One advantage I held over Williams’ original score is in regards to the placement of the music, which I was able to accomplish without the commercial concerns of a studio. It must be noted that Williams himself was not solely responsible for placing his music in the film. Any film has directors, producers, and editors who can override the composer and have the final say in the matter. This filmmaking hierarchy is glaringly obvious in Star Wars when it is evaluated from a musical standpoint.
Several key scenes in the film feature no music, such as lightsaber battles and scene changes. The lack of music in these instances can make for an awkward visual experience in certain instances. In addition to the scenes in the film in which there is no music being played, there are many moments in which the wrong theme is played during crucial moments of the film (such as Leia’s theme playing during Obi-Wan’s death). Below I have outlined a few of these instances and compared them to my own musical choices in scoring the film.
The Lightsaber Duel
During Obi-Wan’s battle with Darth Vader, absolutely no music is played. This strategy works for small portions of future battles (such as sections of Luke fighting Vader in The Empire Strikes Back), but this particular scene could easily be enhanced by adding music. An intense amount of emotion surrounds this conflict, the final confrontation between master and apprentice. The lack of music lowers much of the audience’s emotional investment in the scene. More importantly, this scene is the weakest lightsaber battle of the saga, likely because it was the first Star Wars film, and also because it featured an aging actor, Alec Guinness. The lack of intensity and excitement surrounding the fight itself could have been solved with one simple addition: music. While we may never know whether this was the composer’s choice or the director’s, it drastically lessens the scene’s impact.
Vader's Big Entrance
The scene could have provided a key musical establishment for Vader, and I decided to use it for this purpose. He has had a few small appearances up to this point, but this is the moment when the leitmotif I wrote for him is on full display, allowing audiences to finally associate the character with the music.
Within the first five minutes of Star Wars, audiences are introduced to an iconic character, Princess Leia. Leia is first seen handing the secret Death Star plans to R2-D2 as she attempts to help the Rebels. This would seem to be the perfect spot for the introduction of Leia’s theme, but Williams and the filmmakers chose a different path. Williams introduces Leia’s actual theme shortly after, but uses Leia’s very first moments on-screen to introduce the Force theme. To fans of the film, this may seem perfectly legitimate, but upon further thought, the music makes little sense in this scene. In fact, the music in this scene should make first-time viewers incredibly confused. What keeps viewers from mistakenly thinking that Williams’ Force theme is actually the theme for Princess Leia? After all, its first appearance is when Leia appears in the movie!
In my new score for the film, my choice for this scene is simple: I introduce Leia’s leitmotif when she comes on-screen, and I even play a portion of my leitmotif for the droids (R2-D2 and C-3PO). This is a clearcut musical decision that I believe makes much more sense than Williams’ original score for the scene.
At the end of the aforementioned lightsaber duel, Obi-Wan is struck down by Darth Vader, an intentional move to distract the enemy soldiers. Emotions run high as the rest of the group escapes; Luke screams “no!” and begins to shoot frantically at the stormtroopers as he runs back to the ship and escapes from the Death Star. What music should accompany this? None other than Princess Leia’s theme. And not just any version of her theme; the most fully orchestrated, brazenly triumphant rendition of her theme to appear in any of the Star Wars films. This musical decision is a complete mystery considering Leia’s lack of impact on this scene, and it certainly detracts from the gravity of Obi-Wan’s death seconds before. Furthermore, the romantic, soaring nature of her theme’s melody is in complete contrast to the tone of the scene and as a result feels utterly out of place.