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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (John Williams)

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Soundtrack Cover
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Soundtrack Cover

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Soundtrack by John Williams (1999)

Get it:  If you avidly enjoy the previous soundtracks of the Star Wars franchise but with a new era

Don’t get it:  If you are a strict fan of the original soundtracks and don’t like for anything to be changed

Film Soundtrack Center will be releasing a review of a Star Wars movie every other month until the release of The Force Awakens (Episode VII).  Here is the schedule:

December 2014 – The Phantom Menace

February 2015 – Attack of the Clones

April – Revenge of the Sith

June – A New Hope

August – The Empire Strikes Back

October – Return of the Jedi

December – The Force Awakens

The original trilogy of Star Wars films completely captivated the entire world, starting in May of 1977.  There was no anticipation for this film, it was relatively unknown.  In fact, 20th Century Fox was only able to get 43 theaters to show the movie it’s opening week.  As we all know, a lot has changed since then.  The next installment of the film, to be released December 18th, 2015, is estimated by some to be the highest grossing film of all time.  Fans all over the world have their opinions on each film and the ranking as to which ones are better than the other.  Some people say the prequel trilogy is better, while others say the original trilogy can’t be touched.  What is the one consistent element throughout the films?  The music of John Williams.  His score to Star Wars not only won him another Oscar, but it became the best selling score-only soundtrack of all time… and he did it as a favor to George Lucas’ friend and Williams’ collaborator Steven Spielberg.

16 years after the last Star Wars movie, Return of the Jedi, George Lucas once again tapped Williams to come back and compose for the galaxy far, far away.  Could Williams have just written another soundtrack just like the ones before?  Yes, but that wasn’t what Lucas wanted.  They were aiming for something familiar but also new, just like the film.  The film has new characters, new planets, new technology, and is a new experience.  Consequently, Williams had do compose something in the same fashion. 

Track one is the all familiar, completely majestic Star Wars theme.  However, after the glorious theme ends, the new style begins.  Instead of expressing suspense or a chase, as we were familiar with, Williams chooses mystery.  There are numerous elements mixed in, but they speak directly to the viewer’s subconscious since they’re in the background.  The ear mostly hears the new.  The soundtrack is not only an evolution of the franchise, but also of John Williams’ style. 

If you tried to fit this soundtrack on, say, Episode IV, would it work?  Partly.  There would be many similarities and parts would fit greatly, but something would just seem off.  The quiet parts seem darker and the action scenes seem to have more going on.  But, that is appropriate for the film. 

One of the most instantaneously recognizable pieces from this franchise is “Duel of the Fates”.  This is a perfect example of how Williams is able to create something new that is still Star Wars.  It is such an intense piece for the film.  Part of this is because Williams uses something he hadn’t in this way before – a choir.  This is just another example of John Williams reinventing the already outstanding sound he created.

It’s not quite the epic work we have near-and-dear to our hearts, but is it good?  It’s a masterpiece.  Here’s just one hint into the thought that Williams put into this is the final track.  The victory celebration at the end of the film.  The people think they just won a major victory and defeated the enemy.  The character named Senator Sheev Palpatine, later Chancellor, is watching this celebration.  Later, he is revealed to be the biggest villain, The Emperor.   Interestingly enough, if you speed up the Emperor’s theme, you get part of the celebratory music at the end of this soundtrack.  It is a sign of things to come, but is fairly unrecognizable. 

In the end, even if the film didn’t meet every fan’s expectations, the music surpassed it’s job.  An amazing job by the legendary John Williams.

Compare the first part of this final track

To this, the Emperor’s Theme

Oh, and feel free to go back and listen to the rest of the final track from TPM.

Click here or here to shop for the soundtrack

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