the force

Top 10 John Williams Star Wars themes

John Williams has scored some of the most iconic movies in cinematic history. He is beyond talented and extremely brilliant. Now we all know a movie isn’t complete without an awesome sounding score to accompany it. Imagine Jaws, Harry Potter, Superman, or Indiana Jones without those beautiful and much needed pieces of music. The same can be said for any of the seven Star Wars films. John Williams has scored and created many themes for many different movies over his carrier. But none are more popular than the music from the Star Wars films. Any fan of these movies will have their own Top 10 list for themes. It was very hard to pick only ten. But without further ado:

10. “Across the Stars” (Love theme from Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith)

Let’s kick things off with a little forbidden romance shall we? This is the theme we hear whenever Padme and Anakin are seen on screen and as they share their first kiss with each other. I think it’s a beautiful theme full of passion and joy. It is one of two love themes that John Williams has created for the Star Wars films and here is hoping he creates a few more with Episodes VIII and IX on the way.

9. “Anakin’s Betrayal” (Order 66 theme)

This theme is played out in Revenge of the Sith when the order is given to all the clone commanders and their troops to execute the Jedi across the galaxy. It’s a particular moving piece because it is one of the saddest moments in the prequel trilogy and unlike anything we have seen before in a Star Wars film. Seeing countless Jedi gunned down or shot out of the skies was heartbreaking to see, not to mention the slaughtering of the younglings by Anakin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmhjaFbpkIE

8. “Ben Kenobi’s Death / Tie Fighter Attack”

One of the more thrilling themes from Episode IV is right after the death of Obi-Wan when Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the crew jump in the Falcon to escape the Death Star hanger to then only be pursued by a squad of Tie Fighters. The suspense leading up to the Tie Fighters approaching, to Luke and Han taking to the laser cannons on the Falcon to blast them away is like one big adrenaline rush. A small and quick scene compared to most on this list, but it sure packs a punch.

7. “The Battle of Endor I”

I picked Part 1 from the rest of the pieces from this battle is because of this heart pounding opening. It’s goes from suspenseful and quiet to loud and dramatic when the Rebel fleet realizes the shield to the Death Star is still operational. Chaos ensues as Lando leads the attack in space, Han and Leia along with the droids and help from the Ewoks lead the ground battles, and Luke is forced to watch the Rebel fleet get pulverized in space as Vader and his Master look on. And of course as always…IT’S A TRAP!

6. “Cantina Band”

Of course we can’t have a Top 10 list like this without having the “Cantina Band” theme in here somewhere! This is just a really fun theme to hear and grove along with. It is a departure from the heavy brass and strings we normally are used to in Star Wars films and John Williams gives a nice light feeling to this space opera.

5. “Duel of Fates”

This theme still gives me chills to this day. I remember being in the theater and when the doors opened to reveal Darth Maul standing there and then the choir kicked in was haunting. This piece had been something we haven’t heard before in the previous trilogy of films. With three new films for a new generation of fans, John Williams had to revamp the scores a bit for these. Nothing was ever this fast paced with choirs and brass combined in the original trilogy. A very intense track from the prequel trilogy and the best piece of music from Episode I by far.

4. “Han and Leia’s Theme”

A love theme for the ages. This was the very first love theme we got out of the Star Wars movies and boy did John Williams deliver. This is a soft and beautiful piece used to show the affections between Princess Leia and Han Solo. First heard in The Empire Strikes Back and continued on through Return of the Jedi and finally heard again in The Force Awakens, the fans always know when this plays on the screen we will get some kind of interaction between the couple, whether it’s them fighting or saying “I love you” is a different story.

3. “Rey’s Theme”

The number three spot is taken by my favorite theme from The Force Awakens and that is of course “Rey’s Theme”. I think it is one of the best character themes in the saga. John Williams really gives you a sense of adventure, hope, strength, wonder, and curiosity all mixed into one theme and that perfectly describes Rey in the film. It has been compared to Luke’s theme or the “Force” theme from the rest of the films as well which is something I can totally see.

2. “The Force Theme” ( Also known as Luke’s theme)

Speaking of Luke and the Force, here is my number two pick. This theme can be found in every single Star Wars film and TV show to date. It is universally known to the fans as the theme that surrounds almost anything to do with the use of the Force or the good guys in general. It is a great theme and is a very emotional and powerful theme at that. It’s known that the Force binds living things together. And the Force is strong with this theme.

1. “Star Wars Main Theme”

Anyone surprised by this number one pick? Well you shouldn’t be. It is of course the opening to the Star Wars films. This is arguably one of if not the most iconic opening themes in movie history. Even if you aren’t a fan of Star Wars, once you hear this theme you know where it’s from. I always get excited to hear this theme and when you first heard it in the theater again during Episode VII the whole place cheered. This to me is Star Wars, this is one of John Williams’ finest pieces of music he has ever written and will go down in history as such.

So how did I do? Did your favorite theme from the Star Wars saga make it on the list as well? Which John Williams theme from Star Wars is your favorite? Sound off in the comments below and let us know.

Top 10 John Williams Star Wars themes

Star Wars: A Ranking

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens crushing every box office record in sight, I believe it’s time to set down a ranking of the seven existing Star Wars Saga films before we begin the Star Wars Anthology. I’ll be ranking from worst to best based on my personal opinion. There will be spoilers, so you have been warned. One thing I want to note is that I am ranking these films off of their original theatrical releases. I am NOT including Special Editions or Blu-Rays releases.

7. Star Wars Episode I: A Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace poster tall

As the only film left out of the infamous Machete Order, is it any surprise that the first of the Star Wars  prequels would land last on my list? Let’s give the film its due though. The “Duel of Fates” song from legendary composer John Williams was superb and the villain, Darth Maul was intimidating and flat out cool. But a single song cannot save a movie, especially one in a franchise as beloved and successful as the Saga and killing off a brand new and exciting villain so fast is plain disappointing (and yes, I know the character returns in the cartoon). The overall story is boring and unnecessary. Jake Lloyd’s Anakin Skywalker was a cute kid but nothing more and the odd relationship with Padme (Natalie Portman) just did not work for the characters’ ages. Now, the saving grace of Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn was another positive but the character is killed off almost as quickly as his foe, Darth Maul and while Qui-Gon does return in the officially canon TV animated series The Clone Wars, we do not see him again in a Saga film. I think my biggest problems with this film revolved around the style and tone of the movie. Everything is shiny, pretty, and nice. The environment felt too sterile for Star Wars. Sterile is for Star Trek. Star Wars is supposed to be on the frontier of space.

And do I even need to mention the Midi-chlorians? I’m sure glad J.J. Abrams chose not to.

6. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones poster tall

Only slightly better than Episode I, Attack of the Clones speeds things up which makes the relationship between Anakin and Padme less creepy but nonetheless, the movie still falls mostly flat.  While we do get more action and a lot more Jedi fighting with lightsabers, we still get a lot of political talk that slows down the action, again, something for the Trek and not the Wars. The CGI effects in this film are borderline awful. George Lucas used blue screens so much, I seriously doubt that anything in the movie is real at all. The movie is the most forgettable of the franchise, which is why I don’t have much more to say about it. But, since I also don’t have a lot of bad things to say, it does edge out the one with the random and unnecessary podracing (though that did spawn a pretty cool video game for my N64).

5. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith poster tall

Enter emo Anakin. While the Peter Parker in Spiderman 3 became more emo than evil, Anakin did the same but on a significantly more whiny level. Seriously, it got annoying and it got annoying fast. Hayden Christensen’s character was creepy and irritating throughout BUT we get a ton of very important information that leads to the events of the original trilogy. We finally see how everything comes to be, how the Empire is born, so to speak. We also get that intense fight scene between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin. While the end of that fight is pretty messed up, it’s a great fight scene that took better advantage of the CGI technology. The darker tones worked well, especially with the death of Padme and the birth of Vader. Now, I don’t like the whole Frankenstein’s Monster moment but I do appreciate the show of Force power Vader has and how Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) put Anakin back together. I will say that Yoda’s big moment against Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is absolutely epic and fantastic until the actual lightsaber battle starts.

4. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Star Wars Episode VI Revenge of the Jedi poster tall

Ewoks aside, I always loved this film. As a kid, it was my favorite of the Star Wars films mainly because it had more space battles and action. As I grew up, I did notice its short-comings which is why it falls to fourth on my list. The story is a significant rehash of A New Hope which a larger Deathstar (something you only know from material external to the films) but this time is has a shield!  I do enjoy Luke’s story which shows him on his journey to actually giving into the Dark Side for a short time. I am, of course, referring to when he uses the Force to grab his saber from the Emperor’s chair arm. I also like the redemption of Anakin by saving his son, defeating the Emperor, and finally becoming a happy Jedi Force ghost with Obi-Wan and Yoda.

3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

 

The film that started it all is truly a fantastic one. Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope poster tallA New Hope  is one of my favorite movies of all-time and to this day is still considered one of the most successful by number of tickets sold. The story was new, bright, exciting, and fun. The scenes, alien puppet characters, and practical effects were monumental in enhancing the field of special effects. George Lucas’ accomplishments with this film are unparalleled and the film holds up. I still love watching our young heroes thrust into their perilous journey together, so many one-liners, so many references. There are too many iconic things about this film to put in a ranking article such as this but needless to say, I love this movie through and through even with its dated technical problems.

2. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Yes, I fell into the hype. I was pumped for this film. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens poster tallIt’s been so long since we had a new Star Wars movie and even longer since we had a new one that truly fit the bill. I was able to attend opening night with several friends. I even made some purchases that my AMC theater had available for the “Galaxy Premier”. Call me a sucker if you want but damn did I have a good time. What a fun and exciting movie. The newest Star Wars film was everything I wanted it to be. Nothing more and nothing less. I left the movie feeling perfectly content. I was happy and had very few complaints. If you’d like my full details and thoughts on the film, please listen to Episode 07 of our podcast series Grid Talk available here and on iTunes here.

1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The darker, more serious Saga film is still my overall favorite. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back posterThe story is compelling, the action is purposeful, and the practical effects are still great. Our characters are more seasoned and more sure of themselves. Han is quick to fire on Vader which makes Solo even more heroic in the face of danger. And what has ever topped the big reveal of Vader being Luke’s father? We get our introduction to Yoda, the most power of the Jedi. We learn of the Force ghosts with the return of Obi-Wan and the movie ends on an open note with things not going particularly well and Han frozen. The Empire Strikes Back’s job was to take the bright and heroic tale we had already seen and bring it crashing down to reality. Our heroes are not without weakness and are not untouchable. We had no idea if Han Solo was even alive or would ever return and for those who were alive when the film first came out, it was possible he would never return since Harrison Ford wasn’t sure if he’d come back for a third film. Overall, the movie is deeper and more sophisticated than A New Hope without all of the random merchandising issues of Return of the Jedi.

Conclusions and Thoughts

Star Wars The Force Awakens Wide Poster

I love Star Wars, through and through. I am invigorated with the addition of The Force Awakens and cannot wait for Rogue One, the first of the Star Wars Anthology films, let alone Episode VIII which is set to begin production very soon. While I know the prequels have their downsides, they are, for the most part, important to the franchise. They provide characters and context that expand on and enrich the Saga’s universe. With that said, given my reflection here, it might be time to finally get the prequels on Blu-Ray. Right now I’m sitting on a VHS of Episode I, a DVD of Episode III, and I don’t even have Attack of the Clones.

But hey, maybe one day, Disney and FOX can come to some agreement and we can get the theatrical cuts of the original trilogy on Blu-Ray. If that day every comes, I’ll be there.

What about you? How would you rank the seven Star Wars films? Let me know in the comments!

Star Wars: A Ranking

The Force Awakens, a new hope for Expanded Universe Fans

I am a Star Wars fan.  In junior high, it would have been difficult to find a shirt I owned that didn’t reference Star Wars in some way.   We had the prequels releasing throughout that time, but with those being huge disappointments, I had to get my fix of a galaxy far, far away somewhere else.  Thus, I turned to the EU (Expanded Universe, which consisted of novels, comic books, and video games).

It wasn’t Qui-Gon or Jar Jar that made me happy to be excited to be a fan, it was Kyle Katarn, Mara Jade, and Darth Revan.  Games like Knights of the Old Republic,  Dark Forces, and Masters of Teräs Käsi  (don’t judge me!) were my jam.  I read Timothy Zahn’s novels between classes in school. I wasn’t very popular, as you can imagine.  You nerdy kids today have it so easy!

So when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and announced that the whole Expanded Universe wasn’t canon in any way, shape, or form, I was crushed.

Fast forward a bit, and I watched The Force Awakens, and my opinion has changed.

While the characters I love may not exist in name anymore, many of their stories are set up to play out in the movies.  I am going to cover where I think the similarities lie, and maybe some of where they might be heading.  From here on out, there will be MAJOR SPOILERS for The Force Awakens (TFA) and the Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) games.  You have been warned.

*******************************************

**********************************

*********************

**********

****

**

Still here?  Good. Let’s get into some references to the Expanded Universe.

So to start, Rey bears a pretty major resemblance to Bastila Shan from KOTOR, as well as her daughter Satele from SWTOR (Star Wars the Old Republic).  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Also take into account that they both use staff type weapons (Bastila uses a yellow bladed saberstaff).  Not only that, but Rey’s grey outfit at the end of TFA looks very similar to many old republic styled outfits.

Expanded Universe Bastila Shan KOTOR Rey The Force Awakens

There were some new Force powers introduced in TFA.  Remember when Kylo used the Force to stop Rey in place so he could capture and interrogate her?  That is called “Force Stasis”, and was introduced in KOTOR in a very similar way.  Darth Malak used the same move to capture Bastila Shan.  Kylo using the Force to interrogate Rey and Poe is also very similar to another KOTOR force power called “Mind Domination”.

Just like Rey in TFA, Bastila is captured by her Sith enemy and locked into a partially reclined torture device, and subjected to Dark Side probing.  Do these screenshots look familiar?

Expanded Universe Bastila Torture KOTOR Expanded Universe Bastila Torture KOTOR

When Finn and Rey meet, he intends to try and save her, but she saves herself, beating up a slew of attackers in the process with her staff.  This is very reminiscent of this scene in KOTOR (even a similar weapon!):

Expanded Universe Bastila saving herself KOTOR

Remember Finn and Rey having to escape a planetary attack in the Millennium Falcon?  Bastila and Revan have the same situation happen, except the ship is the Ebon Hawk instead of the Falcon.

The plots of TFA and KOTOR II both revolve around finding the last remaining Jedi by chasing down incomplete maps of the galaxy and following them into uncharted systems.  In TFA, the last Jedi was Luke who left the map with R2-D2, in KOTOR II it was Revan who left the map with T3-M4.

There are also some pretty large similarities between Revan and Kylo’s mask design.

kylo ren Expanded Universe Darth Revan KOTOR

That planet the Luke is on at the end of the movie could easily be Rakata Prime, which was a planet that was covered in ancient stone structures that are strong in the force, and was first mentioned in KOTOR.  Those stone structures could easily fit the bill for what Han says Luke is looking for. It just so happens that this planet was shown on the newest, official, canon map of the Star Wars galaxy.

Star wars Map

Speaking of planets from KOTOR, Malachor V is a planet introduced in KOTOR II that is full of ancient Sith temples and teeming with Dark Side energy.  In the visual dictionary released for The Force Awakens, Kylo’s saber is described as “an ancient design, dating back thousands of years to the Great Scourge of Malachor.”  The book is canon, as is Malachor now.

Visual Dictionary TFA

KOTOR had a super-weapon called the “Star Forge” that siphoned power from the sun, the same way that the Starkiller base did.

Pretty striking similarities, in my opinion.

So onto some speculation, because why not?

Maz Kanata mentions something about history repeating itself. Could Kylo’s more primitive clothing and weapon and Rey’s resemblance to Bastila be attributed to that?  Could history repeating itself be a reference to KOTOR’s story repeating itself?  Could Rey be from Bastila and Satele’s bloodline??!?!

I don’t think the mentions of Malachor and Rakata Prime are just nods to the fans.  I think that Snoke is probably living on Malachor, and that’s where he is summoning Kylo to to finish his training.

What do you think?  Coincidence?  Something more?  Did I miss some Expanded Universe references?  Will we see Rey wielding a yellow bladed saberstaff soon?   Let me know in the comments.

The Force Awakens, a new hope for Expanded Universe Fans