Film scores are still taken for granted, even though numerous examples have been made showing how dead some movies would be in their narrative without effective music. There isn’t any better example of that than John Williams’ iconic scores to the Star Wars saga.
After 43 years of writing music for the franchise, it appears Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be his swan song in writing new music for these films. At the age of 87, Williams’ musical legacy goes far beyond Star Wars, of course, though his association with George Lucas/Steven Spielberg will likely never be matched.
While a lot of new blood has populated the world of film scores, Williams just set a new record for 52 Oscar nominations. Because his new scores still have many winning qualities, it’s worth taking a minute to ponder whether he can realistically win.
Williams based his ‘Star Wars’ themes on composers of yore
If you always thought some of the strains to the original Star Wars theme sounded familiar, you might have heard some similar nuances from 19th/20th century composers like Richard Wagner or Gustav Holst. Williams has said himself he based the musical structure of the Star Wars music from those two composers, mostly from Holst’s legendary work, The Planets.
Those who listen to The Planets for the first time will definitely hear similarities to all of the original Star Wars main themes. Add in Williams’ classic theme “Duel of the Fates” to hear some hints of Wagner, namely Ride of the Valkyries.
This doesn’t mean Williams stole from the greats. He just synthesized everything into a highly original sound that’s shaped film scores forever. The “John Williams sound” is something everyone recognizes from the first note and basic harmonic structure.
It’s safe to say his new Oscar nod for The Rise of Skywalker is in recognition of the main Star Wars theme being as recognizable now as Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. How does the TRoS score stand in quality in and of itself, though?
Can Williams win for a ‘Star Wars’ score again?
John Williams hasn’t won an Oscar for any of his film scores since Schindler’s List in 1994. Nevertheless, his 52 nominations now hold the record for any living Oscar nominee.
The last time he won an Oscar for a Star Wars score was for the first film in 1978. Out of all his scores, he’s only had five wins out of those 52 nominations, which might sound shocking.
Then again, dealing with the Oscars has always been full of head scratches on why certain legends don’t win enough or even any. Despite Williams more or less being usurped for awards by a new breed of film composers in recent years, his music is still more than relevant. The themes in the new TRoS soundtrack are powerful and resonant, if maybe not quite as filled with earworms as his past work.
His competition at the Oscars this year is fairly steep, with most predicting a Hildur Gudnadottir win for the score to Joker. Maybe a surprise Williams win would be for recognition of his final Star Wars work. If it does happen, it would be for overall career appreciation.
It might be more refreshing to see Williams win for a different score
There isn’t any sign Williams will ever slow down in composing film scores. He already has it on the books that he’ll be scoring the next Indiana Jones film for Steven Spielberg.
Many other scores might be in the pipeline down the line, giving all probability of Williams having many more nominations in his career ahead. Should he ever win again, it could be for something unexpected, if ultimately Spielberg-related. Spielberg’s upcoming The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara might be a good example.
Having Williams surprise us with something different in his 90s would help send the message that old school can always turn new.