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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
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Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated by:
William Ross
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Walt Disney Studios
(Promotional Album)
(December 10th, 2019)

Walt Disney Records
(Commercial Album)
(December 20th, 2019)
Availability Icon
Two commercial releases exist, one the regular, widely available album and the other an exclusive product of Target stores in America. The musical contents of the two albums are the same; the Target version has specific packaging elements. The "For Your Consideration" awards promo was made available digitally prior to the commercial album releases and could be heard or downloaded through Disney's official awards site. It was removed from and reinstated to that site several times over the following months.
Nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Grammy Award.
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you have any passion for the Star Wars franchise whatsoever, John Williams' final big screen score for the concept as intelligent and wondrous as ever, concluding the sequel trilogy with rousing satisfaction.

Avoid it... if you demand to hear some of the score's best moments on album, for Disney and Williams inexplicably left several pivotal passages missing from both the commercial product and the "For Your Consideration" awards presentation.
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WRITTEN 2/17/20
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: (John Williams) Whether you like it or not, this is the ending to the original nine Star Wars episodes you're going to get. After earning critical buzz and audience derision, 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi forced the franchise to turn back to uber-filmmaker J.J. Abrams to salvage its destiny in 2019's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. While critics and audiences alike expressed initial dissatisfaction with Abrams' resolution to the Skywalker saga, the film ultimately grossed over a billion dollars in cinemas and offered more than enough crowd-pleasing attractions to suffice. Its story could have inhabited the running time of both the prior film and this one, postulating that a surviving Emperor Palpatine has been resurrecting the Sith and their former Galactic Empire while the remnants of interstellar society tried to pick up the pieces after the wars of the prior generation. The convenient pivot back to the original Star Wars trilogy allowed for a wealth of old concepts to grace the screen, and explanations to the sequel trilogy's mysteries almost inevitably point back to the franchise's brighter days. Palpatine, for better or worse, has been guiding the events of this trilogy, eventually returning to true form by the end of The Rise of Skywalker. His fleet of legacy-inspired Star Destroyers, each now with the capability to explode a planet (why were they ever called "star destroyers" before if they couldn't destroy a star?), is about to launch from a hidden Sith home world, and the rebel alliance known as the resistance in this trilogy is tasked with stopping them. Meanwhile, the Rey and Kylo Ren storyline, ever the topic of curious sensuality, reveals its origins and fate. Luckily for weepy audiences, the two undersexed youngsters ashamed of their names have developed the Force's ability to heal wounds, allowing them to be killed by lightning but emerge later to reveal a goofy grin. As a make-good for wasted time in The Last Jedi, the franchise brings a bevy of mostly spoken cameos to this project, allowing, at the very least, the ever-disgruntled Samuel L. Jackson some fleeting semblance of the return he's been pleading for ever since Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

The backwards gaze of The Rise of Skywalker is lovingly obliged by composer John Williams, who had announced that this project would represent his final foray into the galaxy far, far away. In his late 80's at the time, Williams was partly retired and balancing his limited energy between occasional concert appearances and special compositions, including one for a new Star Wars theme park. While these Star Wars films do not garner much attention from awards bodies, their music (along with sound and visual effects) do continue to bring nominations --but not wins-- to Williams more than four decades after his debut in the franchise. His involvement in the sequel trilogy was never assured in the first place, and regardless of the thousands of words to follow in this review, one must remember that hearing a new Williams Star Wars score in the year 2019 is extraordinarily special regardless of any quibbles you might have with the music or how the filmmakers utilized it on screen. The maestro even found his way into a very brief cameo as a bartender with a mechanical eye on screen, certainly a first for Williams. Although The Rise of Skywalker marks simply a sentimental end to the sequel trilogy's storyline for most movie-goers, it is also a triumphant goodbye to an era for film music enthusiasts. The amount of work that Williams put into this score is immense, with reports of more than three hours of music composed and recorded, some of it by the request of Abrams for the post-production mayhem that required rearrangements. There will undoubtedly be criticism of Abrams for the manipulation and outright dropping of portions of Williams' music for this project, though the composer did provide him with more than enough material from which to edit. There is a fair amount of tracking from prior scores in the franchise in the final cut, some of it surely for expediency, and the choices are not all that bad. Assembling an analysis of this score based upon only the material available on the two soundtrack presentations for The Rise of Skywalker, one of them being the "For Your Consideration" album only fleetingly available from Disney, is uniquely challenging, because even the music as heard in the final film leaves more questions than answers.

For the avid Star Wars or Williams collector, the soundtrack for The Rise of Skywalker will remain something of a frustration until a proper 225-minute album can be released. But until that day, most fans will find peace in the highlights of Williams' work, many of which available up front on the first commercial album. The maestro's attention to detail shines in even this constrained presentation, his new themes and adjustments to old ones as masterful as always. The intelligence of his constructs and orchestrations have not diminished significantly with his age, and he remains keenly aware of the need for guilty pleasure moments in this particular score. The work is a loving farewell by Williams to the 40+ years he has spent in this galaxy, and he reprises a slew of favorite old themes in their original forms as a result. Just like the film, the music is nostalgic, content to restate existing themes in their familiar arrangements while providing a few intellectual nuggets of development to newer ideas. One knock on Williams has been his tendency to regurgitate several bars of music almost wholesale from previous scores into these sequels; that habit is exacerbated here. Some cynics in the crowd may go so far as to assume that Williams was too tired to write new arrangements for these scenes. Another persistent complaint is that Williams tends to apply themes to scenes in ways that don't always make sense; his applications have often intended to match an appropriate emotional response rather than pinpoint accuracy in the representation of a particular person or concept. It doesn't make sense for Yoda's theme, for instance, to make an appearance in a scene in which the character has no relationship whatsoever. But at a time when the franchise needs this kind of nostalgic influence, one cannot help but excuse such sentimental usage. Remember, the mass audiences aren't looking for Williams to re-structure or re-orchestrate a theme; they simply want to be reminded of better times. The composer did write and conduct all of this material himself, relying only upon trusted collaborator William Ross to assist him in orchestrations. Williams chose his standard album arrangement, albeit one that is somewhat out of chronological order when compared to the story. The listening experience succeeds, for the most part, but expect several of the most memorable cues in the film to remain unheard on their own.

The general quality of Williams' music for the franchise persists through these later years, the complexity of his melodies and subtle structural connections between themes remaining as commendable as ever. Few composers can match the maestro's ability to execute a musical payoff, his penchant for shameless expositions of heroics in his music unrivalled still. There are fewer self-contained explorations of new themes in The Rise of Skywalker than prior entries, the kinds of cues that introduce a theme strictly for that one scene. Ironically, "The Speeder Chase," the most notable such piece in this score, including its momentous Williamsesque closing, was almost completely removed from the film edit. But the composer rarely allows an extended passage to exist in the score without continued development of a new or previously existing theme. Don't expect any significant alterations to these identities, as Williams reprises them faithfully more often than not, but there are joyous exceptions. The primary melody and chime-led intro for Rey, for instance, matches the character's consistent values by remaining largely static in development in The Rise of Skywalker, though the references to her material are frequent. On the other hand, Kylo Ren's primary descending theme experiences a shift to the major key late in the picture, a significant change. In execution, the themes are afforded the orchestrations you would expect, flowing high strings occupying the new themes for friendship and victory while stoic lower string and choir present the fresh villain's identity. Surprising diversity is provided the Emperor's theme in this score, though some of these passages were tracked in from Revenge of the Sith. This score marks the most triumphant development of that idea, along with a frequent return of the Imperial March as well. Together with Leia's theme, the usual dominance of the Force theme at times, and a remarkably resurgent title theme (essentially Luke's theme), the balance of air time in The Rise of Skywalker is satisfyingly divided between ideas old and new. On the other hand, Finn's chase theme from The Force Awakens and Rose's identity from The Last Jedi are entirely absent, as are some of those scores' most memorable action motifs. Williams surely could have dropped snippets of a few of these ideas into this work, and their total disappearance is unfortunate.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.09 Stars
***** 280 5 Stars
**** 154 4 Stars
*** 75 3 Stars
** 44 2 Stars
* 21 1 Stars
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I love this so much! [EDITED]
Logan - May 14, 2020, at 10:17 a.m.
1 comment  (560 views)
But the scene with Yoda's Theme in it *does* make sense... [EDITED]   Expand >>
Tydirium - February 17, 2020, at 10:36 p.m.
5 comments  (1490 views)
Newest: February 18, 2020, at 3:07 p.m. by
The Orchestrator

Track Listings Icon
Regular Commercial Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 76:32
• 1. Fanfare and Prologue (4:34)
• 2. Journey to Exegol (2:49)
• 3. The Rise of Skywalker (4:18)
• 4. The Old Death Star (3:16)
• 5. The Speeder Chase (3:21)
• 6. Destiny of a Jedi (5:12)
• 7. Anthem of Evil (3:23)
• 8. Fleeing From Kijimi (2:51)
• 9. We Go Together (3:17)
• 10. Join Me (3:42)
• 11. They Will Come (2:50)
• 12. The Final Saber Duel (3:57)
• 13. Battle of the Resistance (2:51)
• 14. Approaching the Throne (4:16)
• 15. The Force is With You (3:59)
• 16. Farewell (5:14)
• 17. Reunion (4:04)
• 18. A New Home (1:47)
• 19. Finale (10:51)
Disney Awards Promo Tracks   ▼Total Time: 50:32

Notes Icon
The slipcase packaging of the commercial album contains a list of performers and a note from the director. The Target-exclusive album is identical but adds slightly different art and two trading cards. The Disney promotional album is a digital product with no official packaging.
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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are Copyright © 2019, Walt Disney Studios (Promotional Album), Walt Disney Records (Commercial Album) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/17/20 (and not updated significantly since).
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