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Soundtrack Review: Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker
by Richard Jack Smith

At its best, the music for Star Wars contains profound musical statements: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) beholding the smoky remains of his family in "Burning Homestead." Also, there's the stirring "Duel of the Fates," which marked a major confrontation between the Jedi and the Dark Side. Because the tracks have been laid and the settlements populated, modern filmmakers are less inclined to extend this musical vocabulary, at least beyond the incidental.

Crucially, the franchise has not smashed into a creative dead end. In 2020, composer Gordy Haab did a wonderful job on the video game Star Wars: Squadrons. His imaginative battle rhythms came across as unpredictable. As for John Williams, while he doesn't coast on nostalgia for The Rise of Skywalker to the same extent as The Last Jedi, he peaked long ago. Arguably, Revenge of the Sith culminated in a broad swathe of leitmotifs and moments unmatched by the Disney trilogy. 

Indeed, the most shameless nostalgia demonstrated by The Rise of Skywalker can be heard in "Destiny of a Jedi." Here Rey (Daisy Ridley) ends up granted mythic status via Yoda's Theme. Incidentally, the diminutive Jedi master has long since become one with the force. So why the producers insisted upon this musical idea simply because Rey levitates an X-wing remains mysterious.

I give Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by John Williams three out of five stars.

A poem to close:

Finish your daily chores

Before hearing Star Wars.

John Williams' intergalactic final dance

Some nostalgia perchance. 


Popular themes are there

As newer branches prepare.

Kylo Ren's Theme was simple and drab.

No greater than a concrete slab.


Rey's motif slightly better

Following Tinkerbell to the letter.

The action continuously stirs

Just as the Emperor purrs.


The will to embolden

Early fanfare simply golden.

Much to absorb

From celestial orb.


Of majestic plunder

A still and noble wonder.

This tune I'll be humming

It was a long time coming.


"Destiny of a Jedi" demoted

Because Yoda's Theme was quoted.

A shameless copy

Unearned and sloppy.


"Anthem of Evil," that seductive choir

The circumstance rarely dire.

Hark! The trumpets sound

Furies light years abound.


Discontent for "The Old Death Star"

A melody carried far.

"We Go Together" was functional and plain.

Tuned to keep us sane.


Confronted by wraith

"Join Me" marginally safe.

Who's minding the lobby

When inspiration proves a hobby?


Even "The Final Saber Duel"

Almost ran out of fuel.

In between the highs and lows,

A skeleton grows.


An unstoppable franchise plummets

Once knowing worthy summits.

"Battle of the Resistance" felt busy

All kinds of berserker crazy.


Williams bows with grace

His contribution set the pace.

The Rise of Skywalker mostly consistent

Those nostalgic blossoms insistent.


How does the final product sit?

Confident, alone and fit.

There's enough sweep

To make an apprentice Jedi weep.


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