It’s been nearly two full years since we last heard John Williams expand his canon in a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars: The Force Awakens welcomed the maestro back in grand fashion a decade after his work on Revenge of the Sith.
As the Skywalker saga continues, so too does Williams’ magnum opus. Last December, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story benched the American composer to bring in series newcomer Michael Giacchino. With their one-off story and first anthology film, Kathleen Kennedy & Co. broadened their music cues and had the Star Trek and Up! composer pinch-hit for the Mozart of space opera.
Now Williams is finally back in the orchestra pit, and while we’ll have to wait another couple months to hear the soundtrack in its entirety, the most recent The Last Jedi trailer almost certainly featured fresh cues from John Williams’ latest score - although maybe not any one specific track. We can confirm that the trailer makes use of the final track heard in The Force Awakens, "The Jedi Steps." While the much-anticipated trailer plays host to a slew of sounds (often perfectly synced up with the images), there are several cues that bear Williams’ signature brand.
First up is the harp glissando that features in every single Star Wars (often as music during ‘wipe’ transitions). As if Williams himself is winking to the audience, that mystical chord plays before the first image appears. While Snoke (Andy Serkis) bellows out his monologue, we hear a flickering of Williams’ piano, which may very well be taken from one of his existing themes.
A choral cacophony leads into the Lucasfilm titles and a brand new theme. It’s ominous and even darker than the famed “Imperial March.” The music brings in a minor-key melody as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) appears to take aim at his mother.
Cue the brass. Once Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) takes over, the theme brightens into something more optimistic: “We are the spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down.” That enthusiasm doesn’t last long, however, as Luke Skywalker’s foreshadowing - “this isn’t going to go the way you think” - summons the most foreboding cue yet.
It’s the trailer’s only callback to a preexisting theme, and it rearranges the music first heard after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death. The tune has since become synonymous with the Force itself. As the red and black titles appear on screen, that seven-note melody that framed Ben’s death in A New Hope blares out with more intensity than ever. It’s an ominous and fitting end to a trailer that teases the fates and potential betrayals of multiple characters.
John Williams is back.