On Oct. 31, 2012, it was announced that Disney would purchase Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and release a new Star Wars film not only in 2015 but, according to Disney’s CFO, every two or three years after that as well. What will this mean for John Williams’ music for the films, which is some of the most beloved in all of film history?
Some may worry that in the hands of a company known for its animated features for children, Disney will aim the films at a younger audience and treat the music accordingly. But consider its recent forays into such films as the The Avengers and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Clearly, Disney has not been afraid to expand its film interests into the realms of action, superheroes, and the supernatural. Star Wars, then, would seem to be an ideal fit, so why would they change anything? After all, if there’s one thing Hollywood is known for these days, it’s redoing what has worked in the past. There can be no doubt then that John Williams will be asked to score the new films, and in the same style as before.
If the Star Wars series stretches beyond Williams’ lifetime, we might well ask how the music will be scored. Once again, the past serves as the best indicator. In the Superman film franchise, for example, John Williams scored the first film (1978), but declined scoring the remaining three in the series. Even so, his themes continued to be used by the composers of the other films, and so the series has a fairly coherent sound.
Or consider the case of the James Bond franchise, the latest installment of which was released only a few weeks ago with Skyfall. Although the main composer of the franchise, John Barry, passed away in 2011, his famous Bond themes continue to accompany 007 in his latest outing. Obviously, Hollywood considers the music of a film to be as important as the characters themselves in maintaining continuity in a franchise. And rightly so, for how could it be otherwise?
One of the big questions still remaining, though, is whether anyone besides John Williams would be able to conjure up the kind of iconic themes that currently adorn the Star Wars films. Williams is perhaps the greatest of all tunesmiths in film history. What would Luke and the Rebellion be without the heroic “Star Wars” main theme? Or Darth Vader and the Empire without the menacing “Imperial March”? Or the Ewoks without their mischievous “Parade of the Ewoks”?
Williams’ themes just seem to capture perfectly the emotion of the situation onscreen. It is probably for this reason that the American Film Institute ranks the score to the original Star Wars film number one on their list of the 25 Greatest Film Scores of All Time. Needless to say, whoever steps in to score any new Star Wars films after John Williams will certainly have their work cut out for them.