Two are lamentations and two mark Anakin's transformation into a Sith Lord and, interestingly, in their major presentations on album, these ideas do not cross into each other's territory. Thus, the end result for Williams in Revenge of the Sith is a score that introduces several outstanding (and sometimes spectacular) ideas that are relatively fresh in the maestro's career but does not follow through with them to a level that will stick in the minds of average movie-goers. Its personality is therefore quite nebulous, a very odd characteristic for a Williams score of this magnitude.

More than in previous scores from the prequel trilogy, Williams quotes the classic trilogy's themes in Revenge of the Sith. "In this film more than any of the other five, there are references to earlier scenes," Williams stated, "which seem to me and to George to be part of the way we want to tell the story, musically." As with the other prequel scores, this does not include significant statements of the original A New Hope title theme for both the franchise and Luke Skywalker (outside of the traditional opening and closing, of course). Prevalent in Revenge of the Sith are the two other famous themes from the series: the "Force Theme" and "Imperial March." Their battles in this score are significant, with the "Force Theme" receiving more large-scale treatment than Vader's budding theme. Now is perhaps the time to mention, however, that the original commercial album for Revenge of the Sith, on which the observations about this score are being made, is hardly complete. Only fifteen cues out of 41 recorded by the LSO for the film are presented on that product. History has taught enthusiasts of the franchise through the years that all of the major arrangements of new ideas will be presented on these albums, however sometimes a strong statement of previous themes will be struck from the final product due to its redundancy (such as the performance of the "Force Theme" when Anakin leaves his mother in The Phantom Menace). While it's vital to remember this important fact while making general declarations about the score based on the album alone, the 72+ minutes of music presented in its ranks does show Williams' clear focus on supplying individualized underscore for specific scenes rather than general concepts. As the album presentation progresses, seemingly unrelated musical ideas are offered one after another, almost always superior in quality but serving as a minor shock for listeners who expect either continuity in their Star Wars music or at least enough development of each idea to reach a naturally satisfying conclusion. Despite the plethora of interesting new ideas from cue to cue in Revenge of the Sith, it's hard not to be disappointed with its lack of clear narrative direction and a coherent, overarching spirit. When shown the film for the first time, Williams admitted at the time, "My God, so much? I'm not going to be able to write all that... it goes from scene to scene, battle to battle, and fight to fight. I have to confess it's always a little bit daunting when I first see these things." The "scene to scene" part of that statement is telling, because it is perhaps a clue to indicate why Revenge of the Sith ended up so disjointed as a whole.

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Average: 4.04 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 72:08
• 1. Star Wars and the Revenge of the Sith (7:31)
• 2. Anakin's Dream (4:46)
• 3. Battle of the Heroes (3:42)
• 4. Anakin's Betrayal (4:04)
• 5. General Grievous (4:07)
• 6. Palpatine's Teachings (5:25)
• 7. Grievous and the Droids (3:28)
• 8. Padme's Ruminations (3:17)
• 9. Anakin vs. Obi-Wan (3:57)
• 10. Anakin's Dark Deeds (4:05)
• 11. Enter Lord Vader (4:14)
• 12. The Immolation Scene (2:42)
• 13. Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious (2:49)
• 14. The Birth of the Twins and Padme's Destiny (3:37)
• 15. A New Hope and End Credits (13:06)

Notes Icon
The insert includes the following note from George Lucas:

"Throughout the Star Wars films, John Williams has created a complete musical language to describe the characters and essentially tell the story of the saga. Episode III completes the Star Wars story; it also acts as a bridge to the original trilogy. In that way, the film has allowed John to add his own final chapter to the musical lexicon by creating brilliant new themes as well as drawing upon the rich legacy of music he has composed for the five other films over the past three decades. The film chronicles Anakin Skywalker's tragic turn to the dark side accompanied by such aggressively ominous music as Darth Vader's march, the Emperor's theme and a sweeping new piece that underscores the momentous duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. In the end, the film reminds us that Anakin will eventually be redeemed through the determination and love of his children. John has beautifully captured this spirit of hope by reprising the most memorable music from the original trilogy, the themes of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. The balance of light and dark is central to Star Wars storytelling, and John has conveyed this expertly. His music for Episode III is joyous and adventurous at times, yet pulls us into the mournful and tragic as well. But as the saying goes, the darkest hour is always before the dawn, even the dawn of twin suns on a distant, arid planet."

The 70-minute DVD of music videos is hosted by actor Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine) and includes the following:

• Chapter 1: A Long Time Ago ("Star Wars Main Title" from A New Hope)
• Chapter 2: Dark Forces Conspire ("Duel of the Fates" from The Phantom Menace)
• Chapter 3: A Hero Rises ("Anakin's Theme" from The Phantom Menace)
• Chapter 4: A Fateful Love ("Across the Stars" from Attack of the Clones)
• Chapter 5: A Hero Falls ("Battle of the Heroes" from Revenge of the Sith)
• Chapter 6: An Empire Is Forged ("The Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes Back)
• Chapter 7: A Planet That is Farthest From ("The Dune Sea of Tatooine/Jawa Sandcrawler" from A New Hope)
• Chapter 8: An Unlikely Alliance ("Binary Sunset/Cantina Band" from A New Hope)
• Chapter 9: A Defender Emerges ("Princess Leia's Theme" from A New Hope)
• Chapter 10: A Daring Rescue ("Ben's Death/Tie Fighter Attack" from A New Hope)
• Chapter 11: A Jedi is Trained ("Yoda's Theme" from The Empire Strikes Back)
• Chapter 12: A Narrow Escape ("The Asteroid Field" from The Empire Strikes Back)
• Chapter 13: A Bond Unbroken ("Luke and Leia" from Return of the Jedi)
• Chapter 14: A Sanctuary Moon ("The Forest Battle" from Return of the Jedi)
• Chapter 15: A Life Redeemed ("Light of the Force" from Return of the Jedi)
• Chapter 16: A New Day Dawns ("Throne Room/Finale" from A New Hope)
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The reviews and other textual content contained on the 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 Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith are Copyright © 2005, Sony Classical and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 4/15/05 and last updated 9/13/11.
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