Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi (Special Edition)

Soundtrack

RCA Victor Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Alfredo Narvaez

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/04/2000

John Williams has established himself as THE composer of the modern movie era. Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Superman, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Williams had become the person who created the music for many of childhood's dreams and nightmares. (I know he did for mine).

Still the task had not become easier for Williams when it came to this score. On the contrary, now he had to compete with everyone's expectations and demands - much like what he had to do, I'm sure, for last year's The Phantom Menace. At the same time, he had to create new music that would fit alongside the already-classic themes and unite this film with the other two to create a complete body of work. What does this all mean? It means the major themes from Episodes IV and V find their way here. It means new themes. And it means a score that is far lengthier than the movie it is accompanying.

So what about the new music. Williams creates four new major themes. The first one is for the gangster, Jabba the Hutt. This tuba-heavy ode to the grotesque space slug first appears in "Bounty For A Wookie" and is prominent throughout the entire Tatooine part of the score. Perhaps its most amusing use occurs during the great action piece, "Sail Barge Assault." As Leia uses her chain to strangle the obese slug from its life, his theme kicks in as he kicks the bucket. Notice that Williams did not use a triumphant version of Princess Leia's theme for this scene, but instead chose to highlight Jabba getting his due. (On a side note, Williams reuses Jabba's Theme for his scene with Han Solo in the Tatooine hangars during Star Wars: A New Hope. That sets up the payoff that takes place here.)

The second new theme presented is a very cool, ominous and dark theme for the Emperor. Unlike the large and loud Imperial March, the Emperor's Theme - which first appears in "The Emperor Arrives" - is almost religious in its nature. It's like Williams wanted to create the exact opposite of Yoda's quiet and benign theme. Featuring a male choir that sings no lyrics, Williams creates something that sounds like a wailing of the damned or a chant by maniacal monks. Like I said, very cool. It fit the character so well that Williams reused it for The Phantom Menace's score - as Darth Sidious' theme.

To offset those two villanous new themes, we have first the Ewok theme - which appears fullest on "Parade Of The Ewoks." A tribal, primitive romp, it is meant to raise their cuteness and underdog status. It first appears on "Land Of The Ewoks," where Leia meets a member of the furry creatures. In fact, all of the music for the Ewoks' scenes features tribal drums and could be considered primitive. Most interesting is "Threepio's Bedtime Story," where the themes for Vader, Luke, the Force, and Han and Leia are reorchestrated to a primitive sound as C-3PO tells the diminutive warriors of their plight and adventures. All of this is done to remind the audience that they are nature fighting against the evil technology of the Empire.

The final new theme is "Luke And Leia," which is a more mature love theme. While "Princess Leia's Theme" is dreamy and innocent - perhaps for first love - and "Han Solo And The Princess" is for romantic love, this theme is adult and meant for a more mature relationship. After all, they are brother and sister and, no matter how far, far away that galaxy may be, incest is not cool. What the music states is the complex and grown relationship between the two characters. It is not romantic, but loving.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With these new themes and the old ones in place, Williams sets about to resolve the conflicts of the saga through music - just as George Lucas is doing it visually. First, we have "The Death Of Yoda," where Williams repeats his trick from Empire by tying Luke's, Yoda's and the Force Theme. That is followed by "Obi-Wan's Revelation," where Luke's past is told and his sister's identity revealed. When Luke finds out, the Princess' Theme kicks in. Later on, "Brother and Sister/Father and Son" sets up the conflicts within the Skywalker family. In the first part, the Force theme and Luke and Leia's Theme, Leia is told of her past. That segues into the second part, where Vader's Theme and Luke's Theme square off against one another - as each character tries to claim the other towards its side.

The final resolutions come in the three-part "The Battle of Endor." Here, Williams creates thirty minutes of action music to lead to the endgame. First up, is the land battle, where Han's troops and the Ewoks battle the Imperial garrisons in an attempt to destroy the shield generator. The best piece here is "The Ewok Battle," where Chewbacca and the Ewoks manage to turn the Empire's firepower on them - the music here turns both playful and exciting. Then, there's the space battle. Starting with "Into the Trap," the music here is more frenzied and action packed. A dramatic moment occurs when the Death Star is revealed to be operational in "Prime Weapon Fires." But its best moment is "The Main Reactor," as Wedge and Lando destroy the Death Star's main reactor and then manage to escape with their lives - the music exploding in rousing triumph.

However, my favorite cues occur between the final duel in the Emperor's throne room. "The Dark Side Beckons" is a classic moment where the maniacal monks return to signal Luke's near fall to the dark side as he finally defeats Darth Vader. That leads to "The Emperor's Death," where, as his theme is reaching epic proportions, the Force Theme juts in and cuts it off forever - signaling Vader's turn. Then, there's "Darth Vader's Death," where Williams somehow turns the "Imperial March" into a melancholic and tragic piece to signal Anakin's death.

The final resolutions come next. First up, there's "Leia's News," where Han learns of Luke's true relationship with Leia and of the clear path he's got to her heart. Their love them sars and closes that conflict. Next is "Light Of The Force," where the Force theme is used to signal Luke's destruction of Darth Vader's suit. Here you get two versions, with the second one being the one used in the movie's scene. The first one is grandiose, while the second is more tender and quiet. While I see why the second one was chosen by Williams, Lucas and director Richard Marquand, I still prefer the first one. Finally, there's "Victory Celebration," a new theme Williams wrote specifically for the Special Edition. Their new celebration piece follows a more traditional orchestral sound and brings together the entire galaxy in celebration over the Empire's demise as well as all of the heroes for the final shot.

What makes this score so big is the inclusion of extra music not featured in the movie. Much of "Tatooine Rendesvouz" is not to be found in the movie, because it scores a deleted scene between Luke and Darth Vader - where they have a telepathic conversation. Also, most of "Obi-Wan's Revelation" is absent from the movie. It is not until the final piece, where Leia's theme kicks in. Then, there' "Jedi Rocks," which is used to replace the original piece by Jabba's band. This piece drew some heated debate. While I don't mind it, I can see why some others would not like it. It's entirely up to you. Along with those, you also get another version of "Sail Barge Assault" - which relies less on Luke's Theme or the Rebel Fanfare. It's not bad, but I do love the film's version - which I consider one of the better action pieces in all the saga.

With Return Of The Jedi, Lucas brought his trilogy to a close. The story of Luke, Han and Leia was told. However, now that he's going through with the prequels, I think that it'll reveal that the saga is the story of Anakin Skywalker's rise, fall and redemption. I hope that the finished product reveals as rich a story as the one in the trilogy. Like I said in the review for A New Hope, much of the power of these movies is due to John Williams' music. He has managed to make the music of this universe seem an integral part and I cannot see anyone else doing the music for the next two movies. And that may be the best compliment I can give him.

Rating: A

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© 2000 Alfredo Narvaez and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA Victor Records, and is used for informational purposes only.