Rogue One: A Star Wars Story continues to make money at the box office and prove that a Star Wars stand alone story can be a success. Rogue One shows the harrowing adventure that a group of Rebel spies went on to obtain the plans to the Death Star that eventually led to the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The production process also was a bit harrowing as Alexandre Desplat left the project and Michael Giacchino stepped in with just a month to compose the score for this movie. With this tight timeline and a lot riding on the success of this movie, Giacchino had to either sink or swim. Thankfully, Giacchino was able to swim and create a soundtrack that, for the most part, is right at home in the Star Wars galaxy.
Scoring a soundtrack has to help further the story and also help enhance the emotions that are being told by what is being done and said on screen. Giacchino has a wonderful knack of tapping into emotion as he creates scores for the various films he has worked on. I found Rogue One to be one of his more successful soundtracks. Not only did he capture the feelings of what was happening on screen, but listening to the soundtrack alone recreates those emotions. His music also helps to further the story whether it is through a conversation or a battle sequence. This movie is very reminiscent of a World War II movie and it is interesting listening to the soundtrack because, other than some Star Wars themes that were utilized, this score could have been used for a war movie score.
A soundtrack is only as good as the themes it’s comprised of. Rogue One has some absolutely beautiful themes built around Jen Erso and what is basically a theme surrounding “hope.” There is an Imperial theme as well that captures the feel of treachery that the Empire brings everywhere it goes. Giacchino also reuses some of John Williams’ original Star Wars themes throughout the movie that helps connect this movie to the original trilogy.
The orchestration is nice and full for this movie. In some ways, I like the size and sound of this orchestra more than the one used for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There is a strength to it that at time I felt was lacking in the recording of The Force Awakens, specifically with some of the brass.
For the most part, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a decent soundtrack that takes the listener on a musical journey through the movie. My biggest complaint with this soundtrack is that at times it is difficult to know where in the story the musical journey is at. It is perhaps unfair to compare Giacchino’s score to that of John Williams’ scores but this is Star Wars and so it is bound to happen. Listening to Williams’ scores one can almost always tell where they are at in the movie and what is happening. This is due to his many different themes that are attributed to different characters and situations throughout the movies. Giacchino has some fantastic themes throughout Rogue One. He just doesn’t have enough. The score lacks the depth and complexities that are found in the other Star Wars movies. I will admit, this is a nitpick on my part as many movies now do not have the ability to tell the complete story with music now as Williams often does in his movie soundtracks. Instead, there has been a pivot to emotional music that builds on simpler chords and themes that build on themselves to create what I call mood music. I personally would prefer a more expansive journey.
Michael Giacchino really did a solid job with the soundtrack for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Take into account that he had four and a half weeks to do this and it was a surprise gig and it becomes and even more impressive feat that not only did this soundtrack get written and recorded, but it is also good. There are some absolutely beautiful musical moments in this score that are moving to the listener. Giacchino also did a solid job of incorporating some of Williams’ original themes into the music (although I’d question if the original intent of the themes works where they were used in this score) in a way that connects the dots between Rogue One and all the other Star Wars film. This creates a sense of familiarity and helps Rogue One feel like it belongs in the Star Wars galaxy. Overall I have to give a hat tip to Michael Giacchino on this soundtrack. It is one of my favorites written by Giacchino and I have been listening to it repeatedly for several days now. Definitely check this one out and may the Force be with you!
What did you think of the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story soundtrack?