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Up to this point in the saga, every Star Wars movie has come complete with its very own John Williams score. While next year’s Rogue One will be the first to arrive sans Williams signature style, the venerable composer is back in action with J.J. Abram’s The Force Awakens. Just don’t expect to hear it before you see the movie, as Lucasfilm is keeping the new music under wraps.
While you can now pre-order Williams new score, and given his track record, we bet that many fans will be adding this album to their collection. However, according to StarWars.com, it won’t hit store shelves, digital or physical, until Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already in theaters on December 18.
This may not seem like a big deal—after all, lots of movie scores don’t hit the open market until well after a movie has been released. Then again, most movies don’t have a score by such a legendary composer, and as he is such a fan favorite, there is a great deal of public interest in hearing and owning new John Williams music.
Making this move, however, is something of a departure for Star Wars as a franchise. In the case of each of the three prequels, the score was available to purchase in advance of the movies opening in theaters. We were all humming "Dual of the Fates" to ourselves as we stood in line for The Phantom Menace.
The real question is why? It could be another part of J.J. Abrams’ notorious "mystery box," the secretive layer he imposes on all of his films, which has been in full effect on The Force Awakens. This makes a lot of sense, because, while you may think, "How many spoilers can a score really contain?" remember that The Phantom Menace soundtrack did reveal a rather large plot point from the end of the film. When fans picked up the CD and read the title of the track called "Qui-Gon’s Noble End," we stopped expecting to see much of Liam Neeson in Episode 2. Then again, that should have been obvious to whoever named the song.
While we won’t hear it all until December 18, there have been a few snippets of Williams’ score sprinkled throughout the various trailers and that recent Instagram tease. It may just be a taste, but it’s enough to get Star Wars fans salivating for more.
It’s going to be really strange for many fans when Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One, the first of the standalone Star Wars Story films, hits next year. Instead of John Williams, Alexandre Desplat will provide the score. And while he’s a fantastic composer in his own right, winning an Academy Award for The Grand Budapest Hotel last year (one of his competitors was himself, as his score for The Imitation Game was also nominated), he’s no John Williams.
This move does make some sense. Williams is 83-years-old, and having a different composer drives home that the Story films are something different from the Episodes. Still, it’s going to be weird not to have those stirring, soaring orchestral numbers.
Fortunately, we will get them when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18, we just won’t be familiar enough with them to sing them to ourselves as we stage lightsaber battles with our friends as we wait in line. Can’t wait to hear what he cooked up for Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma.