By Jerry Maynard
John William’s contributions to Star Wars are outright what makes it a good movie. Yes, it was for its time a incredibly monumental film outside of the score for the Special effects alone, but that isn’t what keeps it relevant to our special effects driven movies today and keeps it a step above our modern films. The effects are not what keeps it so fresh and alive in our hearts and minds. Star wars without John Williams’s music becomes, after the wear and tear of time on a film, an overly dramatic tale of bad parenting, galactic wizardry, a bunch of space angst, how the empire apparently couldn’t afford target training, and Han shot first.
If you took a much more mediocre score and replaced what Williams had written the movie not only would be less entertaining, but I daresay it would not be the iconic film it is today. Now stay with me for just a moment before you threaten to burn me at the stake for nerd heresy. When you think of star wars or a specific scene from star wars, what pops into your head? You hear the music in the background. Whether it be the ominous sounds of the Imperial March or the theme of the opening credits, the sounds of the cantina band or the music that accompanies any moment which brings the Force into play, you will hear these sounds accompanying every thought that you have of a Star Wars moment.
Imagine how terrible the prequels would be without the score
It is this writing that I would say makes Star Wars hold such a firm place in our hearts as one of the best Sci-fi series of all time. What would it be like to not have this Super Star Destroyer sized piece of genius accompanying each cinematic adventure?
This is what Star Wars looks like without music
Now the same scene with music
Just picture your favorite moment from our far, far away galaxy but imagine it without John Williams composing behind it. It’s a bit lackluster isn’t it? Maybe even not interesting and extremely over dramatic,(Except Chewy and artoo. Those dudes can act their hearts out.) Ok, still interesting but not set apart from other Sci-Fi films of its kind. Picture instead, or rather hear instead the usual music accompanying other Sci-Fi films of adventure in space or the future, perhaps something more electronic in style or maybe more ambient? Something from the soundtrack of Alien or a Star Trek film or maybe even a Hans Zimmer style score behind the film, (I like Star Trek movies but the music is not of note in regards to what makes Trek good). While these movies hold their own special place in our hearts I believe they could do so regardless of the score accompanying them in regards to how much the film relies on the score for what drives it to success but Star Wars perhaps would not have stood so high were it not for its music.
Imagine watching this scene without music:
Whether it be how in every moment of blossoming love between Han and Leia the sounds flow together and blend and each note is connected with a smoothness that only a fresh jar of Skippy could match, or how every moment of direness in our space fights is noted with staccato notes or separated but accented so strongly as our heroes rush into battle with melodies almost flying past each other in the same way the star fighters zoom past each other in the films.
He turns this into sounds!
If you take away the compositions of John Williams and replace it with anything else the film loses not only an integral piece of underlying genius but perhaps what ties our hearts fondness of this film and franchise together to each moment of our heroes’ adventure. Go listen to the score of the film without watching the movie and watch how you can see each moment play itself out in your mind as the score goes on. I dare you. In fact, do this before you type out some hate filled comment about my galactic Sith Lord heresy. What makes Star Wars really stand out so much from other great Sci-Fi franchises isn’t the story or the force or George Lucas or Han Solo wielding seven lightsabers with his mind and a blaster riding a flying taun-taun by using the force to do all this (Oh, that didn’t happen? Must have been a really cool dream I had…) Its John Williams almost taking Star Wars and writing it for the people who can’t watch with their eyes. Writing the film and directing each scene with only a pencil, paper, and music staff in front of him and taking every moment and re writing and transcribing into the a different language. One that not only would we translate with our ears but also the language that finds its way into our hearts and almost becomes the thread that keeps everything else of Star Wars attached to us.
Jedi for life