By Dan Moren
August 31, 2018 9:32 PM PT
A Thing We Like: Solo: A Star Wars Story Soundtrack
If you were to guess that my love of Star Wars and my love of film soundtracks are deeply intertwined, well, what can I say? My brand is strong. The release of a new Star Wars score is always an occasion to celebrate, something that I look forward to as much as that of a new film in the universe—and possibly more. After all, there are only so many hours I can devote to repeatedly watching a movie, but an album I can listen to over and over again in a variety of contexts: in the car, while walking, while writing, and so on.
Until very recently, the extra reason to rejoice in the release of a new Star Wars soundtrack was that it also meant new work by my favorite composer of film scores, John Williams. But as we’ve entered the brave new galaxy of modern Star Wars, new talent has been brought into the mix, and—if previous indications hold true—the upcoming Episode IX will be Williams’s last foray into the franchise.
That made the score for Solo of particular interest, as it not only brought in composer John Powell, who previously composed msuic for the How to Train Your Dragon series among other films, but also paired it with a brand new theme written for Han Solo by Williams himself.
The result is a delightful album, upbeat and catchy, with the kind of hummable theme that Williams excels at. Powell manages to mostly hold his own throughout, intertwining Williams’s Solo theme with other motifs of his own design, including playful riffs for Han’s encounters with Lando, a sweeping romantic theme for moments between Han and Qi’ra, and—a particular standout—menacing vocal choruses to signal the appearance of Enfys Nest’s marauders.
Among my favorite of the tracks are “Corellia Chase”, which puts the Han theme front and center, the one-two action-filled punch of “Train Heist/Marauders Arrive”, and the peppy “Mine Mission”, which is paired with the brassier “Break Out.” Williams’s classic Star Wars themes appear in a few places throughout, though are mostly used sparingly until they are dropped in by the Star Destroyerful in “Reminiscence Theory,” which is a tour de force of Millennium Falcon-related themes from throughout the original trilogy. (I particularly liked the hint of the “classic” Imperial theme not heard since A New Hope, a pleasant throwback that avoids some of the heaviness that has come to be associated with the “Imperial March”—which has traditionally done double duty as Darth Vader’s theme—introduced in Empire Strikes Back.)
If there’s a weak spot for me in the album, it might be the occasional dip into overtly electronic-sounding fare, in particular in the vocal track “Chicken in the Pot.” (Granted, the diegetic tracks in the earlier Star Wars movies are often my least favorite of those as well.) But overall, Powell delivers a score that is simply fun, a perfect counterpart to the breezy tone of the movie itself. I’m looking forward to Williams’s Episode IX score, to be sure, but if his successors are of Powell’s quality—or of Michael Giacchino, who adeptly scored Rogue One, for that matter—then fans of the franchise have little to worry about.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]