*Warning: This post contains minor spoilers for Rogue One*
Rogue One was produced under immense pressure. The first installment of the Star Wars anthology series was met with trepidation; not only were Disney taking one of the most passionately supported franchises to new territory, they were doing it within the confines of the original trilogy, with events leading directly into A New Hope (1977).
As the film's director, Gareth Edwards would've taken a hefty share of pressure. As would the cast, portraying a whole new set of characters who become so integral to the overall legacy of the Star Wars universe. But, it's hard to imagine anyone involved was under more pressure than Michael Giacchino.
Not only was the composer the first in a live-action setting to replace the franchise's musical stalwart John Williams, he came late to the project after replacing Alexandre Desplat. Consequently, Giacchino was given just four and a half weeks to produce the #RogueOne score. That's pressure. But now and then pressure creates a diamond, and now Giacchino's work is out in the open, it's fair to say he's pulled off a masterstroke.
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How Rogue One's Score Hit The Right Note
Rogue One managed to find the perfect balance between sentiment and originality. In some ways, it's a modern, big budget blockbuster viewed through the Instagram filter of A New Hope — jaw-dropping visuals combined with elements that could be hand picked from the '70s. Above all else, Giacchino's score is a demonstration of how the film treats the emotive phenomenon of nostalgia delicately.
With 95 per cent original music, Giacchino doesn't rely on plucking the heart strings of those besotted with the original trilogy, instead peppering Williams's unmistakeable references add a subtle aftertaste of sentiment. Often, such soundbites are used effectively during references to the original trilogy, or to accompany a discreet cameo.
Two #StarWars classics do make it into Rogue One. Although the metaphysical takes a back seat, the Force theme rings out at certain, poignant moments. As well as being visually stunning, the compositions — played over beautiful establishing shots — hit home the grandiose nature of the universe that fans know so well.
For me, a particular scene that stood out occurred in the midst of the battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance: As a Hammerhead corvette forces two Star Destroyers to collide, the scene is overlaid with a borderline serene track, the destruction acutely intensified by the contrast.
Enhancing The Beauty And The Despair
As well as enhancing the beauty, Giacchino's score enhanced the despair; the gripping and gritty depictions of war are met with jarring, unsettling sounds; certain scenes with #DarthVader are made all the more unflinching by an intimidating and intrusive soundtrack — without a doubt, this is the meanest, darkest, most brutal depiction of the Sith Lord we've seen, and Giacchino has a huge part to play in that.
From the introduction, it was clear this film was both distinct and wholly connected. Giacchino recently promised that when fans hear his soundtrack, they'd "feel at home." With a score that matches his predecessor, he's delivered his promise.
And for us Star Wars fans, it's music to our ears.
Have you seen Rogue One? What did you think of Giacchino's score?